Restoring Hope Weekend touts Natchez history, architecture and kicks off restoration of Hope Farm

Published 6:31 pm Sunday, August 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of Natchez residents and tourists alike over the course of the weekend celebrated Natchez, its history and historic houses and the coming restoration of Hope Farm at the Restoring Hope Weekend.

Untold others will join in that celebration through Laine and Kevin Berry’s Our Restoration Nation, a social media and YouTube community.

The Berrys video their restoration projects, including Pearl in Natchez, a Linton Avenue house the two restored and now is offered for sale.

Email newsletter signup

On March 23, a devastating fire consumed much of Hope Farm, one of Natchez’s three oldest houses dating to 1723, but took the life of its owner, the beloved Ethel Banta.

After the fire, the Berrys said they met with Mrs. Banta’s children and shared their desire to purchase what remained of Hope Farm and restore it.

“They were excited for us to try to restore this property,” Kevin said during an interview over the weekend with Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson. “There is definitely a lot of house left and we will be able to restore it as much like it was as possible.”

Laine Berry said Restoring Hope Weekend was not a fundraiser for their Hope Farm restoration project. Rather it was an opportunity to promote Natchez.

“We have here this weekend people from Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Wisconsin, all celebrating a rebirth of Hope Farm. Hope Farm has really been the symbol of Natchez tourism for many years and tourism being the biggest industry here, we wanted to celebrate the fact that hope will be restored, Hope Farm will be rebuilt and we can look to this as a symbol of restoring hope in our community,” she said.

Originally from Conway, Arkansas, the Berrys have been restoring historic homes throughout the southeast United States for 20 years, they said. The couple now calls Natchez home.

“We love Natchez, love the people here and are happy to call it home,” the couple told Gibson.

Restoring Hope Weekend featured the history and architecture of Natchez. It began Friday morning with a tour of Stanton Hall followed by a brunch there. Natchez’s Wayne Bryant of The Continental Cook at The Carriage House provided all of the weekend’s food and drink.

The brunch at Stanton Hall was followed by a tour of Longwood. Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday night, Our Restoration Nation hosted a reception at Auburn and at 8:30 p.m., a Ghost Tour of Glenfield.

The Berrys and their company have been contracted by the Historic Natchez Foundation to restore the city-owned Auburn in Duncan Park.

Saturday morning began with tours of Pearl, a home the Berrys renovated on Linton Avenue, and The Briars, which is being lovingly restored now by its new owners Chip and Clara Newman.

The Briars, circa 1818, is the location of the marriage of Jefferson Davis and Varina Howell in 1845. It is located on what is thought to be the highest point along the Mississippi River.

Saturday’s events also included tours of Greenleaves and Lansdowne, followed by a preview of the Hope Farm project and an evening reception there.

The event ended on Sunday morning with breakfast at The Burn.