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Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

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Longwood Plantation

Natchez, Mississippi



Longwood (also known as "Nutt's Folly")

On the outskirts of Natchez, deep among forest trees heavy with Spanish moss, stands the largest and most captivating octagonal house in America - the "Oriental Villa" called Longwood. The bricks for Longwood were all made on the property and fired in a kiln built just for that purpose. When the house was finished, all the brickwork was to be covered with stucco. (Actually, I am very glad that the bricks were never covered with stucco as originally planned. They are absolutely beautiful just as they are.)

Planned in 1859 for cotton nabob Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia, by Philadelphia's distinguished architect Samuel Sloan, the mansion was begun in 1860. Using the octagon form with four main floors, a fifth-story solarium, and a sixth-story observatory, the structure was designed to have 32 rooms, each with its own entrance onto a balcony.

Inside, as a central core to provide ventilation and light, was a great rotunda open to the clerestory six floors above. [NOTE: A "clerestory" (pronounced clear story) is a high wall with a band of narrow windows along the very top. The clerestory wall usually rises above adjoining roofs. ]

On the main or principal floor were to be eight rooms, including a drawing room, banquet hall, library, reception room, and a special apartment for Mrs. Nutt.

Connecting the levels was to be a grand spiral staircase. Crowning the whole was a Byzantine-Moorish dome with a 24-foot finial reaching heavenward.

The lavish exterior was to be only a hint of the magnificence foreseen for the interior.

Work progressed rapidly, and when the gigantic shell was up, the exultant Mr. Nutt wrote to Sloan, the architect, "It is creating much admiration," and proudly predicted that "after this the Octagon will be the style!"

In April 1861, all his hopes and dreams were dashed by the declaration of war. Sloan's Philadelphia craftsmen dropped their saws and hammers and fled North to pick up rifles and bayonets, never to return.

Dejectedly, Nutt and a few local workers and slaves completed the basement level. This area, where a wine cellar, school room, play room, billiard room, smoking room, and offices were to have been, was converted into living quarters for the Nutts and their eight children. Here they lived in nine rooms as war swirled across the South.

On June 15, 1864, Haller Nutt died in the basement of his unfinished mansion. The diagnosis was pneumonia, but legend has it that he died of a broken heart over his dream house.

Julia and the children lived on in the cellar doing only a minimum to maintain the great hulk looming over them. She died in 1897 and was buried beside her husband in the Longwood family cemetery. Grandchildren owned Longwood until 1968.

Today it is maintained, yet unfinished, by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez. Many visitors ask, "Why not finish it now?" They are usually told that it was decided to leave the house unfinished as a monument to the heart-rending break of the War Between the States.

Longwood, located on Lower Woodville Road, was described as "a remembrance of Eastern magnificence" by its architect in 1861. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, a Mississippi Landmark, and a historic site on the Civil War Discovery Trail.

[NOTES: Although Longwood has the reputation of being haunted, none of the staff mentioned it to me while I was there. Supposedly, Dr. Nutt and his wife, Julia, seem to love the attention that is now paid to the house and frequently appear to guests and tour guides. Mrs. Nutt is usually seen inside on the staircase while Dr. Nutt seems to prefer the garden area.

Unfortunately, I did not find out that the family cemetery is located on the grounds until after I had left. If I had known, I would have certainly photographed it and posted the pictures in this set.

Also, no photographs are allowed in the furnished basement part of the house :( However, you can take all you want of the unfinished upper floors, the exterior, and the grounds.]


Longwood is owned, operated, and maintained as a preservation project by the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez.

140 Lower Woodville Road
Natchez, Mississippi 39120

Open every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Tours every half hour
Beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Last tour 4:30 p.m.
Adults $8.00
Children 6-17 $4.00

For tour dates and times during Spring and Fall Pilgrimage, contact

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours
P.O. Box 347
Natchez, MS 39120
800-647-6742 601-446-6631

The top floor of Longwood (where the public is not allowed to go) is an observatory.

The spire on top of the dome is not original. It is, however, a fiberglass reproduction of the original spire, which was thought to be lost, but was later found in a rotting state stored upstairs. A mould was made in 1993 from the original spire to cast the new spire for the top of the dome.

Carriage House at Longwood

Inside the old Carriage House

Photographs and Information courtesy of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms.