Natchez is a hub of Southern history, bringing together many of its diverse aspects into one eventful place. Like much of the South, one cannot help but admire the stately Antebellum homes, some situated at the heart of large plantations. And then there is the Forks of the Roads market which, before the Civil War, had the most active trade in enslaved Africans in the whole of Mississippi. Down by the harbourside is the ever distant but sure memory of pioneers and frontiersmen disembarking into a seedy waterside world of gamblers, smugglers and pimps. And finally, the remains of the sites that existed before the Western world was completed, the Native American villages and ceremonial sites which were almost driven from the map by settlers from the east.
Much of this can be visited in a day, although the characterful B&Bs and the relative inaccessibility of the town – it is two hours southwest of Jackson – means it is usually worth staying at least overnight.
Longwood House takes a key moment in U.S. history, and freezes it in time. Construction on this unique octagonal home began in 1860: 32 rooms were built into the design, each with their own entrance to the house’s wide sun-trap balconies. But as the structure was nearing completion the Civil War erupted, and workers downed their tools and left to deal with more pressing matters. The first floor, which was finished and inhabited for many years, showcases original period furnishings, and visitors are able to see the different levels of completion of each of the five floors.
The Emerald Mound is a 35-foot-tall grass mound that covers eight acres of Mississippi soil, sculpted to create a vast artificial plateau. It was built by the native Natchez people and, between 1250 and 1600 A.D., served as a key ceremonial site for the communities living in the local area. The structure is characteristic of many such historic sites dotted throughout the Mississippi. It is situated around 10 miles north of Natchez, and can be visited free of charge every day of the week.
The Isle of Capri Casino combines two traditional elements of Mississippi culture: steamboats and gambling. It’s a lively casino located in a grand old riverboat, with three floors of slot machines and a decent buffet on the top level. A hotel of the same name is located just uphill from the casino, and there are shuttle buses to run guests back and forth between the two.
Magnolia Grill is located in a formerly notorious district named Natchez-under-the-Hill, just by the banks of the Mississippi. Back in the nineteenth Century, sailors and workers on steamships plied their trade here alongside a thriving population of prostitutes, gamblers, smugglers and travelers. Magnolia Grill has had fun playing with this lively history: it is located in a rebuilt saloon, and has floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out over the Mississippi River. It has also made good use of the region’s produce, mixing freshwater fish, seafood, meat and vegetables in a range of delicious combinations.
Constructed in 1818 by the Natchez Postmaster, Monmouth Historic Inn is a gorgeous old antebellum building containing 30 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites. Surrounding the house are 26 acres of gardens, ponds and flower decked paths. Alongside all this comfort, the place has gained a great reputation with guests for its welcoming, homely atmosphere.