(ODD)yssey

Windsor Ruins: The eerie beauty of a doomed Mississippi mansion

Road Trip Stop No. 3:

From Sunday, July 21 through Friday, July 26, Sweetums and I drove 2,150 miles from Huntsville, Alabama, to Fort Worth, Texas, and back again.Some of you followed along on social media but I promised more detailed posts on all our stops. It will take a few weeks to get to them all. I am planning to post in order of the trip. The map is below. Most sites will be included in my upcoming Guide to Southern Oddities. Meanwhile, check out my personal Facebook page or Kelly Kazek’s Weird South or Instagram

Windsor Ruins

Rodney Road, Port Gibson, Miss.: Take US Highway 61 south to Port Gibson. At the gas station (its address is 710 Church St.), turn right onto Carroll St., which becomes Rodney Road and drive for 10 miles. You should see signs for the ruins along the way.

Windsor Ruins was one of the most anticipated stops on our trip and the eerily beautiful site didn’t disappoint.

Kelly at Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

I’d written about the history of the site for It’s a Southern Thing (my day job) and you can read it here.

Currently, the ruins are behind a chain-link fence but they are still visible and photos can be made from all sides. The fence is there to protect visitors from the possibility of collapse of one of the 23 columns, each 45 feet high. A preservation group is working to reinforce them.

It was obvious the elegant columns once supported a beautiful mansion but all that is left is the columns and some cast-iron balustrades after a fire in 1890. Three cast-iron staircases also survived; one is now located at nearby Alcorn State University.

The home was built from 1859 to 1861 on a 2,600-acre plantation by Smith Coffee Daniell, who moved his family into the mansion just weeks before he died unexpectedly, according to NatchezTraceTravel.com. The completed mansion had 23-rooms, three stories and was estimated to encompass 17,000 square feet.

The drawing of Windsor above was discovered in the 1990s in archives in Ohio, where they were brought by the Union soldier who drew it. He was at the home May 1, 1863, when he made the drawing, the only known likeness of the home to exist. (Public Domain)

It survived the Civil War, at times being occupied by Federal troops who could monitor activity along the Mississippi River from its cupola.

Interestingly, architects could only guess at the appearance of the mansion because no drawings survived the fire, which was reportedly caused by a guest leaving a lit cigar behind at a party. Then, in the 1990s, historians discovered a drawing of the home made by a Union soldier in 1863 and learned more about its construction.

The ruins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and owned by the State of Mississippi.

Read my full story on It’s a Southern Thing by clicking here.

Windsor Ruins photographed in 1936 for the Historic American Building Survey. (Library of Congress)
These wrought-iron stairs that survived the Windsor fire were moved to a building on the campus of nearby Alcorn State University, shown here in 1936. (Library of Congress | Historic American Buildings Survey)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Kelly Kazek | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Kelly Kazek | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Kelly Kazek | Permission Required)
Kelly at Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Kelly Kazek | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Kelly Kazek | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, Miss. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

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