Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Rollin' on the River

We are back from an all-too-brief trek to Austin and regions southward -- not that I wanted to be gone from home any longer than we were, but it was far too brief a time to spend among such excellent hobbits, most of whom I like at least half as well as they deserve. My enduring regret was that I didn't really avail myself of the chance to eat real Mexican while in town, because the stuff that passes for "Mexican" in Ohio just ain't in it. 

We found it necessary to take a jaunt over to Baton Rouge to visit some family, so we took a side trip up to historic Woodville, MS, where my grandparents used to live in this here house. 

The tall guy is my brother Nathanael, and the babe with the sunglasses is my operatic sister Anna, who was an angel of helpfulness on our trip.

Alas, we couldn't go in the house, so I couldn't show Darwin the places I always talk about: the huge living room and dining room connected with pocket doors, where all the cousins used to put on plays; the upstairs bedroom with the taxidermy deer head (it scared the daylights out of me as a child); the music room, the front hall, the long screened porch that ran the back length of the house; the guest house and the pool house; the long path on the back property that lead to a statue of St. Francis in the woods.

Then, as a public service to fans of Stillwater, we drove down River Road to the former site of Belle Grove, my model for the Stillwater house. Alas, Belle Grove passed into decay and ruin years ago, but there's a historical marker commemorating the huge plantation.

That's the levee rising up on the left.
Across the road from the historical marker, two huge oaks mark what I'm guessing might have been Belle Grove's entrance. There's a small housing development on the property now. 
Since we couldn't look at Belle Grove, we did the next best thing: we went upriver three miles to her great rival, Nottoway, which is still gloriously extant and now the grandest plantation house on the river.

The double staircase was intended to allow John Randolph's seven daughters to walk up to the house without any men catching glimpses of their ankles.
But Anna, about to be married, doesn't have to worry about such social niceties.
The interior of Nottoway is breathtakingly lavish. The great ballroom was painted white to show off the complexion of the ladies.

Here's the youngest lady looking elegant. The silver pull behind her is the servants' bell.
 Nottoway is on the river, of course, and from the upper balcony one has a fabulous view of the water. It would have been even more striking when the plantation was built -- then the levee was only ten feet; now it's fifty.
Anna is backlit, but the river is in full light. 
The trees on the left are an island in the river, formed by an earthquake in 1813, if I remember correctly. There used to be a road running from the front of the plantation as far as the trees.

Looking at the back of the house, where the wings all joined together, one got a sense of the scale of the place. Here, the main house on the left is joined by the stair galleries leading to one of the side wings, which I believe are all guest rooms now. The Boys' Wing is behind the main house. On the ground floor were storage and service areas and a bowling alley for the children -- now kitchens, restaurants, and a museum.

 For comparison with the remaining oaks at Belle Grove, here is the front yard of Nottoway. River Road is just beyond the white fence.

More photos of Nottoway can be found here.


TS said...

Sigh...reminds me almost of Downton Abbey.

Brandon said...

That's definitely a grand entrance.

Enbrethiliel said...


What a great trip! I'll have better visuals in my mind in time for the next Stillwater entry. =) Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Is the historical marker not in front of the house in Woodville anymore?

MrsDarwin said...

No, it's still there, but it didn't fit in the photo. Here's a picture of it I found in a google search.