The Unique History of Longwood: Walt Grayson

Local News

NATCHEZ, Miss. (WJTV)- The design is unique, the history of it is unique, and they never finished it because of unique circumstances. We’re heading to Longwood on Natchez.

Longwood Curator, Historian James Wade: Longwood is unique. It is the only unfinished pre Civil War building left in the country.

And it is the largest octagonal house in the United States.

Walt: That is James Wade. He has his dream job. He is the curator and historian at Longwood in Natchez. He first saw the house when he was 12 years old. I first heard about Longwood when my 3ed grade teacher told us about this old house in Natchez she had seen over the holidays. She told us it was started before the Civil War. But then the war broke out the northern workers laid down their tools and went back home and they never came back so the house was never finished. And that is mostly true. But the idea of a dream purloined by circumstances beyond control so long ago was mystical to my little brain and has stayed with me ever since. James Wade modifies some of my 3ed grade teacher’s embellishments- like the craftsmen dropping all their tools and rushing off, but verifies a lot of her story.

James Wade: These men were master builders. Their tools are the very last things they would have left behind. So they take those with them- but the do leave a lot of materials here.

Walt: But the house was unfinished after the shell of it was built. Except for the basement- completed so the family would have a place to live. Now, before you start feeling too sorry for them having to live in the basement, you need to know, there’s 10 thousand square feet of living space in that basement.

James: So it’s not exactly slumming.

Walt: But as nice as the living area is, it’s the unfinished part that amazes tourists coming to see Longwood.

James: You don’t know exactly what to expect. You see the basement is nicely done. Then you go upstairs and see- yea, it is unfinished. But it is really impressive. It looks like almost a Byzantine church.

Walt: Suspended in time from the outbreak of the Civil war. A masterpiece of design- a testament to the few artisans who fled back north at the outbreak of the war, but more so a monument to the small army of primarily African American craftsmen who finished Longwood to the state that it’s in today- unique to the world in Natchez.

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