This beautiful home in MS has been standing for over 200 years

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi
Date added: November 04, 2023 Categories:
Front (north) elevation looking south (1973)

Arlington is one of four important Federal Style villas which established the basic form for the later antebellum houses of the Natchez area. Of the four, Arlington is unequaled in the integrity of its setting and outbuildings and is unsurpassed in the retention of its mid-nineteenth-century interior decoration. The setting, including several trees listed with the National Live Oak Society and azaleas of a variety known as the "Arlington Pink," retains the visual character of a nineteenth-century, landscaped park. The house is finished with elaborate and especially fine exterior trim, similar to the 1806 designs of Asher Benjamin. The interior trim, especially the doorway architraves and the overdoor panels, is marked by a similarly high degree of design and execution. In addition to the carpets, draperies, furniture and lighting fixtures original to the house and dating from the Federal through the Rococo Revival Periods, the building houses an extensive collection of American and European decorative and fine arts documenting the antiquarian taste of a twentieth-century collector.

According to tradition, the house was designed by John Hampton White, a native of New Jersey, and was constructed in 1816-1821 for his wife, Jane Surget Wyte. The style of the house, however, allows a date of construction between 1806 and 1831. Therefore, it is possible that Arlington was built for Lewis Evans, a leading planter and a wealthy supporter of the Natchez Theatrical Association. Evans arrived in the Natchez area in 1788-90, acquiring the land on which Arlington stands for his plantation in 1806. In 1814 Evans sold the portion of the plantation containing his house to Jonathan Thompson, a land speculator, who in turn sold a portion containing extensive improvements (probably the house) to Mrs. Jane Surget White in December, 1818. Mrs. White was the daughter of Pierre Surget, a French emigrant who had founded one of the leading families of the area.

After Mrs. White's death, the house passed through a succession of owners to Mrs. Hubert F. Barnum, first president of the Pilgrimage Garden Club. Today, the interior of the house reflects the taste of Mrs. Barnum, an avid collector, as well as the taste of the nineteenth-century owners of Arlington.

Building Description

Arlington is a suburban villa in the Federal Style. It is Situated atop a knoll amid an extensive landscape garden which, though English in conception, is unmistakably regional in execution. This fact is evidenced by the ancient, moss-hung trees and the flowering shrubs, common to the area, which dot the rolling lawn. The main block of the house is a large (64' x 87') brick structure, two and one-half stories high. It is set on a low basement, topped by a hip roof, and divided on each elevation into five bays. A two-story, pedimented portico of the giant Doric order adorns the center three bays of the facade (north elevation) and a two-story gallery of the same order extends across the rear elevation. Doorway openings are trimmed with radiating brick voussoirs and with keystones and impost blocks of carved marble. Each opening contains a twelve-panel, single-leaf door, two sidelights with decorative muntins, and a fanlight with radiating swag and oval muntins. These elements are separated by fluted, Doric colonnettes and an entablature that breaks forward in a serpentine shape over each colonnette and in a bow shape over the door. All window openings are embellished with marble lugsills and carved marble lintels. A Doric cornice, decorated with mutules, guttae, and bead moldings, defines the eaves and pediment. Two dormers, elaborated by boxed cornices, paired Doric colonnettes, and arched window openings, adorn the rear slope of the roof.

On the interior of the house, a central hall divides each floor. There are two rooms to the west of the hall and two rooms flanking a stair hall to the east. The design of the opening between the hall and the stairhall is similar to that of the exterior doorway openings. The interior woodwork is delicate and refined, the most outstanding feature being the carved overdoor panels, flanked by consoles. The interior furnishings include a twentieth-century collection of antique objects as well as important remnants of the mid-nineteenth-century decorative scheme original to the house.

A small, one-story wing is set at right angles to the east wall Of the main block and attached to it near the southeast corner. The south wall of the wing is protected by a gallery supported by slender, turned columns and the north wall by a stucco coating with pointed-arch recesses set into it. Perpendicular to the rear (south) wing, is a detached, two-story, brick outbuilding, probably originally used as a kitchen. On the west elevation of the outbuilding, recessed beneath the gable roof, is a two-story, colonnaded gallery. Attached to the rear (south) wall of the outbuilding is a one-story, brick garage or carriage house with a shed roof. A two-story, brick barn with a gable roof is located about fifty yards to the west of the house. Between it and the house is a boxwood garden laid out in geometric patterns, traditionally dating to before the Civil War.

Past alterations at Arlington have only slightly affected the architectural integrity of the house. The first alterations appear to have been made during the middle third of the nineteenth century as part of an extensive renovation. This renovation probably includes the installation of several marble mantelpieces in the Greek Revival Style, the attachment of a cast iron porch to the central doorway on the east side of the house, the re-working of the attached wing, and the addition of the rear gallery The ceiling of the rear gallery bears Greek Revival moldings and the roof continues to the ridge of the main roof, covering the wood shingles still in place on the lower, more steeply-pitched original rear slope of the roof. The additional height of the new slope necessitated the extension of the original dormers to a point where their bases intersect the new slope, as revealed in the framing of the dormers. During the ownership of L. S. Gillette from 1917 to 1924, bathrooms were added on the landings of the stair and on the rear gallery and, probably at the same time, an arched opening between the stairhall and the southeast room was closed, and a portion of the rear gallery was enclosed for a conservatory.

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi Front (north) elevation looking south (1973)
Front (north) elevation looking south (1973)

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi Rear (South) elevation and outbuilding, looking NE (1973)
Rear (South) elevation and outbuilding, looking NE (1973)

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi First floor portico and door, looking southwest (1973)
First floor portico and door, looking southwest (1973)

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi North elevation (1934)
North elevation (1934)

Arlington Plantation House, Natchez Mississippi Rear view (southwest elevation) (1936)
Rear view (southwest elevation) (1936)