Come to Auburn holiday open house

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The members of Auburn Antebellum Home will be host our 11th annual Christmas Open House from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, with free tours, 1812-era baked goods by Terri DeShong from Pennsylvania, and music by Burnley Cook.

Our newly restored detached kitchen and slaves quarters will be open.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Auburn so parents bring your children and cameras. They will be located in the detached kitchen (ca. 1830). I am sure many of the Natchez residents have not been in Auburn in many years, if ever.

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Now would be a great time during the Christmas season to visit and enjoy Auburn. Come join us on Dec. 10 and bring your camera because photography is welcome.

Auburn, was built by Levi Weeks for Attorney Lyman Harding, who had moved to Natchez from Boston. The house was completed in 1812. It 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 and 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 around 1821 and lived there until 1863 when they left Auburn by 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 its 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 requirement, 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 to live, but the downstairs remained virtually empty and became a playhouse for the 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 restore the house and open it for tours. They operated a bed and breakfast for approximately 20 years, to earn money to furnish Auburn with period furniture. During that time, a few of the Duncan original pieces of furniture and fixtures have been returned to Auburn.

New this year is a portrait of Dr. Duncan that was donated to us by Mary Duncan Bicknell, a distant relative of Dr. Duncan. We would be very interested in acquiring more such items. If anyone knows of any of the original items, please contact us.

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.

The money raised from tours and other functions is used for the utilities, maintenance and upgrades inside the house. Our group is also responsible for the gardening of the grounds. The city is responsible for the cutting of the grass and the outside upkeep.

Our ongoing project is to repair the main house and the severe water damage that has occurred. A grant has been received from Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The City of Natchez and the Auburn Antebellum Home will be providing matching money.

I hope to see everyone at the open house because this is not only the city’s house but all the Natchez citizens’ house.
J. Clark Feiser President, Auburn Antebellum Home 601-304-0763,