Historic Structures

Building Description Longwood - Nutt's Folly, Natchez Mississippi

Longwood is an eight-sided brick structure two and one-half stories high over a full basement; the house is topped by a vast 16-sided lantern or cupola which is surmounted by a large onion-shaped "Moorish" dome. The scale of the building is immense: the structure is 37 feet long on a side or 296 feet in circumference and about 100 feet across the middle. The height of the basement is 9 feet, that of the first story, 14 feet; the second story is 12 feet high and the recessed third story or attic is 9 feet high. Round-arch windows are grouped in triplets on four projecting sides; those on the first floor open onto arcaded balconies. On the other alternating four sides there are doors flanked by round-arch windows, opening onto colonnaded covered galleries or verandas on both floors. These porches, between the four projecting sides and the balconies, are decorated with elaborately carved paired and grouped columns on pedestals, with arcaded and pierced railings between the pedestals. The two wide projecting cornices, one marking the top of the second story and the other the top of the recessed third story or attic, are both supported by heavy paired, sawn and carved Italianate brackets. Most of the exterior details of this woodwork, which is executed in cypress, are carved and sawn in a "Moorish" manner. The great domed lantern or cupola is also elaborately decorated in a similar manner with a railing, brackets, and 16 round-arch windows. The original specifications for the mansion called for the exterior brick walls to be rough-cast or stuccoed, and scored to look like stone, but except for the exterior basement walls and pillars on the east veranda, this plan was never carried out. The four proposed great stone and brick exterior stairways, with cast iron balusters and railings, that were to lead to the four first-story verandas, were also never built.

The house has a geometrical floor plan that is repeated on the basement, first, and second stories. There is a central octagon, or rotunda, 24 feet across on each of these floors. The rotundas are surrounded by four octagonal-shaped rooms, each measuring 20 by 34 feet. On the diagonals beyond the four octagonal rooms, four rectangular rooms, each measuring 18 by 24 feet, project to flank the first and second-story covered verandas, each measuring 13 by 45 feet, onto which the octagonal rooms open. Each of the first-floor rectangular rooms opens onto an arcaded balcony. The attic, or third floor, was to contain a central rotunda 24 by 24 feet and four rectangular rooms, each measuring 21 by 24 feet. The rotundas in the second and third stories were to be open to the dome, with galleries around circular openings on each of these two upper levels. The basement rotunda was to have been lighted by thick glass inserts in the first floor and by door transoms.

The interior partitions are constructed of brick, up to and including the second story. On the third floor the original specifications for the inner brick walls were changed by Nutt, and lath and plaster walls substituted in their place. The inner walls and the ceilings throughout the house were to be plastered, but except in the basement story, this plan was never executed. The four great brick chimneys of the house are located near the four corners of the central rotunda, and each chimney contains fireplaces on each floor so that each of the 32 rooms has its own fireplace. All of the fireplaces above the basement level, however, were bricked up in 1862 and have never been completed or used. In the alcoves between the doors opening on the rotundas were built rounded recessed niches that were intended to hold statuary.

The floors of the house, above the basement story, were to be of "heart pine," but were never installed. In the basement, the entrance hall and rotunda floors were laid with "marble filings" and the remainder with slate set on a bed of concrete. Seven of the eight basement fireplaces are equipped with elaborate marble mantels that were made in Philadelphia in 1861 and intended for installations on the first floor. These were received after the Civil War and placed in their present locations.

From the first floor up through the third, the house is still a vast, empty, and unfinished shell, just as the workmen left it in 1861. Joists and rafters are in place, together with "temporary" wooden stairs and planking so that the workmen could move about to reach their work. The windows on these levels are still generally boarded up, as in 1861, to keep out the weather. One second-floor room also still contains the mixing equipment of workmen—apparently left in place since construction stopped on the mansion. The roofs of the house, including the dome, are still covered with the original tin laid in 1861. The basement floor of the mansion is open to visitors as an historic house museum. The second level is also open, providing the visitor with a rare opportunity to view a mid-19th-century house under construction.

Also located on the estate are the five following historic structures:

1. The Necessary. This square one-story brick building is located a short distance to the southwest of the mansion. Built in 1860-61, the structure is in good condition.

2. The Kitchen. This one-story frame building with a huge brick fireplace is located a short distance to the northwest (or rear) of the mansion. This structure was erected in 1860-61 and is in fair condition. The two-story brick kitchen, planned by Sloan for the new mansion, was never constructed. This building is used today for storage.

3. Slave's Quarters. This handsome brick house is located about 100 feet northwest of the mansion and from structural evidence is earlier than Longwood, possibly dating from about 1830 or earlier. It was probably improved in 1860-61. The building is a long rectangular structure with a full and finished basement, two finished upper stories, and a large and unfinished attic. The house has a two-story wooden veranda extending the full length of its east or front elevation and also formerly had a rear veranda.

4. The Carriage House. This one-story frame building is located some distance north of the Servants' Quarters.

5. The Stables. This one-story frame structure was located north of the Carriage House but is no longer there.

The site of the geometrically-patterned gardens, which in 1860-73 occupied 15 acres of land, is located at some distance to the southeast of the mansion and near the entrance to the estate. Completely overgrown, there are no visible surface signs of the former gardens. At a considerable distance to the southwest of the mansion is situated the cemetery of the Nutt family, which is maintained in good condition.