Texada one of houses to open doors on first day

Published 12:23 am Sunday, March 13, 2011

NATCHEZ — Spring Pilgrimage was in full bloom on its first day as ladies in hoop skirts and men in genteel Southern garb greeted guests on the doorsteps of Natchez’s historic houses Saturday.

At Texada on Wall Street, guests gazed up at the brick exterior that had once been covered with stucco as the house fell into disrepair after the Civil War.

Dr. George Moss and his wife bought Texada in the 1970s, and as the stucco came down, the original brick was damaged.

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Texada was one of the first brick buildings constructed in downtown Natchez.

“Every brick was flipped and re-mortared,” said Mike Blattener, a host at Texada.

Randy Smith was a brick mason on the project, and he was not so interested in the brick as he was Moss’ daughter, Helen, Blattner said.

They married, and now the Smiths live in Texada.

In the 1800s, Texada was known as Texada Tavern.

“It was a mean place,” Blattner said.

While the tavern might have been on the unsavory side at the time, it became a meeting place for the Mississippi Legislature, and is branded the oldest capital building in the state.

Groups of guests were ushered into the entrance hall where Hannah Smith Mason discussed paintings and possessions in the room.

In 1810 a live elephant could be seen in the courtyard of Texada for an admission of 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children.

“That was a whole lot of money back then,” Mason said. “Because of a mishap, there is still a law on the Natchez books that said you’re not allowed to let a drunken elephant walk down the street.”

Groups were led into the sitting room, library, kitchen dining room and bedroom for narrative tours and were able to freely explore the upstairs of Texada.

In the library, Scott Smith of Tennessee shared a few facts with guests.

“A full bookshelf like this meant you were cultured, educated, sophisticated and filthy rich,” Smith said.

Guests’ attention was directed to a hanging clock that was constructed without a minute hand.

People back then weren’t so obsessed with time, Smith said.

Smith also shared the story of the family Bible that ended up in the hands of Union soldiers when the family was forced to vacate their home during the Civil War. When the family returned, the home and been stripped of every possession, including the Bible with 300 years of births, marriages and deaths recorded in it. Miraculously, the family ended up getting the Bible back, as the Union Army had not destroyed it.

“Of all the tall tales in the City of Natchez, you can’t beat the truth,” Smith said.

The Spring Pilgrimage pink and yellow tours will continue today. The House on Ellicott’s Hill and the Banker’s House will be open from 9 a.m. to 12:30 on the pink tour, and The Burn, Hope Farm and Richmond will be open from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on the yellow tour.