Wonderful evening at Auburn awaits

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017

During Fall Pilgrimage, the members of the Auburn Antebellum Home will be hosting their fourth annual “Evening at Auburn” from 5 to 7  p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, featuring entertainment by Burnley Cook, master of the calliope, performing music from the steamboat era complete with mint juleps and finger foods.

If you have never heard Burnley perform, you need to be at this evening event.

Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased by calling Auburn at 601-442-5981 (leave a message if no answer), by visiting Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at 640 S. Canal St. at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or by purchasing them at the door.

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Proceeds from the evening will be used for the furnishing of our 1830 detached kitchen. Get your tickets and bring your lawn chairs for a great evening. In case of rain, the program will be moved inside and Burnley will use the piano.

Auburn was built by Levi Weeks for attorney Lyman Harding, who had moved to Natchez from Boston. The house was completed in 1812 and was the first mansion to be built in Natchez. Weeks wrote to his friend that “this is the first house in the territory on which was ever attempted any of the orders of architecture.”

Attorney Harding died in 1820. The second owner of the house was Dr. Stephen A. Duncan, who had moved to Natchez from Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Catherine, moved into Auburn in approximately 1821 and lived there until 1863 when they left Auburn with four of the five children and their families on a Union gunboat which conveyed them north and eventually to New York City. Dr. Duncan died in New York in 1867.

Stephen Duncan Jr. elected to stay at Auburn and lived off and on there until his death in 1910. His heirs decided to donate Auburn, all the furnishings, and 210 acres to the City of Natchez with the stipulation that the land would be made into a public park in memory of the Duncans — thus we have Duncan Park. The second stipulation was that the house and land remain together. Because of this stipulation, the city decided to sell all the furnishings, thinking that the house would be easier to take care of if it were empty.

The city made an apartment upstairs for the caretaker of the park and his family, but downstairs remained virtually empty and became a play house for children of the city. In 1972, the Town and Country Garden Club (later to be named the Auburn Garden Club) set up a lease with the city to open the house for tours on a daily basis and operated a bed and breakfast for many years to earn money to furnish Auburn with period furniture. Over the years, a few of the Duncan original pieces of furniture and fixtures have been returned to Auburn. We would be very interested in acquiring more.

In 2009, the members of the Auburn Garden Club petitioned the city and the state for a name change and new bylaws. The Auburn Antebellum Home is the new name with a focus on Auburn preservation. We are a small group of male and female volunteers who still lease the house from the city and manage it. If anyone wishes to join our group, please contact Auburn at 601-442-5981, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Our current project, with a grant from Mississippi Department of Archives and History and matching funds from the City and our group is to repair the extensive water damage to the front balcony and columns, clean and paint the roof, and scrape, caulk and paint windows. Auburn Antebellum Home is a nonprofit 501c3 organization for federal income tax purposes and donations for our restoration purposes will be appreciated. A receipt will be provided upon request. Auburn doesn’t receive any tax money so we operate on only tourist dollars and donations.

We will also have our 10th annual Christmas Open House  from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 10 in conjunction with the Mississippi Bicentennial, so save the date.
J. Clark Feiser is the president of Auburn Antebellum Home.