Natchez Garden Club hosts annual benefit

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Southern gentility, drinks, dancing and dining will greet guests at Mount Repose Saturday night all in the name of preservation.

The Natchez Garden Club will host its annual fundraiser — Party for Preservation — from 6 to 8 p.m.

In its seventh year, the party will be at Mount Repose and boast the theme “Preservation Now and Then.”

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Janet Sullivan, chair of the preservation committee for the garden club, said Mount Repose was chosen partially because it embodies the theme.

Mount Repose was formerly owned by the Bisland family and is now owned by Butch Brown and his wife Shields, who Sullivan said have worked diligently to preserve to home.

“This (house) is such an outstanding example of preservation,” Sullivan said. “It’s a house that has not been seen in quite some time, it has not been on tour for a few years, and I think people will really be so charmed by what they see.”

The home will be peppered with floral arrangements done by Natchez Garden Club member Kitty Bray.

“We’re very excited because she is certainly well known for her exquisite arrangements that are always just a work of art,” Sullivan said.

Guests will dine on a menu of heavy hors d’oeuvres chosen by club members Loveta Byrne and Laura Godfrey, Sullivan said.

“They are renowned in the community as excellent cooks,” Sullivan said. “The food is being prepared by garden club members, and as we all know, garden cub ladies are the best cooks in the world.”

The party will have a cash bar and a band from Jackson — Art. Art also played at last year’s Party for Preservation.

Sue Loy, chair of the Party for Preservation committee, said the band was so enjoyable last year that all attendees stayed until the band packed up.

“Nobody left early because this band was so fun and so entertaining, and people enjoyed it so much,” Loy said.

The band’s organizer, Forrest Gordon, is from Natchez.

“He has a real Natchez connection and I think that’s one of the reasons he liked coming back here,” Loy said.

Funds raised at the party will go toward preservation of the antebellum homes that fall under the Natchez Garden Club’s umbrella.

Preservation can be quite pricey, Sullivan said.

For example, the garden club has been working to paint the exterior of the priest house next to the House on Ellicott Hill.

So far, most of this has been done, there is a little left to be completed, Sullivan said. However, because it’s imperative to preserve houses historically, the price of doing so is much higher than normal.

To paint the exterior of an antebellum home requires much more than just running to the nearest home improvement store and buying a bucket of paint.

“It has to be the same type of paint that was used at the time the house was built and used,” Sullivan said.

The work that has already been done on the priest house is approximately $25,000.

“For a larger home like Ellicott Hill or Magnolia, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess,” Sullivan said. “It’s quite expensive to keep up these antebellum homes.”

Pilgrimage is the bread and butter of funding the upkeep of the homes, but in the gaps in between, money raised from this fundraiser is essential.

“We stretch it out just as far as we can,” Sullivan said. “Every cent we get we stretch it as far as we can.”

Last year, Party for Preservation drew a crowd of 250 guests and about $13,000 was raised.

Loy said this year the garden club hopes to have 350 guests.

The money raised from Party for Preservation this year will go toward roof work at the priest house and some exterior and interior work on the House on Ellicott Hill and Magnolia Hall, as well as grounds keeping at both homes.

Sullivan said the event is something to look forward to.

“The garden club members have worked so diligently to make this event a success,” she said. “Sue Loy has done a wonderful job as chairman for Party for Preservation in pulling everything together.”

The Natchez Garden Club invites the public to attend the event.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the door or by calling the Natchez Garden Club at 601-443-9065 or Kimbrells at 601-442-1494.