Get in holiday spirit with tour of homes

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Ring in the holidays with the Friends of the Library annual Christmas Tour of Homes from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $15 per ticket or $25 for two and includes all four locations and refreshments.

Purchase advance tickets at the Armstrong Library or at any home on Sunday.

The tour features homes seldom open to the public, and all will be beautifully decorated.

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Friends of the Library is pleased to be a part of the Natchez Christmas celebration and thanks its organizers for including us.

Riverview, 47 New St., the home of John Miller is the refreshment center. Since 1842, it has undergone many changes, including “tornado proofing” in 1869 by Lt. Brown, CSA.

The original separate kitchen remains. Mr. Miller is restoring it to Lt. Brown’s dream. Acquisitions include Brown’s original English coin silver tea service, his writing desk, a tester bed and a George III chest original to the house. Items connected to Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina, include original oil portraits, dried flowers from his funeral caisson, letters and memorials.

The home of Richard Hess, 314 Linton Ave., is a 1890s Queen Anne mansion with many original features, including an unusual three-tiered turret.

The ornate front door has sunburst motifs at its corners and busts of females, as well as an urn at the top, all surrounding original etched glass.

A leaded art glass panel on the landing features tulips and many red and pink faceted “jewels.” The porte cochere sheltered carriages passengers.

Behind the house is a carriage house and servant’s quarters.

The Coyle House, 307 South Wall St., home of Marcia and Lem Adam, built on a Spanish land grant made in 1793, is one of the oldest in Natchez and an example of vernacular Federal style.

The brick first story is probably a later addition built beneath the house when Wall Street was cut through a small hill.

This neighborhood was once known as “Spanish Town.” In 1806 Philip and Mary Engel acquired the portion of Coyle’s grant where the house stands.

During their ownership the sales price of the house increased dramatically to $2,500. An inventory upon her death showed she also ran a tavern there, and that she freed her only slave.

The property was the headquarters of the Natchez Historical Society from 1960 to the 1990s. Furnishings include period antiques, as well as reproductions made by local cabinetmakers David Pruett and Billy Simonton.

The Benoist-Stier House, 410 South Union St., is the home of Paul and Ginny Benoist, at least the fifth generation of Benoists to live there. The original portion of the house was a much simpler house of one-and-a-half stories with elements of both Italianate and Queen Anne styles.

Around 1900, Robert E. Bost was hired to enlarge the house and soon became the most prolific and skilled of the architects and builders in Natchez, building most of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival residences.

The family has the original construction and heating plans, invoices and receipts. Seven bedrooms attest to the size of the house.

The family has a collection of memorabilia from antebellum to modern Natchez.

All proceeds support library programs. Get into the holiday spirit and help a good cause.

Tour the homes, have dinner downtown, and then enjoy the Alcorn choir at St. Mary!  See you Sunday.

Maria Bowser is the Friends of the Library publicity chair and vice-president.