Windsor Ruins, Mississippi


If you’re traveling the Natchez Trace, there’s one detour you simply must take.  For more than a century, the ghostly skeleton of a remarkable plantation mansion stands silently in the middle of a Mississippi forest.

From the Natchez Trace Parkway, look for Alcorn Drive/Miss. Rte. 552, around mile marker 40.  This road will travel west, past Alcorn State University, then turn north, then east, ending in Port Gibson.  After the university, you’ll pass Bethel Church first (on the right), then look for the small dirt road that leads to the ruins (also on the right side of the road — the ruins are not visible from the road, but there is a sign marking the turnoff.)

Before you get to Windsor Ruins…

… you’ll pass Bethel Presbyterian Church.  The congregation first gathered here in 1826, and the current building was finished in 1845 — which makes it older than the ruins you’re about to see, just up the road.

There’s also a kudzu-covered shack nearby.  As far as I know, there’s nothing historical about it, but it makes for a good picture.

The road that’s directly across from the kudzu shack is not the road to Windsor Ruins, even though a sign suggests it is.  Keep going, another minute or two, and watch for another sign at a small dirt road that leads into the forest.

Windsor Ruins

As I drove up the dirt driveway that leads to the ruins, the ghostly columns suddenly appeared, and I said “Wow”.  I’m betting most people have the same reaction.  A sight like this is the last thing you’d expect to find in the middle of nowhere.

Windsor Ruins are roped off, so you can’t walk in between them (for safety reasons, as much as preservation).  But, there is a pathway leading all the way around the 23 columns…

… so you can look at them from every possible angle.  Since the dense forest begins just beyond the path that encircles the ruins, I had a hard time stepping back far enough to compose an interesting picture.  The columns are so big, it’s hard to know exactly how to shoot them.

Here’s your Windsor Ruins history lesson: The mansion at Windsor Plantation was built in 1861.  Its owner, Smith Daniell, only lived in it for a few weeks before his death.  The mansion was 4 stories tall, with an observation deck on the roof, which allowed for a view of the Mississippi.  The home survived the Civil War, but was used by the Confederates as an observation station, and later by the Yankees as a hospital.  When it was just 29 years old, in 1890, a careless guest dropped a cigarette in the wrong place, creating an inferno that consumed the entire structure — except of course, for those 23 columns, and a flight of stairs (now at Alcorn University).

Leaving Windsor Ruins, continue on Route 552 towards Port Gibson.

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