Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between roundups of historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
Two weeks ago, we looked at adobe homes in the southwest, which today bear the influence of Spanish colonial architecture. A few weeks prior, we ogled houses built before 1850 in New England, with building styles influenced by the architecture of Great Britain. Today? We’re heading down south.
While Southern houses reference a variety of styles, their roots can generally be found in French colonial architecture. These houses are largely made of wood, have a steep roofline, and are surrounded—sometimes on all four sides—by a large porch. (Gotta love that year-round warm weather.)
Most of the houses we’ll take a look at today are similar to the housing type we just described. Some, though, also show characteristics typical of the Federal style—with gorgeous fan-light windows and intricate woodwork—and the Greek Revival style. There’s even one that looks as though someone transported it from the Italian countryside.
Natchez, Mississippi (3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, $650,000)
Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez was a prominent southern economic hub in the 19th century. The architecture of the city reflects that prosperity—and this house, named Holly Hedges, is no exception. The house was completed in 1796, and follows a shape reminiscent of the typical French colonial house. A key difference here: the front porch has been enclosed. That just means there are twice as many beautiful front doors to go through before you get to the living spaces.
But once you get through the front doors—with their intricate fanlight windows—you enter a space that has all the details that you’d want from a 220-year-old structure. Not only are there multiple fireplaces (the listing says four), six-over-six sash windows, and layers of thick crown moldings in the 3,500-square-foot house, but our hearts skipped a beat when we saw the wallpaper in the center hall.
The center hall is covered in scenic Zuber wallpaper, which is handmade in France. Zuber wallpaper is some of the most well-crafted wallpaper on the market today. This specific print is called Scenes from North America, which is probably best known for being installed in the White House by then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The wallpaper panels show signs of wear, especially along the seams, but trust us—this is really something special.
Atlanta, Georgia (6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, $5.5 Million)
Remember how we said that not all of the houses in this roundup will fit into the more traditional architectural categories prominent in the south? Built in 1926 in the affluent Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, this stately Italianate mansion is a showstopper from the moment you see it at the end of its long driveway.
The 12,000-square-foot house was built by prominent Atlanta-area architect Neel Reid, who had Philip T. Schutze working for his firm at the time. Philip T. Schutze went on to design a number of homes and buildings in the Atlanta area, probably most famous of them being the iconic Swan House, which is just down the road.
Inside, it’s almost as if the rooms compete with each other to be the most impressive: There are vaulted hallways, elegant reception rooms with marble mantles and floor-to-ceiling paned windows, and an updated kitchen with a marble-topped island and dramatic La Cornue range, just to name a few details in the six-bedroom home.
And, if you love murals, you're in luck. There are not one but two rooms that feature painted scenes on the walls. The dining room, with its elegant chandelier, carved wooden doors, and stone fireplace, features views reminiscent of Venice.
Then there's what perhaps the most impressive room in the house—the sunken living room. This grand space has an overwhelming, panoramic mural along with equally aggressive moldings and a massive fireplace mantle. That room, if you ask us, looks suspiciously similar to the dining room at Trafalgar Park, an important English country house that’s also currently on the market.
Savannah, Georgia (5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, $1.5 million)
Located in Savannah’s Landmark Historic District, this 1844 house—known as the Israel Dasher House—is downright idyllic, from the elongated windows on its facade to the gently curving staircase leading to the front door.
The free-standing house is a slight mashup of styles. The curved staircase leading to the front door—and the fan light window over the door—both point to the Federal style. However, the abundance of Doric columns and pilasters, evident on the side porch and numerous fireplace mantles indicate the Greek Revival style.
Inside, an enfilade of reception rooms, each with a fireplace, unfolds off a side staircase hall that runs the length of the house. We’re especially in love with the twin oversized six-over-six windows in the front parlor, which drop to the floor to maximize light and the view of Pulaski Square.
Upstairs, many of the bedrooms seem to come with their own fireplace, although not all of them appear to be working. How adorable, though, are the rooms tucked under the eaves of the house, with their angled ceilings, dormer windows, and folding shutters? These quirky charms continue in the basement, too, where there’s an informal den and bar with roughly carved beams and exposed brickwork.
Monticello, Florida (2 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, $99,000)
Yes—you can get a historic home for under $100,000. Located about 30 minutes east of Tallahassee, the 1840 structure, known as the John A. Cuthbert house, was built in a French colonial style with a raised front porch. Cuthbert was a prominent area leader who helped establish the Masonic Lodge in the 1830s and lead the charge to establish a state government.
Now, we’ll be honest and say that this house needs somebody who is not afraid of a renovation. The bathrooms and kitchen leave a lot to be desired. But! There’s no denying that the bones of this house—like the French doors, built-in bookcases in the foyer, and wood floors—are beautiful and ready to be brought back to life. There are even a few fireplaces, which don’t even need to be restored to working condition. Since when was the last time you thought to light a fire in Florida?
Prichard, Alabama (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, $250,000)
If you’re an U.S. History buff, this house is for you. Set on 16 acres of land just outside of Mobile, Alabama, this 1848-built house may seem, at first glance, like a perfectly lovely, if not extraordinary, older house.
There’s the expansive front porch we’ve seen on many southern houses. There are also beautiful six-over-six windows and multiple fireplaces. We especially love the high ceilings, which help to ventilate the house, especially during the sticky Alabama summers. But this rather unassuming house has a connection to a darker period of American history—the Civil War.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 2,400-square-foot home—specifically, its parlor—is reported to have played a role in Confederate General Richard Taylor's surrender and truce agreement with Union General Edward Canby in May of 1865, which was one of the final conclusions to the Civil War after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April of 1865.
Bunkie, Louisiana (4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, $279,000)
At first glance, this 4-bedroom house has all the hallmarks of a Greek Revival structure, with its Doric columns supporting the front porch and the pediment moldings surrounding the windows. But make no mistake: The shape of this home, with its low profile and front porch, is decidedly French colonial.
Inside, the Greek Revival details continue, most noticeably on the fireplace mantles that feature doric pilasters and around the windows and doors, which feature ear molding. Ear molding, sometimes referred to as a shouldered architrave molding, refers to how the molding does a little jig around the top of the window and door. It’s very typical in Greek Revival homes all over America.
Completed in 1826, the house was built for Dr. Francois Robin, who was specially appointed as the King’s physician in the area through a Spanish grant in 1791. It is also believed that Jim Bowie, the noted pioneer who played a role in the Texas Revolution, visited the house and even served as witness for the marriage of another early owner of the house.