Building Description McGehee Plantation, Senatobia Mississippi
The McGehee Plantation sits on a rise at the end of a winding gravel road on a farm of twelve hundred acres. The house sits on the top of an incline overlooking the railroad tracks at the bottom of the slope. As the house is approached from the west a row of black walnut trees flank the house's side elevation. The house itself is an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture having many of the typical characteristics of that style. The overall form is a simple rectilinear box with low hipped roof; full entablature wrapping all four facades; pilasters marking all four sides and a prominent two story frontal colonnade with triangular pediment. The prominent colonnade faces the railroad. Hugh McGehee, the original owner's father, was influential in routing the railroad through the region.
The plantation house was built c. 1855. It is a five bay center hall plan constructed of heavy timber. It has a low hipped metal corrugated roof that replaced an original shake shingle roof. There are two internal chimney stacks symmetrically placed. The chimney stacks are not conspicuous to the facade and are stuccoed. Below the roof line is a prominent entablature that surrounds the structure. The entablature includes a deep fascia at the roof line, a frieze with dentil trim and an architrave delineated by moldings. On all four corners of the structure are pilasters with vernacular capitals. All fenestration is aligned vertically and horizontally. All windows have full length exterior shutters and are ranked 6 over 6. The foundation is exposed brick with original brick piers replaced with concrete piers during the 1950s.
The main facade's distinguishing feature is a well proportioned, three-bay, two-story portico. The portico has a triangular pediment with a heavy cyma molding that delineates the raking cornice. The tympanum is clad in tongue and groove sheathing. Below the cornice is a deep entablature that connects with the entablature surrounding the structure. The columniation is tetrastyle. The columns are vernacular, square in cross section with entasis and recess panels. The capitals consist of a square abacus, a prominent cyma and fascia. The porch area is delineated by two matching pilasters which copy the column design. Between the pilasters of the portico area the main facade is clad in tongue and groove sheathing.
The entrance is the main focus of the portico area. The frontpiece is composed of pilasters and a full entablature above. The door is double-leafed, four paneled and flanked by internal pilasters and sidelights of cobalt blue stained glass. Above is a five light transom of cobalt blue stained glass. All of the doorway is constructed of black walnut. Above the cornice of the doorway is a balcony with cast iron support brackets in a rinceau pattern. The balcony is surrounded by cast iron panels with arabesque motifs and decorative post. The single-leaf, four paneled door to the balcony is also black walnut. It too has a pilaster surround with full entablature with a heavy cornice. Hanging from the underside of the balcony is a light fixture originally of gas that has been converted to electricity.
The original wood deck to the portico area has been removed (early 1950s) and a circular plan stair has been made from the original bricks of the deck foundations. The floor to the porch area is paved with bricks and the columns now rest on brick pedestals. The ceiling of the porch is clad with a pressed metal ceiling material. The area of the facade beyond the portico is clad in weather board and pilasters frame the ends.
The north and south facades mirror each other. The central chimney stacks are visible on these facades and the entablature below is a major feature. They are both clad in weather board framed on either side by vernacular pilasters. The two window bays are aligned horizontally and vertically and symmetrically placed. The windows are the prominent feature in the facade being noticeably attenuated at ten feet. They all have exterior louvered shutters painted dark green. The exposed brick foundation continues from the main facade.
On the longitudinal, rear facade (north) both symmetrically placed, stuccoed chimneys stacks and low hipped roof are visible. The corner pilasters enframe only the upper story of the facade. A former one story, shed-roofed porch that covered the breadth of the back facade was enclosed in the 1950s to make a kitchen, den and the only bathroom in the house. The back door is aligned to the central window above and is covered by a small porch. The lower fenestration is two over two. The enclosed porch area is clad in weather board.
The floor plan is a typical central hall plan with two rooms on either side of the central hall. The original house included four rooms downstairs and upstairs. The two rear first floor rooms include shallow closets. An original back porch spanning the west facade was enclosed in the 1950s, creating a kitchen, den and full bath.
All rooms are of grand scale with fourteen feet tall ceilings. Baseboards, door trim and doors are proportionately grand. Baseboards are one foot tall and doors are ten feet tall. The stair has lathe turned balusters with dark stain. There is not a newel post but a circle of balusters capped by a whorl that at one time held a finial. The first rise and tread has a radius end with the circle of balusters mounted above. The stair railing is formed and continuous to the top of the stair.
The entrance doors are double leaf and are four paneled with heavy moldings. The doors and their surround are of black walnut. The transom above is divided into five lights in blue glass. Muntins are very thin and fine. There are also sidelights flanking the doors also in blue glass. Above the entrance door is a full entablature with a heavy, box projecting cornice. The door side trim is Greek ear form with an entasis. The door includes its original white porcelain door knob and twist door bell in working condition. The rear door to the center hall duplicates the entrance doors in overall form and design.
All other door designs in the house are consistent in design. All the remaining doors are single leaf four paneled doors with molding. All include a full entablature and side trim with Greek ear design and entasis. All doors appear to have their original hardware including porcelain white door knobs.
Windows are of grand scale and many retain original glass panes. The first floor front rooms have floor to ceiling windows. All windows have trim consistent with the design of the door surrounds. All include full entablatures at the window lintels and all side trim include Greek ear designs and an entasis. The windows are also consistently painted with wood faux finish to match the appropriate trim in the various rooms.
Of the eight original rooms seven have their original chimneypieces. The removed chimneypiece face is presently stored in an upstairs bedroom. All chimneypieces are consistent in design. Each has paneled pilasters with heavy moldings. Above the pilasters is a full entablature with a shallow mantel shelf. All chimneypieces project into the room. Most have a sunken hearth of bricks.
There are no ceiling and frieze moldings in any of the rooms. Walls are of original plaster and continue uninterrupted from the baseboards to the ceiling plane. Overall walls are painted with a frieze area suggested in all rooms by a contrasting paint color at the ceiling plane.
There are no original light fixtures presently used in the interior of the house. Built-in lighting in each room consists of a single lamp extending from a single chord fixture in the middle of the room.
Floors are waxed heart pine in overall good condition.
All the rooms of the original house are grand in scale and proportion. Each reflects a restrained quiet dignity typical to the Greek Revival style.
The enclosed porch area is carpeted with walls of varnished pine paneling typical to the 1950's.
The Plantation house has two structures to the rear of the property. Both structures were built at or about the same time as the main house.
The Cookhouse is a two room, 18 foot x 16 foot gabled roof structure of vertical board and batten cypress construction. The roof is tin over milled lumber rafters. A simple plank door hangs on forged hinges. Single light small windows open on the east and west elevations and are centered on the walls. This building was the residence for the cook and her family. The condition of the structure is very poor. The roof has collapsed over the back half of the building. The floor has also rotted through in over two-thirds of the interior. The building is currently used for tool and junk storage.
The Corn Crib is a heavy timbered, shed structure. The dovetailed corners show the rough cut timbers to be 16 inches high by 12 inches wide in section. The corner pilings, originally of stacked stone, have been replaced with pre-cast tapered concrete piers. The original gabled roof crib measures 16 feet x 20 feet in plan and has a later shed-roofed addition on the north face. The addition is rough cut, vertical cypress planks. The rafters in the original structure are peeled poles. Some of the original split cedar shingles are evident from the interior. The current condition of the structure is poor. Twenty percent of the tin roof is missing and the floor has collapsed.
The detached kitchen structure was demolished in the 1950s. The brick foundation outline is still visible at ground level.