Step back in time with updated parlor at Natchez National Historical Park

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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NATCHEZ – Visitors to Melrose, a property of the Natchez National Historical Park, will now see a more accurate interpretation of the family parlor with the installation of new window treatments and reupholstered furniture. The room more closely resembles its mid-19th-century appearance.

Cheryl Waldrep, the park curator, has recreated the interior decoration of the room based on the 1865 inventory of the mansion included in the park’s historic furnishings plan.

John and Mary Louisa McMurran sold their estate, which included almost all of the household furnishings, to George Malin and Elizabeth Davis.

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The inventory notes window treatments and an extensive parlor set made of “maroon velvet.”

Using this as her guide, Waldrep identified the pieces of the original McMurran parlor furniture and working with Richard Branyan and Gerald Crawford of Lower Lodge Antiques, selected an appropriate period fabric for the upholstery.

Natalie Larson of Williamsburg, Virginia fabricated and installed the period-correct window treatments.

Larson based the design on plates found in an 1851 copy of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most widely circulated and first successful woman’s magazine in mid-19th century America.

With the assistance of local furniture maker Adam Gwin, Waldrep arranged the furnishings as they may have looked in the 1850s when the McMurrans used the room daily as a family parlor.

Today, visitors have a better idea of the opulent furnishings found in the Greek Revival mansion of this Natchez suburban estate, home to the wealthy white planter family and the enslaved people who lived and labored there. Like most rooms in the house, the parlor retains its original crank near the mantle which rang a bell on the rear gallery to summon an enslaved servant.

The mansion furnishings stand in stark contrast to the rooms of the slave cabins behind the big house and are even further removed from the more sparse living conditions for people enslaved on the McMurrans’ five plantations.

“Visitors to Natchez may come to town seeking only to enjoy the finery of the wealthiest of wealthy Americans in the years leading up to the Civil War. But we hope they leave also understanding the vast disparity in quality of life that was experienced by the aristocracy and those people they held in bondage to support their lifestyle. This had repercussions for generations, and it is an important part of our American story,” said Natchez National Historical Park superintendent Kathleen Bond.

Melrose is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations for tours of the mansion may be made online through

The grounds and outbuildings of the estate are open and free of charge.

For more information, contact park historian Jeff Mansell ( or call the Melrose visitor center (601-446-5790).