Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Court House - Part 1

If you are a regular visitor to Southern Lagniappe, you may recall several photo shoots I've shared featuring the Old Court House Museum of Vicksburg.

All of those photo shoots took place on the grounds of the Court House, and focused on the architectural magnificence of the building itself, as well as the glorious old Dogwood and Magnolia trees surrounding the Square.

I also featured pictures of lagniappe I discovered along the way, like the old Ginkgo tree at its most dazzling in the Fall ...

Flowers from the gardens surrounding the Court House ...

And the court house cat who posed for me on the steps a couple of years ago.

I've even photographed the court house during the "blue hour," right before nightfall ...

As you can probably tell, I am obsessed with fascinated by this magnificent architectural masterpiece — not only because of its physical beauty, but also because of its historical significance. Perched on one of the highest hills in Vicksburg, it survived bombardment by Union shelling during the War Between the States, and also a direct hit by a tornado in 1953.

I returned to the grounds of the Court House recently to capture a few of the Magnolia blossoms with my camera. While I was there, it occurred to me that during the six years we have lived in Vicksburg, I have never ventured inside the museum. I'm not sure why, but perhaps it was because on each visit, I never ceased to find a treasure trove of pictures outside, just waiting to be taken. However, before I left that day, I promised myself that I would soon return to explore the inside of the Court House — and little did I know then that I was about to embark on one of the most interesting and thrilling photo shoots I've ever experienced.

I hope you will join me next time as I give you a glimpse of the history of Vicksburg, and a rarely seen view of the city.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the history of the Court House, I invite you to read the following information which I borrowed from the Old Court House Museum's website.

Construction began in the summer of 1858, on what was then to be a new Court House for Warren County. The building is perched on one of the highest hills in Vicksburg on land given by the family of the city’s founder, Newitt Vick. Contractors were the Weldon Brothers of Rodney, Mississippi, who used 100 highly skilled slave artisans to make the brick and erect the building, which was completed in 1860 for a cost of $100,000.

The building stands as an architectural gem and was named one of the 20 most outstanding courthouses in America, by the American Institute of Architects. Four porticos, supported by 30-foot Ionic columns, flank the entrances. The courtroom on the second floor features a cast iron judge’s dais and railings, and an intricate iron stairway connects the first and second floors. Original iron doors and shutters remain on the building.

On the grounds, a local planter, Jefferson Davis, launched his political career. Several years later, during the War Between the States, Confederate Generals Stephen D. Lee, John C. Breckinridge, and Earl Van Dorn watched from the cupola as the Confederate ironclad Arkansas battled its way through the federal fleet to safety at Vicksburg. During the War, the building was the target of much union shelling, but suffered only one major hit. It was here on July 4, 1863, that the Stars and Bars were [sic] lowered and the Stars and Stripes were [sic] raised, as General U. S. Grant reviewed his victorious army.

After surviving Union shelling, a direct hit by a tornado in 1953, and years of neglect, the building was again in danger. With the construction of a new Warren County Court House in 1939, the building stood practically vacant and there was talk of its demolition.

The museum's founder, Mrs. Eva Whitaker Davis, realized the significance of the building and establish the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society for the purpose of preserving the structure. In 1947 she was elected president of the society and with the help of a few volunteers began cleaning the building and collecting artifacts. On June 3, 1948 the museum opened its doors, where she continued to work on a volunteer basis for many years.

A grateful public added the name Eva W. Davis Memorial to that of the building several years before her death in 1974. The building was named a national historic landmark in 1968. The museum is still operated and maintained by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.

Confederate flags, including one that was never surrendered, the tie worn by Jefferson Davis at his inauguration as Confederate President, fine portraits, china and silver, exquisite antique furniture, the trophy antlers won by the steamboat Robert E Lee in an 1870 race, antebellum clothing, toys, Indian and pioneer implements, and an original Teddy Bear given to a local child by Theodore Roosevelt, are just a few of the thousands of artifacts which are housed in the Museum/Eva W. Davis Memorial.


Dorothy said...

Beautiful architecture and beautiful trees!!!

Glenda said...

You've captured the beauty so well! Just think what those walls could tell us!!

LindaG said...

Wonderful to hear how they saved the building. Thanks for sharing all your amazing pictures, too. :o)