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Five on Friday: My Favorite Places in Mississippi

I am a native Mississippian and I love my home state. I've traveled the country and I smile everytime I see the "Welcome to Mississippi" sign when coming home. People always ask me where I'm from...they say I have an accent....I don't hear it...and when I tell them, they have mixed emotions. Those [some of those] that have never been here seem to have negative ideals and still think we run around barefoot and have no indoor plumbing. While we may take an extended time to smell the roses and life's pace is slower than that of NYC or Chicago, we offer exceptional hospitality and we never meet a stranger.

My state is rich in history, some good/some bad, but we are always trying to progress while maintaining a touch of yesteryear. You'll find towering oaks trees surrounding grounds of grand Georgian style homes and the Mississippi Blues Trail that gives you a glimpse of America's music and the entertainers that came from this great state. You'll also find that we feed one's soul and tummy with lush gardens and the best soul food you will ever find.

About ten years ago I started traveling through Mississippi for work and realized that while I had been many places, I never took the time to travel or appreciate my own state. What I found was history I could touch, the calming scenery of the Natchez Trace, and old timers in every town who are more than happy to sit, have a cup of coffee with you, and tell you stories from their childhood. And while I don't have time to show you all of the places I love, I am going to highlight five of my most favorite....

Windsor Ruins Sketch
The only known picture of Windsor Ruins, sketched by a soldier

This is, and more than likely will always be, my favorite place in the state. I can't count the times I have been here. Most will visit at least once to check it off their to-do list but then never return. You see, it is exactly as the name says...ruins. People tend to find it boring but I find this spot intriguing. Not only are the remaining architectural pieces stunning but I can picture it as it used to be.

Let me rewind for a moment and give you the backstory. Windsor mansion was located on a plantation that covered 2,600 acres in Claiborne County. The mansion was constructed between 1859 and 1861 for Smith Coffee Daniell II who was born in Mississippi and had acquired great wealth as a cotton planter by age 30. On April 12, 1861, Smith Daniell died at age 34, just weeks after construction of the mansion was completed.

Windsor was constructed as a three-story block, consisting of a ground floor basement, with living quarters on the second and third floors. When completed, the 17,000 sq ft mansion contained three hallways and 23 to 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace. A featured innovation for that time period was the inclusion of two interior bathrooms supplied with rainwater from a tank in the attic. In 1861, cost of construction was about $175,000 (equal to $4,979,722 today). On February 17, 1890, a fire started on the third floor when a guest dropped ashes from a cigarette or cigar into construction debris left by carpenters who were making repairs. Windsor mansion was destroyed leaving only the columns, balustrades, cast iron stairways, and pieces of bone china.

I can only imagine how grand it was by the 45 ft columns still standing. Stunning. If you ever visit the state, or even if you live here, put it on your bucket list of things to do. Take a camera, walk the small plot of land that's still available from those 2,600 acres and enjoy!

#2: The Town of Rodney

Rodney Presbyterian Church

Not far from the Windsor Ruins is the ghost town of Rodney, MS. While there are a handful of people that still have a homestead there, this sleepy little town dried up when they changed the direction of the MIssissippi River. The almost capital of Mississippi saw its end in1930, as the “official” town came to a permanent end by an executive proclamation from Governor Theodore Bilbo. There are still three main structures that stand. The Rodney Presbyterian Church (complete with cannonball in the side from 1863), Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the old Mason Lodge.

While I am normally not a skittish person, I definitely like to have someone with me when I visit. The buildings can give you an eerie feeling, depending on the time of day, and they are not the most stable structures due to age and lack of upkeep. There is also a cemetery behind the Presbyterian church that is a tad creepy...and I love old cemeteries.

If you'd like more information, you can visit the Rodney Preservation Society. If not, know that there is only one road in and out of this old town and it is a little off the beaten path. Fuel up and wear your boots or will need a little protection on your tootsies.

#3: Rosalie Mansion- Our Lady on the Bluff

As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Rosalie Mansion is not only beautiful but it is near and dear to my heart. The Mississippi DAR purchased Rosalie in 1938 and has been taking care of this grand ole place since. Located in Natchez, MS this mansion is just one of many in the area and also one of the most beautiful. While the history of the building and family is enjoyable, you will want to take time to walk the grounds and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Tours are provided daily.

Plan a day in Natchez. There are so many beautiful homes, wonderful little places to eat, and a couple of antique shops nearby to enjoy. While you're there, make sure to enjoy the sunset by the river..."down the hill". You won't regret it.

Yes, the entire city. If I were to relocate within the state, it would be near Oxford. This picture perfect city is a college town in North MS and lies near the forest of Mississippi's North Central Hills. Named after Oxford University in Oxfordshire, England, life in the pretty town is dominated by the local university, The University of Mississippi. Hotty Toddy!

While the town can have a "festive" side with all of the college students, tt is also scenic and sophisticated and has a central square with southern charm. The square, populated with wonderful restaurants and tasty treats, also offers signature adult beverages with a little nightlife included, if you wish.

William Faulkner's Home - Rowan Oak
Rowan Oak - Home of William Faulkner

Full of historical sites, like the home of William Faulkner (Rowan Oak), it is a history lover's dream. It is also a hub for concerts and cultural events. My favorite is the Double Decker Arts Festival. Music, art, food, and shopping? Yes, please!

If you can't swing the spring Double Decker event, there is always football season! Known for its decadence and style, tailgating in The Grove at The University of Mississippi is something you won't experience on other campuses. It is an event. You dress for the occasion and enjoy a little fellowship, food and festivities pre-game...and post-game if Ole Miss wins. Be prepared for chintz and chandeliers...I told you it was an experience.

If I don't travel North to Oxford, I am heading south to Ocean Springs. Nestled in the gulf coast nook of Mississippi, Ocean Springs not only offers coastal living with beaches nearby but it is also a small town with a cozy core in the historic district. My favorite downtown area in the state, I could visit weekly and never get tired of it. It's quaint, it's cultured, and it gives me the warm and fuzzy feels.

If you visit, take time to stroll the various shops and soak in the historic buildings. While you have many delicious options to choose from for eateries, might I suggest a lunch stop at Maison de lu? Try the Fried Green Tomato BLT and nix the mayo and replace it with the remoulade sauce. Save room for dessert as well. Two words...bread pudding.

That's all for this Five on Friday. If you ever plan a trip around or to Mississippi, let me know I will be happy to give you some recommendations. It really is a beautiful state and I would love for you to visit. Until next week, enjoy your weekend and take a quick day trip to a town in your own state that you've never explored. You may find your own favorite spot. XO Jennifer

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