Monday, June 1, 2020 About Us Terms of Service © Timera Media 2017–2020
 
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

Arlington in Natchez, Mississippi: The forgotten Federal style house is in a state of total chaos

Bojan Ivanov

Arlington is an historic Federal style plantation house and outbuildings situated in Natchez, Mississippi, United States of America. In the territory of the State of Mississippi are placed many historic sites and structures which show the glorious past of the region. The city of Natchez, once a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade, is famed for its grandiose homes constructed in unique and characteristic architectural style. Many of the plantation mansions are well preserved, but unfortunately, Arlington is not one of them.

The whole property is in very bad condition, i.e. in a state of total chaos. On the 55 acre property, there are three buildings: the main house and two outbuildings. Today all of them are rustic skeletons and some parts of them still stand proudly, although only like ghosts in a shell. The structures are in ruins and little by little are crumbling. Throughout the years they were victims of several acts of vandalism.

Further decay is eminent since the roof of the house was destroyed by fire in 2002, leaving it open to the elements. In 1973 the property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1974 it was declared a National Historic Landmark, but it hasn’t been protected as it should be. In 2009 Arlington was ranked as one of the Mississippi’s most endangered historic sites by the Mississippi Heritage Trust. Nature is slowly reclaiming this forgotten jewel and the people of Natchez hope that in near future Arlington will shine again in its full beauty.

The Mississippi state sign located on Interstate 20/ Author: WebTV3 – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Mississippi state sign located on Interstate 20/ Author: WebTV3 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Local oral tradition says that the residence was erected by John Hampton White, a native from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and his wife, Jane Surget White. The year of the start of the construction is unknown; historians believe that it was built around 1819-1820. The architect of Arlington is unknown too. According the design and the plan of the structure, many think that it was a work of the architect Levi Weeks from New England, but there are some scholars who believe that it was designed by John Hampton White. No documents exist to validate either claim.

“View of the Fort of the Natchez”, from Georges Henri Victor Collot’s Voyage dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, ou Description des pays arrosés par le Mississipi, l’Ohio, le Missouri. Originally published in 1796

“View of the Fort of the Natchez”, from Georges Henri Victor Collot’s Voyage dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, ou Description des pays arrosés par le Mississipi, l’Ohio, le Missouri. Originally published in 1796

What is known for sure, and there are documents to confirm, is that Lewis Evans, a rich Natchez planter, bought the property on which Arlington stands in 1906. He started a plantation and built a house. In 1814 he sold a small part of the enormous plantation, including the house, to Jonathan Thompson who was a land speculator. Thompson didn’t have intentions of using the land, he only wanted to profit.

The front (north) and east elevations in 1934

The front (north) and east elevations in 1934

He bought the huge property for a small amount of money and very quickly sold it in parcels for a larger amount of money to many people. Mrs. Jane Surget White, a daughter of Pierre Surget, a French emigrant, and leader of one of the Natchez’s most powerful families, bought the Arlington property in December 1818. Unfortunately, the new owners didn’t enjoy in their new home for long. Mr. White died during a yellow fever epidemic in October 1819. His wife died in 1825.

It is one of the most important examples of the architecture of the South of the USA

It is one of the most important examples of the architecture of the South of the USA

The Arlington red brick house has two floors above a low basement and it is placed on the top of a low natural hill. It is considered to be one of the most important Federal style mansions and was an example for similar houses of Natchez. But the mansion has been uninhabited for many years because the costs to maintain it were too expensive.

The owner tried to sell it, but nobody wanted to buy it. Throughout the years, the once outstanding home has been the target of vandals who have damaged much of the precious refined interior Federal style woodwork. All of the windows are broken and the exterior woodwork is also seriously ruined. In September 2002 there was a fire that caused, even more, damage in it. After the fire, the city authorities replaced the roof but further reconstruction was stopped. In 2012 the owner was taken to court and fined for not keeping the property as protected monument.

Arlington in 2009/ Author: /\ \/\/ /\ from Jackson Mississippi, USA – CC BY-SA 2.0

Arlington in 2009/ Author: /\ \/\/ /\ from Jackson Mississippi, USA – CC BY-SA 2.0

Some of the characteristic elements of the house survived, but most of them are gone forever. There are still the four monumental Doric columns in front of the full-width veranda, built during the mid-19th century. The main house has on each floor central halls and two rooms to each side, with the stairs on the east side. At the southeastern corner of the main structure are attached the outbuildings that served as service wings. West of the courtyard there is a two-floor barn isolated by a boxwood garden. All of the surviving parts are overgrown with lush vegetation and they could be soon gone forever.