The Dart: Couple upgrades home

Published 12:12 am Monday, October 17, 2011

From left, Coral Byrd, her husband Richard Byrd and their 10-year-old granddaughter, Jade Meyers, pose in front of the Byrds’ house on Orleans Street.

NATCHEZ — Coral Byrd’s house on Orleans Street isn’t on Fall Pilgrimage Tours, but when The Dart landed on it, she didn’t mind giving a tour herself.

Dressed in antebellum attire, Bryd had just come from hosting a tour at Pleasant Hill late Thursday afternoon for Fall Pilgrimage. He home, Lantana Hill, was built circa 1836.

“It was originally a four-room house, and we recently added onto it,” Bryd said. “John Bergeron restored this one, and we bought it from him.”

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That’s not all Byrd and her husband, Richard Byrd, bought when they decided to move to Natchez.

“We also bought the garden out back when our neighbors moved and sold it to us,” Coral said.

Richard said the couple’s living room was originally the back deck, and they also added a kitchen, a garage and an elevator in the last year.

“It’s an old people elevator,” Richard joke. “If we ever get to the point where we have trouble getting up and down the stairs, we’ll just use the elevator. I guess you could say it’s planning ahead.”

The patio out back includes an outdoor TV and fireplace, along with the grill. The garden goes back to a fountain, and behind it has a small field at the edge of the property.

Coral is originally from Lake Charles, and Richard is from Tchula in the Mississippi Delta. Richard said he and his wife started coming to Natchez approximately 12 years ago when Bergeron invited them to celebrate Mardis Gras.

“That’s when we really started coming,” Richard said. “We like the area and the people. We also joined Jefferson Street United Methodist Church, and she’s a member of the Pilgrimage Garden Club.”

Richard also said they’ve gotten accustomed to Natchez so much that they’ve decided they want to be buried here.

“We bought cemetery plots over here, and we told our four children at Christmas about it,” Richard said. “That wasn’t the Christmas present they had in mind.”

The house also includes a small bar area that can be accessed from the back patio. Although Richard is a Mississippi State fan, he has a picture and quote of legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant hanging on one of the walls.

“I just always liked what he stood for,” Richard said. “He did what he said he was going to do — he made men out of boys.”

A small fountain sits in the Byrds’ garden behind their house, which is part of the property the family added to their backyard after their former neighbor moved away. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

Richard worked at Whitney Bank in New Orleans for 37 and a half years, and the couple bought the property from Bergeron three years ago. They said Bergeron still helps them look after the house.

“If the alarm goes off, he’ll come over here if we can’t get there right away,” Coral said.

For Coral, joining the Pilgrimage Garden Club meant getting involved in the tours.

“They told me there were requirements, and I told them just tell me where the dressmaker is, and I’ll do it,” Coral said.

“You get to meet people from all over the country and all over the world, from New York to France to Germany.”

Richard said he’s glad that groups like the Pilgrimage Garden Club help promote the city with their work.

“If we didn’t have volunteers, this town couldn’t do half of what it does,” he said.

Among other advantages to expanding the home was to host members of their family. The Byrds were hosting their granddaughter, 10-year-old Jade Meyers from New Orleans, Thursday afternoon.

“It costs money to keep (the house) up, but it’s worth it,” Richard said.