Preserving history can be much more difficult than creating it, as seen with the Arlington estate in Natchez, Mississippi. The building combines two architectural styles; American Colonial and Federal Architecture and is one of the most important historical buildings in the area.

In the past, it was a grand and impressive example of Natchez architecture but those days are now a very distant memory. It currently crumbles to ruin, abandoned, with Mother Nature slowly claiming its surroundings. Unravel this estate’s tragic tale and discover why this historic mansion has been left to ruin.

The Mansion’s Early History

Much of its past remains a mystery. According to local legend, the 55 acres of land that the Arlington mansion sits on was first owned by local sheriff, Lewis Evans in 1806.

Source: Wikimedia/Ralph Clynne

He’s said to have sold a part of the plantation he’d built along with his house to a land speculator, Jonathan Thompson. He then resold the property to Mrs. Jane Surget White, daughter of Pierre Surget in December 1817.

Origins Unplugged

The origins of the mansion are quite murky. Valid records state that the mansion was built by John Hampton White and his wife, Jane Surget White. The exact date of its construction is unknown but it’s thought to be around 1819-20.

Source: Wikiwand

Some sources also claim that the design of the mansion was Jane’s or indeed, her father’s because of the many French arts in it. Regardless, the property became the home for the Whites but not for long.

Tragedy Strikes: Twice!

The joy the couple must have felt after building their once beautiful mansion was short-lived. John White died from the yellow fever endemic in the year 1819 around the time the mansion was completed.

Source: Wikimedia/Johnston, Frances Benjamin

Some historical records state that Jane passed away on her first night at the property. But this is disputable by the information on her gravestone, which reveals that she died in 1825 at age 38.

Grand Architecture

The mansion was thought of as ‘one of four important Federal style villas by architects of old. It became the foundation for the later antebellum houses of Natchez.” The two-story building has a floor plan consisting of center halls that stretch from front to back. The halls are flanked by two rooms on each side.

Source: Flickr

There’s a staircase in an auxiliary hall between two of the rooms. The mansion also has a famous library renowned for its collection of tomes, a music room, and a drawing room.

Exquisite Interior Before

The hallways were decorated with paintings by renowned French artists of old including Barrocio, and Vernet, to name a few. It also had some exquisite antique items. These beautiful artworks would have surely amazed the early visitors.

Source: theforgottensouth

Exquisite Interior After

Source: Mouldings One

The Federal style woodwork of the interior is very refined. It also spots window openings finished with carved marble slabs and lintels. The carved-over door panels are also worth a mention.

Change Of Ownership

After Jane’s death, the property was handed over to her sister, Mrs. Bingaman, and stayed in the family until Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Samuel Stillman Boyd bought it around the mid-19th century.

Source: P. J. Murray

After Judge Boyd’s death in 1867, the mansion is said to have remained without an owner for a few years. Soon, it was snapped up by Mrs. M.S Gillet in 1917 until 1924. Many of the house’s treasures were also passed from owner to owner.

A Surprising Wedding Gift

Another few years passed before it found another owner in Herbert Barnum. He gifted it as a present to his wife, Annie Barnum who was a member of an affluent Natchez family. While she also owned the city’s beautiful Monmouth mansion, she continued to live in the mansion even after her husband’s death in 1939.

Source: Flickr/Craig Fildes

Arnie Barnum is said to have taken some measures to maintain the property. She also added some books to the library’s collection by buying prized first editions. She passed on in the year 1950 with the property handed over to her daughter, Anne Gwin Vaughan.

National Treasure Falls Into The Wrong Hands

In 1973, Arlington was added to the National Register of Historic Places and made a National History Landmark the year after. The property did showcase the best of Natchez’s architectural heritage after all.

Source: Flickr/Jonathan Haeber

Unfortunately, Anne Vaughan and her husband passed on in 1991. The Arlington was then handed down to their son, Dr James Vaughan. The Jackson-based doctor didn’t value it much and decided not to live on the property leaving it to rot.

Engulfed In Flames

For something once so beautiful, Arlington’s past is littered with quite a good number of sad events. In September 2002, the building suffered a fire incident that damaged the roof and parts of the top floor. The ground floor, though not completely gutted, also suffered some damage.

Source: Youtube/Urban Exploring With Kappy

On the bright side, many of the home’s precious antiques and books were saved and restored. A new roof was built thanks to the efforts of the Historic Natchez Foundation shortly after. Yet, with an absent owner, the property was at the mercy of vandals who did much more damage to it.

Lawsuits And Battles

After the outbreak, the damage to the property was deemed too expensive to repair as the house was not insured. This prompted the Natchez Preservation Commission to sue Dr. Vaughan for demotion by neglect.

Source: Youtube/Urban Exploring With Kappy

As a result, legal proceedings have begun that could result in the City of Natchez officials taking action to restore the estate. The renovation costs will then be recovered from the owner through fines.

Mother Nature Takes Charge

Up to date, the building remains in a horrid state. Mother Nature has reclaimed the once well-groomed grounds. Debris from the fire and the now weak structure of the building make it a dangerous place to enter.

Source: Youtube/Urban Exploring With Kappy

Here’s to hoping, that one day this national treasure will return to the glory days of its early years. But for now, it remains a shadow of its former self with its fate left hanging in the balance.