Auburn Christmas Open House is today

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 9, 2018

Members of Auburn Antebellum Home will host our 11th annual Christmas Open House from 1:30 to 4 p.m. today with free tours, 1812 era baked goods by Terri DeShong from Pennsylvania and music and entertainment.

Our newly restored detached kitchen and slave quarters will be open. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Auburn, so, parents, bring your children and cameras.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be  in the detached kitchen (circa 1830).

I am sure many Natchez residents have not been in Auburn in many years, if ever. Now would be a great time during the Christmas season to visit and enjoy Auburn. Come join us on Dec. 9 and bring your camera because photography is welcome inside the main house, the detached kitchen and slave quarters.

Auburn was built by Levi Weeks for Attorney Lyman Harding, who had moved to Natchez from Boston and 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 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 that stipulation, the City decided to sell all the furnishings thinking 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 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 open the house for tours on a daily basis and operated a Bed and Breakfast for about 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 an original secretary of Dr. Duncan’s that was donated to us by the daughters of Gloria Cooke of Crenshaw. In the secretary was a copy of a logic notebook that Stephen Duncan wrote in 1799 when he was 12 years old. We would be very interested in acquiring more such items. If any one knows of any 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, keeping it open for tours year round. 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 utilities, maintenance and upgrades inside the house. Our group also is responsible for the gardening of the grounds. The city is responsible for the cutting the grass and outside upkeep.

Hope to see everyone at the Open house because this is not only the city’s house but also it belongs to all the citizens of Natchez.

J. Clark Feiser is president of Auburn Antebellum Home. Reach him at auburnmuseum@gmail.com.