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Two houses added to Spring Pilgrimage tours

Fall classics, Pleasant Hill, right, and Brandon Hall, left, will be on tour for their first spring tours beginning early next week.
Fall classics, Pleasant Hill, right, and Brandon Hall, left, will be on tour for their first spring tours beginning early next week.

Two Natchez houses will welcome Spring Pilgrimage visitors inside for the first time this year as the season readies to twirl into full spin Saturday.

Pleasant Hill and Brandon Hall are no strangers to Fall Pilgrimage, both having been on tour for several years, but a request to be a part of Spring Pilgrimage was eagerly accepted by the houses’ owners.

Valerie Bergeron, who has owned Pleasant Hill with her husband John since 1999, said she learned from an early age the importance of welcoming visitors to Natchez.

“I was born into Tableaux and have been a part of Pilgrimage since I was a child, so I always look forward to it,” Bergeron said. “We’ve been on the fall tour for so long, it just made sense for us to do both when we were asked.”

John Henderson built the Bergeron’s house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, prior to 1835.

Henderson was a successful merchant, planter and author.

Descendants of the Henderson family continued to own and occupy the house until 1971.

Since purchasing the house, the Bergerons have done extensive renovations, including moving a small cottage onto the property.

“I feel like we owe it to the Henderson family to continue showing this house to anyone who wants to see it,” Bergeron said. “It was on the tour from the get go of Pilgrimage, but it was taken off some time later down the line.

“I just think it’s the right time to get it back on both tours.”

Bergeron said the only difference they’ve prepared for is an expected increase in the number of visitors to the house.

“Spring is generally the busier time, but we’re not really sure what to expect with it being our first year,” Bergeron said. “It shouldn’t be a big change other than that.”

Bergeron also said she will have her fingers crossed hoping warmer weather comes soon.

“This is the first year I remember the weather being this volatile with the changes, but hopefully it will be fine,” she said. “Our yard is so tropical, but right now everything is chopped down, so hopefully they’ll pop up right as visitors start coming in.”

Rachel Garber, event coordinator at Brandon Hall, shares Bergeron’s hopes.

“When we’re on tour in the fall, normally we just have a lot of the green foliage, but this year people will be able to see all of the spring flowers that really give the house a completely different feel,” Garber said. “It’s a look that you only get to enjoy for a few weeks, and it’s nice that people from all over the world will get to come in and experience that.”

Brandon Hall, which was built circa 1856, was donated to the Historic Natchez Foundation in 2009. Shortly after, Ron and Kathy Garber purchased the house from the foundation.

The house has been on the Fall Pilgrimage tour since fall 2010, and Garber said she’s enjoyed sharing the house with visitors from across the globe.

“The best part is just getting to meet people from all over the world who appreciate the history and architecture of the home,” Garber said. “It’s really neat to see, and it makes you realize how lucky we are to live in a beautiful place such as Natchez.”

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours group tours coordinator Emily Edwards said early projections for the season look good.

“Our group numbers are up and that should lead to individual numbers going up, so we’re very excited about that,” Edwards said. “It’s looking like not only our numbers are up, but they’re spread throughout the entire season, and that’s what we want.

“We’re just excited to kick this season off.”

Spring Pilgrimage begins Saturday and lasts through April 8. Pleasant Hill’s first tour will be Sunday afternoon. Brandon Hall’s first tour will be Monday afternoon.

Tickets and maps for the Pilgrimage tours are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, located in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center at 640 S. Canal St. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tours of the 24 historic houses and properties open for Spring Pilgrimage feature three houses each with a tour in the morning, 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and in the afternoon, 1:30 to 5 p.m.

Tickets for the three-house tours are $30 per adult and $18 for children ages 6 to 18.

Tickets for the six-house tours are $60 per adult and $36 for children ages 6 to 18.

Tickets for a three-house tour plus a tour of historic Longwood, Rosalie or Stanton Hall are $42 for adults and $26 for children.

Tour tickets are available only at tour headquarters. No tickets are available for individual houses, which are open only as scheduled during Spring Pilgrimage.

For more information, visit natchezpilgrimage.com or call 1-800-647-6742.