Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Vicksburg Treasure: Old Court House Museum

One of the most beautiful and impressive landmarks of the City of Vicksburg is the Old Court House Museum.

Built atop one of the highest hills in the city, the historic old courthouse can be seen from literally miles away, and it never fails to make my heart skip a beat when I'm out taking pictures and happen to glance up and see its imposing clock tower in the distance.

I love this old building and the part it played in the history, culture, and heritage of Vicksburg. I would like to share some of its history today.

Construction on the courthouse began in the summer of 1858, and 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.

The courthouse was a key landmark of the Siege and Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War. Union troops could see the clock tower atop the courthouse throughout the Battle, yet despite its symbolic defiance to their efforts to conquer the city, the massive structure survived the numerous bombardments.

When Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863, the courthouse became the scene of confusion and celebration as General Ulysses S. Grant marched his men into the city and the United States flag was raised over the courthouse. [Note of interest: Having to surrender was bad enough, but doing it on Independence Day made things worse for the citizens of Vicksburg, and they didn’t forget the pain of surrender. The city did not celebrate the holiday again for 82 years – July 4, 1945, at the end of World War II, was the next official celebration in Vicksburg.]

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 old courthouse stood practically vacant and there was talk of its demolition.

In 1947, Mrs. Eva Whitaker Davis, president of the Warren County Historical Society, realized the significance of the building, and, with the help of a few volunteers, began cleaning the building and collecting artifacts. On June 3, 1948, the museum opened its doors, and in 1968, was named a national historic landmark. The grateful citizens of Vicksburg added the name "Eva W. Davis Memorial" to that of the building several years before her death in 1974.

The Old Court House Museum is still operated and maintained by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society, and houses a stunning collection of artifacts of significance to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and United States history.

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 Old Court House Museum.

So many of these old buildings are "gone with the wind," but our court house still stands tall and proud, thanks to the foresight and preservation efforts of Mrs. Davis and the Historical Society. If you are planning a trip to Vicksburg, I highly recommend you take the time to visit the Museum and experience its beauty and its history for yourself.

*Some of the above information was excerpted from The Old Court House Museum web site.


kittrellphoto said...

Wonderful post, Janie! Just wonderful!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Enjoyed this thoroughly, Janie! :-)

SmilingSally said...

I have Mississippi friends, and when I visited, they showed me this gorgeous city.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Janie, this post is gorgeous! I am so happy to hear the old courthouse was saved. What an amazing history!!

Unknown said...

Hi Janie,
I'm going to pass this info on to those that plan trips for our senior adults...this would be a great trip for them!

The building is so pretty!

:) Diane