Annual tour benefits library projects all year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 28, 2010

NATCHEZ — Four Natchez houses are decked out for Christmas and ready for visitors.

This year’s annual Library Tour of Homes will give visitors a look inside the former King’s Daughters Rescue Home on Cemetery Road, The Stockton House on North Wall Street, the Stahlman condominium and the home of Dr. Linda Wilbourn, and its all to raise money for the Armstrong Library, Friends of the Library president Maria Bowser said.

The Friends of the Library organize the tour, picking four distinct and different homes each year to raise money to assist the local library.

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“This is the biggest fundraiser we do for the library,” Bowser said. “It is even more important now, with the budget cuts the library received, that we do everything we can to support the library.”

The tour is from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5.

Tickets for the tour are $15 for one or $25 for two and include all four houses and refreshments. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the library, at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or on the day of the tour at the door of any tour house.

The houses can be toured in any order.

The Friends of the Library purchased the library’s security system and support the summer library program for children each year, provide genealogy research references and purchase books, supplies and furnishings for the library. Most recently the group provided matching funds for grants to create the new teen room at the library.

“As a former educator and school teacher, I see how many students are in the library each day researching and doing things for school,” Bowser said. “A lot of times, libraries are a student’s very best resource.

“We also have a large number of adult patrons, who use the library and would have no other place to get the tools the library provides.”

While the library is a more than worthy cause, Bowser said that isn’t the only thing that gets people to the tour.

She said people also enjoy the chance to get inside other people’s houses.

“People like to look at other houses and see what other people have done,” she said. “Folks like to see how other people have decorated and not just for the holidays.”

This year Bowser said the houses offer a good look at Natchez’s history.

“We always try to get a mixture of different historical periods and houses with different stories,” Bowser said. “In a lot of cases, people who have been in Natchez for a while will remember what (the houses) once were.”

This year is no exception.

The King’s Daughters Home was built in 1911 as a home for unwed mothers. The house is an architectural hybrid of the waning Colonial Revival style and the newly popular Craftman and Prairie styles. Initially, babies were delivered at the home. Later Natchez Charity Hospital provided maternity services. The King’s Daughters Home operated as a house for unwed mothers until the 1970s, when demand for its services had greatly diminished. Disabled adults resided there until about 1980. The house was vacant for 25 years

The King’s Daughters Home was donated to the Historic Natchez Foundation in 2004. In 2007, Kenny and Renee Cavin purchased the building for rehabilitation. The Cavins approached the project with respect for the building’s historic character and completed the restoration in 2008.

The house of Dr. Linda Wilbourn will serve as the refreshment center for the tour.

The house was built in the 1880s, and Wilbourn has owned it for approximately 15 years.

Wilbourn first restored the gallery of the house to its original size, which involved recreating the missing posts and other millwork. Next, she acquired the property to the south and found someone to relocate the existing house to a new site.

On that lot, Wilbourn added a new addition that, on the exterior,echoes the design of the original house. On the interior, the new addition offers a contemporary approach to living with an enclosed courtyard with a walled garden as its interior focal point. The house is decorated with a collection of antique furnishings.

The Stahlman condo on Franklin Street is one of a few buildings on Franklin built before the Civil War.

In February 1998, straight-line winds severely damaged the building and destroyed its rear addition. The Franklin Street faade was boarded in for a decade. Also damaged was a furniture warehouse that abutted the rear and had a faade on Franklin Street. Cappy and Judy Stahlman acquired both properties and first rehabilitated the warehouse into two apartments. They then rehabilitated the other property into a first-story commercial space and luxurious second-story apartment with an entrance on North Commerce.

The home Ann Stockton House a the corner of Wall and Jefferson streets was once the home of the widow Ann Stockton. The simple Greek Revival house derives significance from its architectural integrity and its well-documented construction.

In March 1849, Stockton acquired her 50-foot-by-130-foot lot for $250. Stockton began charging building materials that April from the Andrew Brown sawmill.

Ann was the widow of Joseph M. Stockton, a Natchez merchant and tailor who died in October 1848. Within a decade or so of building the house, Ann Stockton updated the faade with a fancy Italianate cornice with decorative brackets. The house remained in the Stockton family until 1893.

Margaret Perkins acquired the house in 2003 and has made substantial improvements. She and René Adams carefully preserved and restored the original portions of the house, while accommodating a modern lifestyle by remodeling existing rear additions and building a new, multi-purpose garage building that complements the historic character of the main house.