Archive for the American South Category

Afton Villa, a Southern Gothic Tragedy

Posted in Afton Villa, American South, architecture, Belter, George Greig, Gothic Revival with tags on August 23, 2010 by babylonbaroque

This blogging is a curious business, the following , is a suggestion from a reader. In my opinion, a reader of great merit, not only an avid history buff and preservationist, she happens to be the great, great, great niece of the artist George Miller Grieg. Mr. Grieg was the painter commissioned by Queen Victoria, to paint the interiors of Holyrood. I posted about Holyrood and it’s interiors in June. I suggest you take a peek , marvelous stuff.

Through this happy meeting I have been introduced to the fantastic, now lost, antebellum estate, Afton Villa.

Afton Villa

St. Francisville Parish, Louisiana

Gothic Revival plantation

ca. 1840

destroyed by fire 1963

The following images taken by the WPA ( now available through the Louisiana Historical  Photographic Collection) testify to the magnificence of this lost treasure. Always fond of American Gothic Revival, this 40 room plantation house , was a stunning example.

B&W photo, circa 1940’s

charming image

Afton Villa, front entrance

detail of porch

detail of entrance gallery

Definitely my favorite image in the series, the lack of interior shots curious. Perhaps the then unfashionable interiors were not deemed  a worthy subject for documentation.

a particularly romantic image

A striking image showing the stair tower.

Just look at that thing!


Avenue of live oaks.

Southern enough for you??

We all need a gatehouse.

Another romantic view of this great beauty.

Rear view?

I love this shot, slightly ungainly,  a charming quirkiness.

As a contrast to these tasteful images, I present a few of those really garishly colored 60’s postcards I so love.

Rather forlorn image

The reverse describes Afton Villa as “a famous French Chateau (????), now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Percy’, it goes on to describe “it’s hand carved Rosewood suite”, one assumes Belter or some knockoff.

another image, same room, same “Rosewood suite”.

I love how stiffly formal interiors appeared in the 60’s.

The following is of a bedroom, presumably Master.

The reverse describes the “original Rosewood bedroom suite by Mallard.

Love the crucifix.

I sincerely thank the great, great , great ,niece of the talented Mr. Grieg. I will close with an image of Mr. Grieg from her family photo album, a treasure.

George Miller Grieg



Good Night.



Nutt’s Folly on True Blood

Posted in 19th cent., American South, Bulbiform, Civil War, Nutt's Folly, Orientalist, Samuel Sloan, True Blood on July 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At last I am able to combine my fondness for True Blood with my truest passion, 19th century architecture.

The Beloved and I were spending our usual Sunday evening mesmerized by our only real vice, True Blood. In between shots of porn worthy bodies, there is a plot. This plot contains a King. A Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, played foppishly by Denis O’Hare. This Undead Monarch is of course very rich, and has (of course )a very handsome, younger ( for a Vampire) boyfriend. the two share an amazing home ( of course),” beautifully”/pretentiously  appointed by the above mentioned “younger” boyfriend.

Generally we are allowed only interior shots, they are undead after all, not many opportunities for day shooting.

So far, I have seen two glimpses of the King’s Mansion, generally involving very hot naked werewolves. I recognized the house immediately,  it was Longwood!, ( I know, unfortunate name) but better known as Nutt’s Folly.


Natchez Mississippi

known as Nutt’s Folly

designed by Samuel Sloan,1859

As you can see by the date the world was about to end. The Civil War ( April 1861-last shot, June 1865) was looming upon society, extravagant  wonders like Longwood were doomed.

Samual Sloan (1815-1884), Philadelphia based, designed  Longwood in 1859 for Haller Nutt, a cotton planter of apparent wealth and prestige.

In the land of impressive plantations, Longwood must have stopped traffic. Longwood is the largest octagonal house in the U.S.. It’s finial alone is 24 feet. It Moorish architecture a strange and lovely marvel.

Sloan wrote of his creation “Fancy dictated that the dome should be bulbiform-a remembrancer of Eastern magnificence which few will judge misplaced as it looms up against the mellowed azure of a Southern sky’.

I love the word bulbiform, not used often enough.

A romantic passage for a romantic house.

Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a happy story. The terrible war broke, the Northern workmen fled, leaving much of the house unfinished. Poor Mr. Nutt died of pneumonia in ’64. The happiness anticipated destroyed by a bloody war.

The unfinished house became known as Nutt’s Folly.



Note the missing finial.

One of the minor casualties of the war was the furniture Sloan intended for Longwood. Rail shipments of course ceased between the North and the South, the furniture, illustrated in Sloan’s “Homestead Architecture”,ended up at a Yankee estate in Pennsylvania.

from “Homestead Architecture”

My buddy , the talented designer Patrick Ediger, was interested in the floor plan.

Next, you will find the layout of the principal floor.

from”Homestead Architecture”

As I mentioned the spire alone is 24 feet tall , replaced by a fiberglass replica , the original resides in the marvelously dusty attic of Longwood.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly has had a long and  challenging history, but aside from the indignities of being the star of a television show, it has gained the respect it deserves. It is now on the Historic Register, safe from developers, vulgarians, and Civil War.

Longwood-Nutt’s Folly

140 Lower Woodville Road

Natchez, Mississippi

Good Night

Post Script

In case you are interested I have come across more images from “Sloan’s Homestead Architecture containing forty designs for villas, cottages, and farmhouses, with essays on style, construction, landscape, gardening, furniture, etc.etc.” 355pgs.

Published by J.B.Lippincott, Philadelphia ,PA, 1861

You have to love the verbosity, in our world  of text-brevity, I find the long winded titles touching.

Title Page

Oriental Villa/ Longwood

Terra Cotta

Drawing Room Furniture

Parlor Furniture

Library Furniture

Library Furniture

Plantation Residence

Love the palm trees.

Anglo-French (?) Villa, #2

Good Night

The Fashion of Deprivation,1860

Posted in 19th cent., American South, aniline dyes, Civil War on June 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

With over three million soldiers witnessing the horrors of the Civil War between 1861 through 1865, 529,332 dead, and over 400,000 wounded, maimed, and ruined, it may seem ridiculous to even contemplate fashion, and it’s impact on women, particularly Confederate women.  That said,I recently came upon images of dresses worn by Southern women during the war, and seeing the rather sad state of the dresses , I was impacted. I became acutely aware of the sacrifice , deprivation, and weariness of that War, all through shabby cotton.


Paris ca.1860


Although the Smithsonian site describes this particular dress as fashionable and not at all dreary, compared to the aniline wonders in mauvine, magenta, and cerulean blue, this would most likely have appeared lackluster in peacetime.

Patched dress

ca.1860 printed cotton with heavy patching


This shabby little dress , of well worn calico is what made me realize the severity of the war. All the playful references of Scarlet improvising with velvet curtains, downplay the seriousness of the situation. This dress is a result of port closures and the subsequent restriction of fashionable European goods. The irony of course is this was the land of King Cotton, raw material was abundant, but the desired finished product unavailable.

As so many of us do, Southerners craved legitimacy, often using fashion, architecture, and manners, to achieve approval from the more sophisticated North. This modest little dress is a poignant reminder of the harsh realities of war.

As a counter point, I will show dresses, all from the Met’s Costume collection, all around 1860-62.


ca.1862 American, cotton/wool

Have to love that key pattern.

Ball Gown

ca. 1861-62

American, silk

Such freshness, such a contrast to the “fashionable” gown.

Evening gown

ca. 1860-62

American, silk

from the Brooklyn Museum Collection

Again, an extravagance and beauty that contrasts sharply with the Southern dresses.

This may have appeared to be a frivolous post; but for me , the need for luxury in hard times, the reality of war, and national dis-unity, are all illustrated in a few yards of calico.

Good night.

Southern Romanticism and Cold Realities

Posted in 19th cent., American South, architecture on April 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I am currently enrolled in a U.S. history course, and it is fascinating to revisit a subject I foolishly yawned through as a boy. For history to hold my boyhood interest, absolute monarchs needed to decapitate other monarchs,  and Holy Fathers needed to commission great art and vanquish heathens .U.S. history bored me to tears with its Puritan roots and quest for democracy, liberty, and freedom.

Fortunately I am not that silly boy .

We are now tackling the Kingdom of Cotton and it’s legacy. Having spent much time in the American South, Virginia in particular, I am familiar with richness of it’s land and the beauty of it’s architecture. The enclosed imagery is from the controversial exhibit “Back of the Big House” Library of Congress, 1995.

The photographs, mostly taken in the 30’s are beautiful, romantic, and haunting.

Barn at Bremo Plantation, Fluvanna County, Virginia

This barn is a stunner, I love the dressed stone Doric columns, the classical bays, the modestly grand clock tower. Perfection.


Bermuda Plantation


Charm, modesty, sweetness.

Chicken House

Blakely Plantation


Seemingly out of Downing’s pattern book “The Architecture of Country Houses”. It modestly expresses the American agrarian ideal.



Even today, this is familiar landscape.


Middleburg Plantation

South Carolina

This is familiar land, the fields, the structures, happy memories.

Slave Quarters

Hermitage Plantation

Chatham County, Georgia

Hauntingly romantic, such sad little houses.

Slave Chapel

Mansfield Plantation

South Carolina

It seems a happy place, the bell, the tidy yard, one hopes the Sabbath offered some relief from misery.

The cold hard reality.

Fannie Moore

former slave

South carolina

photographed ca 1938

This handsome, dignified woman is a chilling reminder of what I love about the South was at her expense.

When does beauty become sinister?