New book captures turn-of-century houses in Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

Natchez &8212; Mississippi architecture took a distinct turn in the years following the Civil War. Photographs by Sherry Pace have captured some of that rich style in a new book, &8220;Victorian Houses of Mississippi,&8221; published by University Press of Mississippi.

Pace did not set out with the idea of a book on architecture, but at her first meeting with editors at the press, architectural photos caught an art director&8217;s eye.

&8220;He liked my work and said to limit my work to architecture,&8221; Pace said. She traveled throughout the state, taking photographs all the while but still without one particular architectural style in focus.

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&8220;The editor suggested I contact Richard Cawthon, the chief architectural historian at Archives and History,&8221; she said. &8220;I did. He looked at my work and I asked him if any particular subject matter stood out for him. He said yes, that he saw Victorian.&8221;

That pleased her, Pace said, as she liked to photograph the often highly ornamental styles of the late 19th century. And University Press liked the idea.

The result is the hardback book with 187 full-color photographs showcasing 143 of the state&8217;s Victorian-era houses. Pace will be in Natchez today to sign books at Turning Pages Books & More, 208 Washington St., 2 to 4 p.m.

Cawthon, who contributed an introduction to summarize the history of post-Civil War era architecture, also wrote captions for the photographs. The images, he said, &8220;really bring out the beauty of the houses.&8221;

As an architectural historian, he is pleased to have this era of the state&8217;s architectural history get deserved attention, Cawthon said.

&8220;The architectural legacy of Mississippi deserves much more attention and credit than it has received in the past,&8221; he said. &8220;Certainly the wonderful antebellum houses, especially those in Natchez, deserve all the attention they&8217;ve gotten, but other houses in the state and later in period have not been widely recognized.&8221;

In his position with the Department of Archives and History, Cawthon has had an opportunity to study and learn to appreciate the broad spectrum of Mississippi architecture.

With the late Victorian-style architecture, he particularly likes the diversity in style and architectural detailing, he said.

&8220;And the styles have interesting stories behind them. They provide insight into the history and culture after the Civil War.&8221;

Those styles often fall into Italianate, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Second Empire and the Shingle styles.

In Natchez, 10 houses were chosen for inclusion in the book. &8220;Natchez has the most gorgeous collection of pristine Victorian houses,&8221; Pace said.

She already has a second book under way, tentatively titled, &8220;Historic Churches of Mississippi,&8221; which should be published sometime in 2007.

Self-taught in photography, she credits her husband with discovering her talent and encouraging her to pursue it.