How hot are Natchez tourist attractions?

Published 12:03am Friday, May 25, 2012

I nearly made road kill out of a tourist standing in the middle of the road last week. Like pesky armadillos and opossums, you have to be on guard for those camera-wielding, flip-flop wearing folks who dart out into the street intent on getting a snapshot of a Natchez landmark.

I have grown used to expecting them around Stanton Hall, Magnolia Hall and other antebellum houses. I forget that many tourists are also interested in the more recent, quirky side of Natchez.

The intersection of Broadway and Madison streets is one of those places. I know, because I barely missed a guy standing in the middle of Broadway Street aiming his camera at Lucy Preston’s house festooned with every decoration imaginable.

Preston’s house is an incredible mish-mash of flowers, flags, lawn ornaments and whirly gigs, It is a folk art statement and a tourist attraction. Even brides climbed out of their cars dressed in their wedding gowns to be photographed in front of this house.

How popular is Preston’s house compared with Stanton Hall? It is hard to say. Anecdotal evidence says that the folk art statement is gaining attention.

Until recently anecdotal evidence is all we have had. It is hard to know exactly what catches the eye of our visitors. With the advent of cellphones and cameras that are GPS enabled, websites like Flickr and Panoramio have been able to pinpoint exactly where their users have been taking their snapshots.

What may be a cool feature for Flickr and Panoramio users, may offer insight into what tourists find interesting in our town.

In fact, the website takes Panoramio’s photo sharing site one step further, by creating a sightseeing heat map that uses color to show where its users photograph the most. Yellow and red pinpoint sightseeing hotspots. Cooler colors like purple mark areas that are not as popular. Gray represents places that have not been photographed.

Because Panoramio was created in Europe, you might imagine that Europe is covered in yellow and red spots. But so too are areas in the United States — areas possibly visited by European tourists and other users.

Behind Vicksburg and Biloxi, Natchez ranks as the third most-photographed area in Mississippi. It ranks 12,723 in cities and towns photographed in the world, according to Panoramio.

Not surprisingly, sunsets over the Mississippi River bridges and antebellum houses are yellow hot. But a zoom into the Natchez area shows other interesting, less historical landmarks.

Preston’s house while not yellow hot is well represented with numerous images of her folk art house. So too is the pig at Pig Out Inn and the bathtub at Fat Mama’s Tamales, both on Canal Street. Run down grocery stores and shotgun houses are represented.

Interestingly. Several blistering red spots can be found just outside the city limits.

It is not surprising that Mammy’s Cupboard, to the south, has been the focus of so many cameras. Emerald Mound, to the north off the Natchez Trace, evidently attracts the eye of many tourists as well.

As much as we like to think that Natchez is all about antebellum history, the photos represented in these picture-sharing sites remind us that tourists are attracted to landmarks both new and old.

Just watch out for them wherever you drive.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at

  • Anonymous

    You offer excellent redecorating ideas for the lawns of the antebellum houses with whirlygigs, pink pig statues, etc to increase tourism.  Maybe enough of this stuff in the weeds would mask the condition of Arlington, and the oil well.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    You know Ben, I just really don’t appreciate this article at all. You and I both know that crap like that should be taken down. It’s a crying damn shame that that has become an attraction. Yet, let someone try to build beautiful condos just across the street from this embarrassment, and the Preservation and Planning people are all over it! Or, maybe all of us should just put all that crap in front of our houses, stores, etc. We are supposed to be a cultural city. I can ASSURE you, she doesn’t have a clue about FOLK ART!!! Her backyard is just as cluttered with this mess. She SHOULD be made to clean this up and get rid of all of it. Wonder where all of the people who opposed the condos are? They were so worried about the view; now isn’t this a lovely one. On a good note, maybe you have just informed the Planning commission about this mess and they will remove it. You really think tourists are taking pictures for it’s beauty>???? They are taking them to go home and show their friends what a bunch of redneck, backwoods people are in Natchez, Mississippi!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    That’s great, LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Rolling, I hate to disappoint you, but that house makes EVERYONE smile, well, except for maybe you.  That house IS folk art and it’s happy and fun and a local treasure.  Kind of like the town crazies the South is always so proud of.  It shows a side of our humanity that is sorely missing in many places.

    Sure, if everyone were to decorate like that, it’d be too much.  But let’s embrace Lucy’s eccentricity.  I promise those tourists are snapping pictures because it makes them happy.

    I wish it made you happy, too, but I suspect there’s not much outside the proverbial crayon lines that makes you happy.  And that’s just sad.

  • Anonymous

    U learn a new word (LOL) 007?

  • Anonymous

    Ben, I’m simply aghast at your description of our guest. Older people refer to armadillos and ‘possums as scavengers which appear mostly at night. I trully hope our ‘guest’ will not take offense with your description of them. I have always enjoyed your articles but this one took my breath with the first few sentences. I could not believe what I was reading. Our guest do us a great service by visiting Natchez and they are certainly not ‘night scavengers’. We should feel honored that our ‘guest’ visit with us and should wish them a speedy return.  

  • Anonymous

    I hate to disappoint you Baba, but there are a number of things that make me happy. The azaleas in bloom, over 550 antebellum structures in Natchez, The National Cemetary , The City Cemetary, Spring and Fall Pilgrimage, The Carriage rides, and our TRUE landmarks. This house was owned by Ms. Ruby Lee Chance in the 50′s. Ms. Ruby Lee kept her home and yard pristine in every way. If she could see what a common, trailer trash looking house it is now, she would roll over in her grave. Once again, I can ASSURE you this isn’t folkart and if you think it is, I think you need to shop at flea markets. It’s not fun, happy nor a local treasure; it’s an eyesore. This place is a FIRE HAZARD, AND I WOULD SHUTTER TO THINK ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF RATS AND SNAKES THAT ARE LIVING IN THAT JUNK!!!! The planning commission needs to clean this mess up!!!