New life brought to a historic landmark

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, January 14, 2023

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It’s wonderful to see a building with its surrounding acres that brought about the creation of Duncan Park come to life with a new life during the Historic Natchez Foundation’s annual meeting Thursday night.

Through the past several decades, Auburn has been many things: a family home, a playhouse for the city’s children, a museum to the antebellum south and a bed and breakfast.

One thing that it has always been is part of Natchez’s rich history.

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Known as the first mansion to be built in Natchez, Auburn is said to have inspired others throughout the city.

It was designed and constructed by Levi Weeks in 1812 for attorney Lyman Harding, who had moved to Natchez from Massachusetts.

This two-story Greek Revival mansion supported by four columns includes a floating spiral staircase between the first and second floors. Weeks designed the house to be, in his words, the “most magnificent building in the state.”

Dr. Stephen A. Duncan acquired the home after Harding died in 1820, and it remained in the Duncan family until heirs donated the building and its surrounding acreage to the City of Natchez with the stipulation that it be made a public park.

Generations later, the park exhibits some of the best of the city’s recreational offerings, with tennis, pickleball, playgrounds, disc golf and a golf course.

For the last 50 years, the city-owned house has been maintained by a group dedicated to its preservation, Friends of Auburn.

Now the city is close to leasing Auburn to a new owner, the Historic Natchez Foundation.

Hundreds gathered there Thursday night, parking well away from the building and having to walk to reach the site of the foundation’s meeting and hear awards be presented to a dozen champions of historic preservation efforts in this city. It was perhaps the foundation’s most largely attended meeting ever, said executive director Carter Burns.

We are thrilled to see what the future holds for the Historic Natchez Foundation, and for Auburn. We know this historic property will be in good hands.