Donation will help restore Natchez

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 21, 1999

When Floyce Taylor Masterson moved back home to the Miss-Lou four years ago, she restored her own corner of Natchez.

She bought the 1835 Van Court Town House on Washington Street and brought its garden back to life.

&uot;I wanted the house to be strictly Natchez because I think Natchez is so beautiful,&uot; Masterson said in April.

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Now, a generous gift from Masterson will help restore many other corners of the city.

Masterson, who died in June at 84, deeded the Van Court Town House to the Historic Natchez Foundation two years ago.

And the Foundation kept the gift a secret until after her death.

The HNF plans to sell the property, invest the income and use its interest for a charitable trust, said Mimi Miller, director of preservation and education for the Foundation. The donation is the largest gift the Foundation has received in its 25 years, and Miller hopes the sale of the property can bring close to three quarters of $1 million.

A Foundation committee will then use the Floyce Taylor Masterson Trust to award grants and loans for preservation projects throughout Natchez.

&uot;There are not going to be many days of the year that there will not be a sign on someone’s property saying, ‘This project partially funded by a grant from the Floyce Taylor Masterson Trust of the Historic Natchez Foundation,’&uot; Miller said.

&uot;She will live forever. This wasn’t what motivated her to do it – she didn’t seek public accolades. But she loved Natchez. She said many times she wished she had come home sooner.&uot;

Miller suggested the grants could be used for projects such as restored storefronts and restored fencing around Natchez’s houses.

Masterson’s nieces and nephews are not surprised by the donation she has given the city.

&uot;It’s a gift that she has given the city,&uot; said niece Cissy Galloway of Alexandria, La. &uot;It showed such forethought.&uot;

&uot;I hope it inspires some other people to do the same thing,&uot; said niece Peggy Thomas of Fort Worth, Texas. &uot;The house will always be there, but the benefits will, too.&uot;

The townhouse was not the only property Masterson restored. Masterson Properties, located on Main Street, has restored other properties as well.

&uot;She took an eyesore of a parking lot on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Rankin and transformed it into a park-like parking lot,&uot; Miller said.

&uot;She never stopped thinking about other projects. She was a visionary.&uot;

But perhaps her favorite property was the townhouse, which the Foundation plans to put up for sale in September.

Thomas remembers her aunt overseeing the renovation of the townhouse even as her illness advanced. Masterson, who underwent dialysis three times a week, went straight to the house after a particularly bad hospital stay. She sat in a chair for two hours to learn what work had been done at the house in her absence.

&uot;It was sheer grit and determination,&uot; Thomas said.

The spirit that drove the restoration of the townhouse may now drive restoration projects throughout the city.

&uot;She had a vision for (Natchez),&uot; Miller said. &uot;She wanted to be a part of it. She thought it was a special place.&uot;