Pilgrimage sees ‘average’ opening day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Organizers of the 2001 Natchez Spring Pilgrimage said Wednesday they were not disappointed by average crowds on opening day.

&uot;It was not a big opening day, and it was not a bad opening day. It was average,&uot; said John Saleeby, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours director.

Sarah Edgin of Auburn Garden Club said the historic house saw about 115 visitors Wednesday and others such as Arlington and Elms Court recorded similar numbers.

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&uot;Everything is running smoothly,&uot; Edgin said. &uot;We’re looking forward to Thursday when we’ll have a house full.&uot;

Saleeby said large crowds are expected for the weekend, as several buses arrive Saturday. Only in recent years has Spring Pilgrimage started mid-week, he said.

Among the early pilgrims this year were several architects who were attracted to Natchez’s eclectic architectural styles.

Architect Michael Borne and his wife, Carolyn, of Dallas routinely travel to historic cities such as Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans for their vacations, but this is their first trip to Natchez.

They said they plans their trips not only for relaxation, but for education. &uot;We’re always surprised by how much we learn on these trips,&uot; Michael Borne said.

A teacher, Carolyn Borne said will carry the stories of Natchez back to her students. Even in pre-kindergarten, she said they love hearing about the way people lived in earlier days. &uot;They are fascinated with it, how things worked, what life was like,&uot; she said.

Also an architect, Iris Witkowsky of Chicago said this was her first trip to Natchez and a first to the Deep South

&uot;Natchez is charming,&uot; she said.

Ellen McClelland Lesser of Stuyvesant, N.Y., is a landscape architect who specializes in 19th century gardens.

She said there are many similarities between the historic gardens along the Hudson River near her house and those in Natchez.

But she was particularly impressed by Longwood. Unlike other historic properties which were modernized with the advent of the automobile, McClelland Lesser said the left-bearing drive at Longwood is truly characteristic of 19th century houses.