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A Trace of Natchez

Antebellum splendor along the Mississippi

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It may come as something of a shock to New Yorkers to learn that in the 1850s, the city with the most millionaires per capita in the nation was not our own town but a settlement of southern planters on a high bluff over the Mississippi called Natchez. With plantations sprawled out on the low-lying plain, Natchez merchants, bankers, doctors, and cotton growers built a stunning collection of antebellum mansions, the majority of which are still standing. More than a dozen restored great houses are open for tours year-round, and for a month in the spring and fall the historical society offers package tours. Each house comes with a mini-series-worthy tale of carpetbaggers, confiscated lands, and plucky women who saved home and family for men lost or broken in the war. The kids' favorite bit: A demonstration of the art of the swoon, the decorous maneuver a hoopskirted southern belle deployed in those moments when, laced into a corset in stifling heat, she found herself short of breath. Book a room at the Burn, a handsome Greek Revival bed-and-breakfast that served as a Union hospital during the war (yes, that is General Grant on the porch in the photograph in the front hall). For the most ambitious food in town, go to John Martin's, at the bottom of the hill along the river. For kid-friendly meals, try Clara Nell's Downtown Deli.

DETAILS The Burn, 800-654-8859 (rooms from $120 to $200); Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, 800-647-6742 (Fall Pilgrimage is October 11 to 28; $18 per person for each of six three-house, half-day packages).


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