Monday, February 28, 2011

Pierced Columns -- An Architectural Mystery

While doing historical research for my recent post about The Siege of Vicksburg, I came across something else I thought was interesting.

It seems that there is an architectural element that is found more often in Vicksburg than in any other community — the pierced column. The column is called "pierced" because it is not a solid, round, or square support. The center section is jigsawn in a variety of patterns and split in the middle or slightly lower than middle with a boxed section which often contains a jigsawn ornament. There is a plain or molded base and capital.

Upon researching them further, I found that the first pierced columns appeared in about 1870, the height of the steamboat era and when Italianate was the most prevalent style. It has been suggested that the column was designed by a carpenter from one of the steamboats because the center sections of the columns are oftentimes a diamond, heart, or spade — the icons most associated with card playing. Perhaps the carpenter played poker aboard a riverboat and, on a whimsy, incorporated the designs into an architectural element that is still found in Vicksburg today. Unfortunately, his identity remains a mystery.

In 1987, the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation conducted an inventory of buildings which retained pierced columns, and at that time, there were 50 existing buildings and evidence through historic photographs of about 50 more buildings which, at one time, had porches supported by pierced columns. Of the existing 50, they discovered 14 different styles of pierced columns.

The Foundation also sent inquiries to state historic preservation offices throughout the southeast and north along the Mississippi River requesting information about buildings with similar columns in their states. As a result of their poll, they learned that there were single examples in New Orleans, Pensacola, and a couple of other towns, but no community had anywhere near the number of pierced columns that Vicksburg had.

According to an article from the Foundation's website, which was undated, there are only forty buildings left in Vicksburg that retain their pierced columns.

One day last week, I drove around Vicksburg to see how many houses with pierced columns I could find. In about an hour and a half, I found 13, the prettiest of which (in my opinion) is The Corners, ca. 1872-73.

The architectural style is a combination of Greek Revival and Victorian, with Italianate features. The pierced columns were handmade and each column is unique, featuring hearts and shamrocks, and rings and diamonds, representing love and marriage.

The gardens are intact as they were originally designed and laid out, including the original brick walkways which have ring and diamond patterns in the layout, repeating the signs of love and marriage found in the columns on the house.

McRaven is one of the houses I featured in my series on the Haunted Houses of Vicksburg. You can click on the link if you'd like to read its story.

Belle Fleur, ca 1872

This is Walnut Hills Restaurant, which has the best fried chicken in the whole wide world. It is featured in 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and if you are ever in Vicksburg, I highly recommend you stop by for lunch.

They are in the process of remodeling and there were guys up on the roof when I went by to take these pictures, but at least you can see the pierced columns.

It was easy to spot this house, with its unusual color scheme ...

I like the way the porch railing on this house repeats the design in the columns ...

This is one of the oldest houses I could find with pierced columns. It was built in 1830 by John Lane, who was a member of Vicksburg's founding family.

I guess the origin of pierced columns will always remain a mystery, but I think it's kind of nice that Vicksburg is home to so many beautiful examples of this unique architectural element.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Lagniappe

My husband and I picked up our granddaughter Avery Grace yesterday, and drove out to our land to see if we had any Purple Martins in our martin house (not yet), and these are just a few of the pictures I took while we were there.

It didn't take Avery long to pick a bouquet of Jonquils to take to her mommy.

And next to picking flowers, one of life's
simple pleasures is throwing rocks in the lake!

And one of Avery's Grandmama's simple pleasures is exploring with my camera, and out of the thousands of jonquils we have on our land, I found two little clumps of Narcissus ...

These exquisite little wildflowers (violets?) were everywhere ...

It was a beautiful day and we loved spending part of it with Avery. She's growing up so fast (she'll be SIX in May), and we treasure sweet moments like these with her.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring's Pink Magnolias

I am linking this post to Beverly's Pink Saturday, and
look forward to seeing what everyone else is sharing today.

If you would like to visit Beverly too, just click on the following link,
and it will take you to her lovely How Sweet the Sound blog.

One of my favorite Spring-flowering trees is the Japanese Magnolia Tree. You may know it as a "Tulip tree," or a "Saucer Magnolia tree" ... but whatever you call it, it is truly breathtaking this time of year.

I found one yesterday in a quiet residential area of Vicksburg, and spent a few minutes capturing some closeup shots with my camera.

Aren't they exquisite! — and no two are alike.

You can see in this last picture why it is also called a "Saucer Magnolia."

Best wishes to you for a weekend filled with signs of Spring popping out all over — like these glorious flowers.

Fields of Lavender

Interstate 20, between Vicksburg and Jackson, is lined with cotton, corn, and soybean fields. My husband and I had to make several trips to Jackson this week, and one of those fields kept calling my name. It was just begging to have its picture taken, and I couldn't resist taking my camera along on our trip yesterday.

That particular field called my name last Fall, too, when it looked like this ...

But yesterday — oh, my goodness — it was a glorious meadow of beautiful lavender wildflowers!

I wished for a blue sky for a background, but even with the cloudy skies yesterday, the field was truly breathtaking.

The flowers are a member of the mint family, and are called Henbit.

A winter annual that blooms in the spring, Henbit is found throughout the United States. It's probably not very popular when it's growing in your grass or cotton fields, but, after seeing these pictures, perhaps the next time you see some on the side of the road, you will remember these exquisite little flowers hidden amongst all those purple "weeds."

I'm so glad I stopped to capture them while they were at their peak, because all up and down the highway, farmers are hard at work preparing their fields for planting — and my "field of lavender" will soon look like this ...