We have been to Natchez several times in the past, but there were still a few things we wanted to do. One of the antebellum homes that is considered a must see in this area is known as Longwood. It is the largest octagonal home in the United States.
The property the home occupies was purchased by Haller Nutt in 1850. Nutt was a wealthy cotton plantation owner, as was his father. He married the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, Julia Augusta Williams. They had eleven children, 8 of which survived to adulthood. The property for Longwood was 95 acres, but they owned 43000 acres of plantation land and some 800 slaves. They were by any standards extremely wealthy, with an estimated worth before the Civil War at 3 million dollars.
When they moved onto the property, they lived in the existing small home there. After studying building designs for a number of years, he finally decided on a design by a Pennsylvania architect out of a book. It was home # 49, called a Oriental Villa. He hired the designer , Samuel Sloan to build his house. It was to be octagonal with four floors totaling 40,000 square feet of living space. So in 1859 the construction began with professional builders from Pennsylvania and the slave labor from the plantations. The complete outside construction and basement level were completed in 18 months. However, by this time the Civil War had begun. Nutt decided that the war would not last more than a few months with the Confederacy winning.
By 1861, it was clear that the war was ongoing and the construction had to be stopped. In part by the fact that the professional builders from Pennsylvania decided it was time to return home. Of the 32 rooms planned only the nine rooms in the basement were completed-a total of 10000 square feet. The family decided to move into the basement from the slave quarters building they had completed first and had used during the construction.
For the next several years, the reality of war in the south proved extremely difficult for the family. First, the Confederate army burned all their cotton that could not be shipped south to New Orleans due to the Union blockade of the port. This was to prevent the Union from taking it as a prize. Next they grew food crops as source of income, but unfortunately, the Union Army occupied Natchez and seized their crops. They were now in dire straits.
In 1864, Nutt caught a cold on a business trip and returned home and died of pneumonia. Julia refused to leave the home. While she lost all of the plantation land to unpaid property taxes, she hung on to Longwood and continued to live in the basement for another 33 years. Her children lived there afterward without ever finishing the home.
Many of the family members are buried on the property.
The home was finally purchased and restored to the condition of 1864. It was then donated to the local garden club with the understanding it was to be preserved as it was in 1864.
It has many unique features and nearly all of the furniture in the basement level is from the Nutt period. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed on this level. It is an amazing house on its own merits and when combined with the historical drama that played out during its construction, it is absolutely a must see.