There are older homes in Natchez. But Auburn was the first one to introduce this style to the city, the brick exterior with tall columns that we associate with "antebellum." Architect Levi Weeks, who had just designed the building for the Bank of Mississippi for Auburn's first owner, Director of the Bank, Lyman Harding, went on to incorporate another structure inside the house that is even more impressive than the exterior.
Ask Auburn volunteer Clark Feiser what's the most important reason to see this house, and he will quickly turn, and point and say, "Right here. This stairway. As far as we know, now, there possibly could be other ones we aren't aware of. But this is one of only three totally free-standing wooden spiral staircases in the United States. And we're quite impressed with it. After 200 years that it's still with us."
And that it is still here and in excellent shape is more of a feat than you might think. In the 200 year history of the house, it's had just three owners, the City of Natchez being the latest and longest, getting the house bequeathed to it over a hundred years ago, in 1910. And the house sat pretty well neglected for the next 62 years until 1972. Well, neglected by the city, but not by the children of Natchez. Donna Martello says she knows all about how the kids played in here for years.
"I didn't do it because I wasn't living here then. But, I married a guy who grew up here and he told me all kind of stories," said Martello. "Yeah, riding your bicycle down spiral staircase was a big deal in those days. And my husband Robert actually grew up about two blocks from the house in the neighborhood over here and he learned to roller skate in this main hall."
In 1972, the Town and Country Garden Club leased the house from the city and started a renovation that is still on- going. Next to be put back into original condition will be the kitchen out back, and especially the servant's quarters up above it.
"Because those people who lived up there were very important to that period of time," said Martello.
Funds raised from this fall's 200th birthday party are earmarked for the kitchen renovation.
Auburn in Natchez with its one of a kind staircase for Mississippi is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday.
Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:52 AM EDT2014-07-22 10:52:07 GMT
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