Can Natchez change history?

Published 12:04am Wednesday, February 29, 2012

History has been making news lately in Natchez.

That’s not surprising in our city built on history, of course, but when something has been around for nearly 200 years, you simply don’t expect it to change much.

But history does change, it seems, and Natchez will be adjusting in the coming months to some of those changes.

First, you won’t be ordering up a prime rib at King’s Tavern any more. The restaurant — which has been serving customers for 45 years — closed its doors Saturday.

The restaurant filed for bankruptcy in September, and one of the owners said Saturday that they simply couldn’t make it work.

Another local landmark, Monmouth Plantation, is in a similar boat.

Monmouth also filed for bankruptcy in September, and United Mississippi Bank is expected to foreclose on the property, forcing the long-time owners out as soon as today.

The bed and breakfast, restaurant, conference space and wedding destination has attracted hundreds of visitors to Natchez — including its fair share of celebrities — since owners Ron and Lani Riches purchased the property 35 years ago.

Thankfully, it appears the bank may hire someone to continue operating Monmouth.

On a brighter note, a group of local residents, historic homeowners and tourism officials met Tuesday night to discuss a few more history-related changes.

The group came together for an initial discussion regarding efforts to study Natchez’s famous house tours and consider ways to revamp them.

It’s a discussion that is overdue and much-needed.

The Natchez National Historical Park organized the meeting and plans to use a $23,000 grant to fund the study of how tours are currently conducted.

Fall and Spring Pilgrimage house tours have seen few changes in the 80 years since enterprising ladies opted to open the doors to their homes for tours.

And despite good efforts by a number of people in the tourism community as of late, the entire pilgrimage experience is mostly the same as it was 25 years ago.

For many repeat tourists, that’s just fine. They love what we have and they keep coming back. But the truth of the matter is that the number of folks — regardless of age — who fit into that category is smaller than we’d all like it to be.

Further, the typical Natchez tourist is aging, and our community has done little to cater to generations of tourists who live in an entertainment age and expect more than just details about a piece of antique furniture.

Efforts to include a living history tour have been successful in some area houses, but more must be done if we expect to have Pilgrimage for another 80 years.

Despite news headlines and changing faces, history doesn’t actually change. We know that.

It’s the way we tell the stories of history that can — and must — change.

Sometimes those will be sad changes, such as the loss of a good restaurant or bad news for long-time community partners.

Sometimes the changes will be good, such as the addition of more portions of our history to the Historic Natchez Tableaux or a yet-to-be-defined way to give a house tour.

Either way, if you’re not changing, you are history.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or