Only in Natchez: Centuries collide during Pilgrimage

Jay Sowers | The Natchez Democrat — Dressed in period attire, Trish Hasenmueller, left, and Karen Lewis enjoy two caffinated beverages at the Natchez Coffee Co. on Franklin Street in early March.
Jay Sowers | The Natchez Democrat — Dressed in period attire, Trish Hasenmueller, left, and Karen Lewis enjoy two caffinated beverages at the Natchez Coffee Co. on Franklin Street in early March.

Twice a year during Pilgrimage, antebellum house owners across Natchez open their doors and offer a glimpse of the past to visitors from around the globe.

Jay Sowers | The NAtchez Democrat — Jane Carby, 3, laughs as Max Mason, 3, prepares to push a toy car down a plastic slide behind Greenlea on Thursday afternoon.
Jay Sowers | The NAtchez Democrat — Jane Carby, 3, laughs as Max Mason, 3, prepares to push a toy car down a plastic slide behind Greenlea on Thursday afternoon.

The ornate architecture, the intricate attire and the tales of families that built the city conspire together to steal the throngs away from the 21st century.

As visitors travel back in time, though, neither host nor visitor can truly escape the world in which they live.

Bustling to and fro, guiding guests through her home at Greenlea, Stella Carby occasionally will sneaks a peek of her smart phone, keeping up with inquiries about the bed and breakfast business she runs at the house.

In the courtyard behind Greenlea sits a small plastic slide. Hidden from plain sight, like Carby’s smartphone, the slide does not distract visitors.

It simply reminds those passing by that children must play, as they have always needed to, regardless of the century.

Jay Sowers | The Natchez Democrat — After arranging her hoop skirt beside her, Mary Jane Hartman closes the door on her car after a day of guiding tours at Green Leaves in Natchez last week.
Jay Sowers | The Natchez Democrat — After arranging her hoop skirt beside her, Mary Jane Hartman closes the door on her car after a day of guiding tours at Green Leaves in Natchez last week.

And unlike the people she describes when leading tours of Green Leaves Mary Jane Hartman doesn’t climb into a carriage to make her way home each night. Hoop skirt and all, Hartman simply settles in for the short trek behind the wheel of her sedan.

Similar collisions of past and present may be why Pilgrimage remains so popular.

At the halfway point in this year’s Spring Pilgrimage, attendance from both individuals and tour groups was higher than in recent years.

It seems more and more people want to take the trip back in time.

Seeing glimpses of the present in the Pilgrimage portrayal of the past just makes it all the more special.