Fair Oaks House, Natchez Mississippi

Date added: October 05, 2023 Categories: Mississippi House
North (facade) and east elevations (1976)

Since its construction in c. 1822, Fair Oaks has achieved local prominence as the residence of several important families of the fashionable Second Creek neighborhood six miles south of Natchez, Mississippi.

Originally called Green Oak, the present house was almost certainly built by Henry W. Huntington and his wife, Helen Dunbar Huntington, on a portion of Sir William Dunbar's plantation, the Forest. Although the property was not transferred until 1825, the records of the Adams County Board of Road Commissioners mention "Mr. Huntington's new house" on August 8, 1822, and again on February 21, 1825. It seems clear that Huntington began construction of his residence on his father-in-law's property with the assurance that it would eventually become his.

Financial reverses were to overcome the Huntingtons, and they were forced to sell part of their Green Oak estate. Sixty-nine and one-half acres, including the house site, were purchased by John Hutchins in 1836. As the residence of John Hutchins, the dwelling and surrounding acreage were renamed Woodbourne. Hutchins acquired an additional 100.51 acres in 1840 when he purchased "a tract of land being part of a plantation called Green Oak, lately the residence and property of Henry W. Huntington". John Hutchins subsequently sold these two tracts to his son, John O. Hutchins, who resided there with his wife from 1849 until 1856. In that year, Dr. Orrick Metcalfe purchased the house along with 100 acres to utilize the slaves, livestock, and farming equipment his wife had inherited from her father.

Dr. Metcalfe renamed the plantation Fair Oaks in 1856, adding adjoining acreages in 1859 and in 1881. The doctor, a Yale alumnus holding degrees in both law and medicine, had served Jefferson College in Washington, Mississippi, first as a professor and later as a member of the board of trustees. With the purchase of Fair Oaks, he added cotton planting to his work as a practicing physician for the surrounding countryside.

The house and plantation have remained in the hands of Dr. Metcalfe's descendants until the present, the dwelling and surrounding acres having been purchased by his great-grandson Bazile R. Lanneau, and wife, Ann Metcalfe Lanneau, in 1963. The current owners have sensitively restored and maintained Fair Oaks, furnishing it with family possessions, many of which were purchased by Dr. Metcalfe in the 1850s. The setting enjoys considerable integrity, remaining almost unchanged since the territorial period, except for the intrusion of a two-lane highway approximately 200 feet from the side front of the dwelling house and approximately 80 feet from the rear of the brick outbuilding. The home has been opened to the public during the Natchez Pilgrimage each spring since 1965.

Building Description

Located on the west side of U.S. Highway 61, six miles south of Natchez, Mississippi, is "Fair Oaks," a one-and-a-half-story frame structure apparently dating from c. 1822, with subsequent additions. The residence faces north, with a single original brick outbuilding placed a few feet away from its southeast corner. As originally constructed, Fair Oaks consisted of a row of five large rooms of unequal dimensions between front and rear galleries. As is characteristic of the Natchez region, the wall surfaces protected by the galleries are stucco-on-frame above paneled dadoes and baseboards. Slender Doric columns divide the facade into seven bays and directly support the plate without the benefit of an intermediary entablature. The entrance is placed on the center axis and is marked by a handsome frontispiece with a ten-paneled door, sidelights with sham mullions, delicately molded pilasters, a returned cornice and a semi-elliptical transom. Symmetrically flanking the frontispiece, which is repeated on the rear elevation, are six-over-six double-hung windows fitted with their original blinds. Shortly after the initial construction phase, jib doors were added below the sills of four front windows, and the end bays of the rear gallery were enclosed to form two small rooms or cabinets.

The interior trim of the original portion of Fair Oaks is characteristic of the Federal style in the Natchez area. Mantels are wooden, designed with columns of stylized Roman orders, three-or five-part friezes, and returned shelves. Door and window architraves are symmetrically molded with double backbands and corner blocks. Of special note is the wide drawing room frontispiece which repeats the design and detail of the entrances.

By 1840, a wing containing a dining room and pantry had been added to the rear of Fair Oaks, leaving only two small areas of open gallery between it and the cabinets. The rear entrance frontispiece became a focal point of the room and the new woodwork was carefully matched to it. A marble mantel with simple pilasters, uncarved frieze, and shelf was the only concession to the current Greek Revival fashion. Hanging in the center of the dining room is a large punkah, or fan, designed as an abstract female figure. Twentieth-century alterations to the rear section of Fair Oaks include the installation of a modern kitchen in the former pantry space, enclosing of the remnants of the rear gallery, installation of bathrooms in the cabinets, and the addition of porches on either side of the dining room wing.

Fair Oaks House, Natchez Mississippi North (facade) and east elevations (1976)
North (facade) and east elevations (1976)

Fair Oaks House, Natchez Mississippi Entrance hall showing Drawing Room (L) and Dining Room (R) (1976)
Entrance hall showing Drawing Room (L) and Dining Room (R) (1976)

Fair Oaks House, Natchez Mississippi Dining Room - looking north (1976)
Dining Room - looking north (1976)