Sunday, December 19, 2010

Windsor Ruins

On our way back from Laura & Thomas's wedding in Baton Rouge, we decided to laissez les bons temps rouler a little longer and took the scenic way back home. We took Highway 61 (aka The Blues Highway) from Baton Rouge to Natchez. In Natchez, we looked around downtown at the Christmas decorations (and I wanted to check on my future house, of course). Then went on up until we saw the sign for the Ruins of Windsor. It's about ten miles west of Port Gibson. Port Gibson is noted as being too pretty for the damn Yankees to burn. It's the only good thing I've ever heard my grandmother say about Sherman.

I've always seen photos of Windsor Ruins (my favorite are Eudora Welty's), but I've always wanted to see it for myself. And I love any opportunity to give Ryan a history lesson! He is usually a pretty good sport about my "field trips"...

Completed in 1861, Windsor was built by Smith Coffee Daniell II for his family--wife Catherine Freeland and their three children. Just weeks after Windsor's completion, Mr. Daniell died at the age of 34.

The original house had 29 forty-five foot tall columns supporting the projecting roof line with it's plain, broad frieze and molded cornice. This provided protection for the galleries which encompassed the house at the second and third levels. Located 10 miles west of Port Gibson, the family maintained their own commissary, doctor's office, school and dairy on the bottom floor of the mansion, along with the kitchen and storage areas. The second story floor plan reveals two parlors, library and, unusual to that period, a bedroom with a bathroom and study. Also, located on this floor was the dining room. Eight bedrooms and an additional bathroom were located on the top floor. ( Not too shabby for me!

I could get used to living in something like that! It was much bigger than I expected. It's in the middle of nowhere (and that's coming from someone who's from just down the road from the middle of nowhere). The way there is clearly marked from Highway 61 but the gates are only open during daylight hours. Plus, I bet it would be kinda spooky to be there when it's dark.

The bricks used in the columns were made in a kiln across the road from the house. The columns were then covered with mortar and plaster. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals and were joined at the galleries by ornamental balustrade. Note the iron carvings atop the columns and the iron centers. Skilled carpenters were brought from New England for the finished woodwork. The iron stairs, column capitals and balustrades were manufactured in St. Louis and shipped down the Mississippi river to the Port of Bruinsburg, several miles west of Windsor. The total cost of the mansion was $175,000 (app. $3,152,000 today).

On February 17, 1890, fire broke out in the house after a house guest accidentally dropped a cigarette in debris left by carpenters making repairs to the third floor. All was destroyed except a few pieces of china and 23 of the columns, balustrades and iron stairs.

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