Archeological Conservancy looking for owner for historic house

Published 12:05 am Sunday, October 5, 2014

Submitted photo — The remains of Prospect Hill Plantation sit in the woods 15 minutes east of Lorman in Jefferson County.

Submitted photo — The remains of Prospect Hill Plantation sit in the woods 15 minutes east of Lorman in Jefferson County.

Those leading efforts to save a historic property in Jefferson County recently received a bit of help from dozens of unknown donors around the world, but more help is needed.

Prospect Hill Plantation is an archaeological site 15 minutes east of Lorman that includes a house and 23.3 acres. The house, which was constructed in the 1800s, is crumbling and in need of much repair and new owners.

Its current owner — The Archaeological Conservancy — is a national non-profit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the best of the nation’s remaining archaeological sites. Its goal, Southeast Regional Director Jessica Crawford said, is to sell the property to someone ready to properly restore it.

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The site carries tremendous historic value for the area, the South and the United States, Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Mimi Miller said.

“It’s almost sacred ground in the history of African American enslavement,” Miller said.

The plantation was founded by Revolutionary War veteran Isaac Ross in the early 1800s. He left instructions in his will that the plantation be sold and the proceeds be used to send any of his slaves who wished to go to the West African colony of Liberia.

“He was very active in the colonization movement, a movement to return Africans to their home in Africa,” Miller said.

The plantation house burned down in 1845 by the slaves who grew restless waiting for Ross’ instructions to be carried out, and the remaining slaves made their journey to a colony in Liberia named Mississippi.

More than 150 years later, the house is only inhabited by an India Blue peacock, Isaac, who has lived there alone for nearly seven years.

The Conservancy purchased Prospect Hill Plantation in 2011 for $75,000 from a private individual.

Archaeological treasures remaining on the site include the foundations of several outbuildings, such as a laundry room, kitchen, a smoke house, a cotton gin and a house for slaves who worked inside the main house.

Crawford said the main house, completed in 1854, first needs a new roof before complete restorations can begin.

“The organization is trying to do some repairs and buy time for the home so that it can be completely restored,” Crawford said.

Once the wear and tear to the home has ceased — thanks to the protection a new roof would provide — the house can be restored while the organization retains a protective archaeological easement, which is a right used by organizations to protect properties that have historic, architectural or archaeological significance.

The Conservancy is asking $58,000 for the house, and the purchaser must also acquire the 60 acres of land around the house.

But first, the Conservancy is working to raise $35,000 for roof repairs.

Thus far, the non-profit has raised $14,000 through a crowd-funding campaign on the website Indiegogo. The website allows non-profit organizations to share their stories in hopes of attracting donations from website viewers starting as low as $1 per donor.

The Conservancy’s campaign on Indiegogo ended last month, shy of the goal.

But Crawford and others haven’t given up hope.

The Conservancy is preparing to have an open house in the fall to raise funds for the home. An exact day and time has yet to be determined.

Miller said she is grateful for the work the organization is doing at Prospect Hill.

“I thank God for them every day,” Miller said. “Jessica has been the leader in this effort, and I have the highest respect for her for taking this on. It’s a phenomenal place and a great house.”

Anyone wishing to donate can send a check to the Archaeological Conservancy, Southeast Region, P.O. Box 270, Marks, MS, 38646 with Prospect Hill in the memo line.

The Conservancy is a 501c3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.

For more information, follow Prospect Hill Plantation on Facebook.