Museums & Historic Sites

Today we continue the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion series, written by guest blogger Mary Lohrenz, curator of the mansion. 

Designed by architect William Nichols, who also designed the 1839 Mississippi Capitol, the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion is an outstanding example of domestic Greek Revival architecture.  Greek Revival is a style based on the reuse of ancient Greek architectural forms.  The Greek Revival style often combines both Roman and Greek influences and is sometimes called the Classical style.

What is Greek Revival about the mansion? 

Front portico, Mississippi Governor's Mansion, 2010

Choragic monument of Lysicrates, drawn by Stuart and Revett

Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, drawn by Stuart and Revett, 1762

Let’s start with the front exterior. The design of the Corinthian columns on the 1841 mansion front portico is the same as that of the Corinthian columns on the 334 B.C. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece.  William Nichols may have used the scale drawings of this ancient Greek monument that were published in The Antiquities of Athens, Volume I (1762) by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett. 

Northeast column capital, Portico, Governor's Mansion

Northeast column capital, Portico, Mississippi Governor's Mansion, 2010

Scale drawing of choragic monument of Lysicrates, by Stuart and Revett

Scale drawing of Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, by Stuart and Revett, 1762

Look particularly at the capital (decorative top) of the Corinthian columns of the Mansion portico and the ancient Athens monument in the images above to see the similarities.

More mansion architecture coming next…

Read more about the mansion’s history and view frequently asked questions

Free tours of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion are given Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. on the half-hour.  Reservations are required for groups of ten or more.  Because the mansion may be closed for official state functions, you should call 601-359-6421 to confirm tour availability.

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Antique Quilt

On November 5, 2010, in Artifacts, Museums & Historic Sites, by Amanda
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Accession Number: 1987.48.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

This is one of many beautiful quilts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History. This “Honeycomb” or “Martha Washington’s Flower Garden” pattern quilt was made by Millies Lake, a freed slave from Grenada (Grenada County) around 1848.

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.

Today we introduce guest blogger Mary Lohrenz, curator of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion. She wrote this month’s series of posts on the home of Mississippi’s executive.

Governor's Mansion exterior

Mississippi Governor's Mansion today.

The 1841 Mississippi Governor’s Mansion is a National Historic Landmark and the second-oldest continuously occupied governor’s residence in the United States. (The Virginia Governor’s Mansion in Richmond has been in continuous use since 1813.) English-born architect William Nichols designed the governor’s mansion in the period’s most popular architectural style—Greek Revival.

Governor's Mansion, late 19th century

Late 19th century, west side of mansion. Call Number: PI/HH/1982.0019 (MDAH Collection)

The governor’s mansion survived the Civil War but fell into disrepair through neglect during the lean post-war years. In March 1908 the Mississippi Legislature allocated $30,000 for a renovation directed by local architect William S. Hull. The 1908-09 project included the construction of a two-story family annex to the rear of the mansion.

Despite occasional appropriations for repair and furnishings, the mansion deteriorated structurally and a major restoration became necessary. Shortly after Governor William Waller’s 1972 inauguration, the legislature allocated funding for a $2.7 million restoration and renovation of the mansion. Historical records were studied for information on the mansion’s early interiors, and an investigation of the house itself was conducted. Museum-quality antiques were acquired to furnish the historic structure. The 1909 annex was replaced with a 1975 annex to provide family living quarters and office space. On June 8, 1975, the restored mansion was formally dedicated and Mississippi’s chief executive residence reopened to the public.

In 1980, the legislature gave the Mississippi Department of Archives and History statutory authority over the 1841 historic section and grounds of the mansion. The Mississippi Governor’s Mansion continues to serve as the residence of the state’s highest executive and to welcome countless visitors from schoolchildren to tourists to dignitaries from the United States and abroad.

Read more about the Mansion’s history and view frequently asked questions

Free tours of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion are given Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. on the half-hour.  Reservations are required for groups of ten or more.  Because the Governor’s Mansion may be closed for official state functions, you should call 601-359-6421 to confirm tour availability. 

Sources:

Helen Cain and Anne D. Czarniecki, An Illustrated Guide to the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion (Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi, 1984). 

David G. Sansing and Carroll Waller, A History of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion (Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi, 1977).

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The Mummy Returns!

On October 1, 2010, in Artifacts, Museums & Historic Sites, by Amanda
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The State Historical Museum’s most famous attraction returns to the Old Capitol for the month of October! The Egyptian “mummy” (pictured above), that so many visitors came to see, was unfortunately discovered to be a fake in 1969. Charlotte Capers, director of MDAH at the time, wrote of the discovery, saying:

The shrunken Egyptian mummy which was the stellar attraction of the Mississippi State Historical Museum for many years was exposed as a fake, when Gentry W. Yeatman, an enterprising University of Mississippi medical student with an interest in archaeology, x-rayed the little lady for a paleo-pathology project and found her heart was full of nails. Further, her shoulders were built of boards, she had a German language newspaper in her foot, and over her liver was a fragment of The Milwaukee Journal for 1898. This discovery was a death blow to a cherished legend, and raised more questions than it answered.

(In the old exhibit photograph above, the X-rays are shown next to the mummy. You can see the boards and nails.)

Today, the origins of the “dummy mummy” are still unknown, though Capers, later on in her report, posited that it was constructed by a German immigrant in Milwaukee. The mummy then made its way to a Mississippi collector who included it with a collection of Native American artifacts acquired by the state around 1923.

The mummy now resides in storage, but from October 1-31 at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, you can see the dummy mummy for yourself! Located at 100 South State Street, the museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m., free of charge. Parking is behind the Old Capitol, off Amite St. For more information call 601-576-6920 or email the Old Capitol.

Source: Charlotte Capers, “Dummy Mummy,” The Delta Review, November-December 1969.

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Clarksdale Bell

On September 29, 2010, in Artifacts, Museums & Historic Sites, by Amanda
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Accession Number: 1990.2.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

This Clarksdale Bell from the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History was a trade bell, or a small trinket used by early Spanish explorers as a trade item with the native population. Clarksdale Bells were the earliest variety of trade bells, and the ones found in Mississippi are most likely associated with Hernando de Soto’s 1539-1543 expedition.

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.