Springfield Plantation restoration complete

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

At 219-years-old, Springfield Plantation has new life. An 11-month restoration to the historic mansion was recently completed bringing the home back to its original grandeur.

The federal-style mansion was built from 1786 to 1791 as a home for Thomas Marston Green Jr., a wealthy planter from Virginia. The most recent restoration was done by Mississippi-native Doug Horne.

It is believed the house is one of the first examples of federal style architecture west of the Eastern Seaboard, Horne said.

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“My Mississippi roots are five generations deep,” said Horne, who now lives in Knoxville, Tenn. “We already owned Richland and wanted to put the old plantation back together so when the opportunity came to do that, I jumped at it.”

The restoration began in August 2009 and was completed just a few short weeks ago.

Richland was built for Thomas Marston Green’s granddaughter on a parcel of land that was part of Springfield Plantation.

Work started from the foundation and went up, caretaker Norma Tenner said.

“The workers had to start by shoring up the foundation,” Tenner said. “At first, no one was sure how much work it was going to take to save this house.”

The restoration work was supervised by John Henry Hawkins, owner and contractor for Hawkins Construction.

“I was a little scared to take on this job at first,” Hawkins said. “It isn’t the biggest job I’ve ever done; we kept uncovering things that we didn’t expect to be wrong.”

The front porch of the house had rotted and had to be replaced and a kitchen that was added on to the original structure could not be restored and had to be removed.

But Hawkins said it was his goal all along to retain as many of the original features as possible, and in many cases he was able to do just that.

“The moldings all through the house are original,” Hawkins said. “We had to work around them when repairing the walls because it would have been impossible to take them down.”

The mantels throughout the house are all unique and original, Tenner said.

Much of the original floors and ceilings were also able to be restored, Tenner said.

“The first time we got into the house, many of the furnishings and things were still in the house,” she said. “It wasn’t until after everything had been removed that we really saw how much work needed to be done.”

The red-brick exterior of the home was also in need of repair, but to match the brick, the brick mason had to be a little crafty, Tenner said.

“The walls are actually four layers of brick thick,” she said. “The mason went inside the wall and took good bricks out and replaced those bricks with new bricks. The old bricks were put in place on the outside of the house.”

All of the exterior doors also had to be replaced, but Hawkins was able to recreate the original doors perfectly, he said.

“We used the same pattern as the original doors,” he said.

Horne said he plans to open the house during Spring and Fall Pilgrimage and also have it available for notable guests.

“Basically I wanted to make sure the house and its history was saved,” he said.

Prior to Horne purchasing the home, it was leased by historian Arthur Edward Cavalier de LaSalle, who spent more than 30 years taking care of the home and offering tours to the public.

“Arthur said several times ‘I think God sent you down here to take care of this house,’” Horne said. “That is what we plan to do.”

The house was owned by a family in St. Louis who, until approached by Horne, had no interest in selling property.

“Before Arthur moved here to take care of the house, it was used to basically store hay for a man who had leased the land,” Tenner said.

In August of 1791, Springfield was the sight of the first wedding of Andrew Jackson to Rachel Robards Jackson. At the time, the wedding was thought to be legal, but it was learned two years later that Rachel’s divorce was not legally final.

The couple was legally married in January of 1794.

The parlor in which the couple was married is now affectionately called “The Andrew and Rachel Room.”