If you’re planning to travel through the southeast with hopes of experiencing loads of antebellum southern charm, you don’t need to go any further than Natchez, Mississippi. This beautiful city fared quite well during the Civil War, leaving many of its pre-war treasures intact.
I started Day 4 with a bicycle ride around downtown Natchez — but if you don’t have a bike, it’s easy to explore the town on foot, too.
First, let’s look at the lay of the land. Natchez is situated on a bluff that lifts it high above the Mississippi River, unlike much of the surrounding flatland. The elevated location provided protection from floods, while giving Natchez all the benefits of a river town. No surprise, river trade allowed Natchez to boom in the pre-war era of American history.
Across from the park that lines the bluff, the Natchez Grand Hotel probably has the best view in town. It’s not an old hotel, though — it was previously a Country Inns & Suites, built to serve Natchez’s nearby Convention Center.
Across the street, the Cock of the Walk Restaurant is located in an old train depot.
[tmt_info =””]Be sure you drive down the steep street that leads from the top of the bluff to the Mississippi River waterfront. One road drops down behind the train depot, while another one (Silver Street) is just a few blocks away, and leads to Natchez Under-The-Hill — a port for steamboats and flatboats, dating back to the late 1700’s. Under-The-Hill was a wild place, full of booze and crime, unlike the more civilized city above it. Nowadays, a few historic buildings remain, along with the Isle of Capri Casino, aboard a permanently-moored steamboat replica.[/tmt_info]
After leaving the Mississippi Riverfront, I decided I would zig-zag my way up and down Natchez’s streets, starting with High Street. That’s where I found the old Interstate Coffee Company. It went out of business years ago, but still has some interesting ghost signs on the wall.
This is Pearl Street, looking towards Natchez’s downtown business area. The downtown storefronts line up along Franklin and Main Streets.
Of course, Natchez’s main attraction is its seemingly endless supply of mansions, many of which date back to before the Civil War. This is Cherokee, and a sign outside the home dates it 1794-1820.
Here is Choctaw, 1837…
… Glen Auburn, 1875…
… and Bailey House, 1897.
[tmt_info =””]There are far more antebellum mansions in Natchez than I had time to photograph. Check out Jim Steinhart’s page, which catalogues many of the historic homes along Washington Street in Natchez.[/tmt_info]
The Adams County Courthouse dates back to 1821, making it the oldest courthouse in Mississippi, and one of only five antebellum (pre-Civil War) courthouses in the state.
The Guest House, circa 1840, now serves as a bed & breakfast.
This is the home of Governor Holmes, the first governor of Mississippi. It was built in 1794.
Texada, the tavern of Don Manuel Garcia, was built in 1792, making it the first brick house constructed in Mississippi Territory. It also served as the state’s first capitol building.
St. Mary Basilica is beautiful on the outside, and even more stunning inside. Construction began in 1842, and the first mass was held inside on Christmas Day, 1843.
Natchez has some great old ghost signs…
… so be sure you wander down an alley or two…
… to find more of the town’s interesting features. One place that hasn’t fared very well…
… is Natchez’s old Ritz Theater. Some work has been done to restore the building’s circa-1935 Art-Deco facade, but the building’s problems go much deeper.
In the alley behind the Ritz, there’s a gaping hole in the theater’s fall, revealing that the roof is completely gone. It collapsed at least a decade ago, maybe longer.
[tmt_info =””]The Natchez Trace Parkway begins on Sgt. Prentiss Drive (US 84). From downtown, take State Street, which will turn into John Quitman Boulevard, then into Liberty Road. Liberty will cross Prentiss Drive, then the Parkway begins. [/tmt_info]
Here’s a bike-cam video of my ride around Natchez, Mississippi….
… and a time-lapse dash-cam recording of my drive into, and out of, Natchez.