Sunday, April 10, 2011
Impossible Mansions of the Delta, Mt. Holly, Lake Washington
Lake Washington is a quiet little town on the banks of a lake of the same name, about 20 minutes south of Greenville just west of Hwy 1. The crescent-shaped oxbow lake is a peaceful, bucolic setting, where cormorants and anhingas sit on branches of cypress trees, and ducks quack in the distance. Drive slowly on Eastside Lake Washington Road past modest one-story houses, and you come across this impossibly grand Italianate mansion sitting on an equally grand lawn. What kind of wealth was there once in the Delta to allow this kind of extravagance? What were the original owners thinking in 1856?
MS Preservation wrote about the history of Mt Holly; recommended reading, as are all the interesting posts dealing with Mississippi's architecture and history.
At first glance, the structure appears to be in reasonably good condition. But look more closely, and you see that it is deteriorating badly. Some of the roof is intact, but trim around the soffits is rotting and clearly some parts of the roof are failing.
Walk around to the back, and you can see broken windows and general signs of decay. A gent I met a few houses to the south said someone started repair work a few months ago, and indeed, there is a commercial work-foreman's trailer parked on the front lawn. But the trailer has been vandalized, and little work appears to have been done in many months. Previous owners used the mansion as a bed and breakfast, and the rear section of the house has a modern kitchen and redecorated rooms. They now look rather seedy, but at least this was a going concern not too long ago.
The front and side porches show the effects of years of neglect.
This porch, on the north side of the house, would have been an inviting place to laze away a hot summer afternoon in the pre-air condition era.
As pointed out in the MS Preservation blog, many sections of brick are crumbling. Areas were repointed with modern concrete rather than soft mortar, which would have matched the mortar used in the 1800s. I thought anyone buying a historic house would know not to use the wrong mortar, but apparently no.
The drawing rooms were elegant and even today do not look too bad. The windows are intact so far, but vandalism will take a toll if the present owners don't secure the property soon.
There is another fine mansion in Lake Washington, only a short distance south of Mt Holly. A reader commented that it was built in 1902 for Sidney Law and may have been ordered from Sears & Roebuck (yes, they sold very fine kit homes for decades - why don't we do this now?). I don't know the recent history of this handsome wood house, but the weeds are beginning to take over and it looks unoccupied.
All photographs taken with an Olympus E-330 digital camera, tripod-mounted, with the Olympus 14-54 mm f/2.8 lens.