An Oriental Villa for Natchez
Longwood was designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan for Haller and Julia Nutt, Mississippi natives and members of Natchez’s cotton planter elite. Construction of the grand, octagonal edifice began in 1860 but was halted in 1861 by rising tensions over the Civil War. While the exterior of Sloan’s Oriental Villa was largely complete, the home’s interior was left unfinished except for the lowest level. The Nutt family lived in this finely furnished basement until the twentieth century. Colloquially known as “Nutt’s Folly,” the property was deeded to the Pilgrimage Garden Club in 1970 by the McAdams Foundation and designated a National Historic Landmark.
This oriental mansion published in a book in 1851 was the inspiration for Longwood. It is most well known in the octagonal plan, onion dome, and for the fact it was never finished. David was looking forward to seeing the upstairs skeleton and partial construction. The architect cares little for the portraits, furniture, and family stories usually highlighted on house tours.
David especially enjoyed looking up into the cupola that dominated the space below.
Among this most unusual home, I really liked liked the oil portrait of the African American who was in charge of the house slaves. Cameras were not used until later during the Civill War. The wealthy had portraits painted as a try to be remembered in the future. Slaves rarely were painted in this way. I saw the portrait on the tour and have spent almost an hour trying to find it on the internet, but can’t. It is a memorial to his man’s love and loyalty to the Nutt family and a testimony that they loved and cared for him, in spite of the horrible condition of slavery.
The following description was in another blog describing the docent’s description:
“She pointed out a rare commissioned portrait of the loyal head of the household slaves and personal servant of Dr. Nutt. He remained with the family through and after the war and is buried in the family cemetery.”