Natchez welcomes visitors for Spring Pilgrimage

Published 10:44 am Friday, March 8, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Tens of thousands of tourists are expected to arrive in Natchez for the month-plus-long Spring Pilgrimage, which begins this week.

The annual event attracts tourists from around the globe to Natchez to tour the city’s antebellum mansions and learn about life in the pre-Civil War era.

Pilgrimage Garden Club

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Christy Williams, executive director of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, which owns and operates Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said more large tour groups have booked this year than in prior years.

“We have had so many tours book this year. We have so many large groups coming in, more than in a number of years,” Williams said.

In addition, two new, recently restored historic houses have joined the 19 Pilgrimage Garden Club houses open to the public for tours from March 9 through April 9.

Chip and Clara Newman own the Briars and have recently renovated the property, taking it back to its historic origins in design and furnishings. The home is where Jefferson Davis and Varina Howell married, and is arguably one of the most historic properties in Natchez and certainly an excellent example of plantation architecture of the time. The Briars is situated on the bluffs high above the Mississippi River, in fact the highest point above the river from its source to its mouth, and is on tour for the first time in decades.

Holly Hedges, owned by Wes and Tammy Pack of Fredericksburg, Texas, and one of the oldest structures in Natchez, dating back to late 1700s, is also on tour this spring for the first time in dozens of years.

The Packs have overseen a complete, top-to-bottom extensive renovation of Holly Hedges.

“We also have a number of special events this year, like the Southern Road to Freedom choir that performs at Holy Family Catholic Church. That group tells the story of enslaved people in Natchez. We are excited to have that experience in Natchez and pleased to be selling tickets to those events. It has had lots of interest, which we love to see,” Williams said.

Hope Farm, which was the home of Spring Pilgrimage founder Katherine Grafton Miller, burned in 2023. At the time of the fire, long-time Pilgrimage Garden Club member Ethel Banta, who lost her life in the fire, owned Hope Farm.

Laine and Kevin Berry of Restoration Nation, who are at work renovating the historic house and property, now own Hope Farm.

The Berrys will hold a one-day, special event at Hope Farm on March 30, sharing information about their work restoring the property.

Also on tour with the Pilgrimage Garden Club are Auburn, Bontura, Brandon Hall, The Burn, Concord Quarters, Green Leaves, Lansdowne, Longwood, Oak Hill, Propinquity, Ravenna, Richmond, Rip Rap, Rosalie, Routhland, Stanton Hall and Sweet Auburn.

Tickets to Pilgrimage Garden Club tour homes and these and more special events can be purchased at

Natchez Garden Club

The Natchez Garden Club opens its tour houses from March 8 through April 28.

“We are expecting great things this year,” said Chris Bartha, Natchez Garden Club president. “We are working with the city and the mayor to promote Pilgrimage in Natchez as a city-wide event. Both garden clubs met with the city and Visit Natchez recently and you will be seeing lots about Spring Pilgrimage on the Visit Natchez website, as well as seeing banners all around town promoting the event.”

The Natchez Garden Club offers 14 historic homes for tour, including Linden, Monmouth, Choctaw Hall, the House on Ellicott’s Hill, Myrtle, Sunnyside, The Towers, Cherokee, Dunleith, Glenfield, Elms Court, The J.N. Stone House, Gloucester and Magnolia Hall.

“Spring Pilgrimage is the premier event of the year in Natchez,” Bartha said. “We are proud to carry on the legacy of all of the ladies who have gone before us, who make this such a special time in Natchez. We hope to be doing that for many years to come.”

The Natchez Garden Club will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2027, she said.

“We want people to understand Spring Pilgrimage is part of a continuity of people who have put their hearts into this event for many years,” Bartha said.

Those who want to tour Natchez Garden Club-affiliated historic houses can purchase tickets at the individual homes.

“Every house has tickets available to sell right at the door. Or, you can go to Little Easy Tours, which is our official ticket sales agent. You can also buy them at Visit Natchez. Those who are interested can go to our website,, and see our brochures and list of times of tours and follow the link to purchase tickets at Little Easy Tours,” Bartha said.