Restoration work continues at Johnson House site

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Much work is being done in the present to restore an important piece of Natchez’s historic past &045; and renovate it for use as an interpretive site in the future.

Much has already been done to clear debris from, shore up the inside of, and renovate the outside of two historic structures on State Street, including the once-home of William Johnson, the &uot;Barber of Natchez.&uot;

And, after taking a break for the holidays, the next task for crews conducting the renovation has been to tear up the concrete slab of the other structure, the William McCallum House, said Kathleen Jenkins of Natchez National Historical Park.

Email newsletter signup

The Johnson House is named for a free black man who was known as &uot;the Barber of Natchez&uot; and kept an extensive diary in post-Civil War days &045; a diary some believe to be one of the most complete records of Natchez at that time.

It will take about one year for crews hired by Keystone Restoration, a Palm Beach, Fla.-based historical contracting firm, to restore both buildings, according to architect Manuel Duran-Duran.

When the project is complete, the Johnson house will contain exhibits related to Johnson and the Natchez of his time.

The second floor, where Johnson lived, will be an interpretation of his family life. The Park Service already has at least 12 items ready to display.

The McCallum House’s first floor will house an information center for visitors, while the second floor, which will also be restored, will probably be used for Park Service office space, Fuller said.

Since crews began the work in mid-November, they have removed the porch built onto the separate kitchen building (the porch will be rebuilt) and removed flooring from the Johnson House.

They also removed wallpaper from the Johnson House to determine the condition of the structure’s plaster walls.

At the McCallum House, &uot;they had to build scaffolding so they can tear down and rebuild the exterior walls,&uot; Jenkins said. That house is older than the Johnson House and has more moisture damage due to a leaky roof.

In addition, Natchez National Historical Park recently received a $35,000 grant from the National Park Service to purchase historically accurate wallpaper and carpet for the buildings.

The park had already received a $50,000 grant to restore furniture for the site, &uot;and some pieces have already been finished,&uot; Jenkins said.

The project has been years in the making. The Park Service acquired the house in 1992 from the Natchez Garden Club, which acquired the property as part of its preservation efforts. Planning has been taking place ever since, Park Service officials have said.

The Park Service plans to start a changeable exhibit as soon as possible at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to show the public the progress of the work on the Johnson and McCallum houses, Jenkins said.