The Natchez Trail – Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Antebellum Life in the Old South
Any trek through the Deep South must include a visit to Natchez, once a bustling Mississippi River port and the fourth wealthiest city in America (after New York, Boston, and Philadelphia), today a veritable living museum of pre-Civil War architecture.
Built between 1790 and 1861, when the cotton and sugarcane trade poured riches into the city’s coffers, the city’s opulent antebellum plantation homes and stylish town houses offer glimpses of the grand pre-Civil War lifestyle of wealthy white Mississippians. Ironically, their preservation is due to the city’s occupation by the Union Army at the start of the war, which spared Natchez from significant physical damage.
More than 500 architectural treasures remain intact today, many still occupied and lovingly preserved by descendants of the original owners.
In the spring, azaleas, camellias, fragrant magnolias, and brilliant annuals make the Springtime Natchez Pilgrimage, begun in 1932, the year’s highlight. More than thirty private homes (many with important gardens) are open to the public, their owners and hostesses dressed in antebellum attire, disarming visitors with their hospitality and charm.
About half these homes are open to visitors year-round, a good number of them functioning as bed-and-breakfasts. The most luxurious is Monmouth, the former 1818 Greek Revival residence of a pre-Civil War Mississippi governor. Ask for his room, which contains his four-poster bed and a dresser where he stashed his many wigs, and opens on to views of the famous 26-acre gardens and the family graveyard.