Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Eustace Winn, Proprietor of Hollywood Plantation.
Twenty miles north of Greenville, Mississippi is Hollywood Plantation in Benoit, Mississippi with hundreds of acres of soybeans and cotton. The centerpiece of the property is what is now known as the Baby Doll House.
I first read about the Baby Doll House in “Delta Magazine” several years ago. Then recently Julia Reed, author of the excellent new book “Julia Reed’s SOUTH,” included a chapter in her book about Hollywood Plantation where she staged a duck dinner. “Thankfully a few years ago the Baby Doll House was restored by the heirs of Judge J.C. Burrus’s, including my pal Eustace Winn, who runs it as an event space and lives in the caretaker’s cottage on the property, where he also farms,” writes Julia.
I telephoned Eustace Winn (a name right out of a Southern novel) and asked him if he offered a package to deer and duck hunters. Indeed, he does.
The History Of The Burrus House Or Baby Doll House
Judge J.C. Burrus began construction of the Burrus House in 1858. The Judge and his wife, the former Margaret Louisa McGehee, had moved from Huntsville, AL to the Mississippi Delta in 1842 and they settled in the frontier of newly-formed Bolivar County.
After a few years the judge bought a large tract of land five miles from the Mississippi River, which would become known as Hollywood Plantation because of the beautiful holly trees in abundance on the property. There they built a roomy log house to accommodate their growing family and their frequent guests. In 1858 the construction of “the big house of the big-hearted Judge Burrus” began. The home was built on one of the most ideal spots on earth on Egypt Ridge. In early 1861 the family of nine moved into their Greek Revival style home.
Shortly thereafter the Civil War started. With both the Confederate and Union forces frequenting the vicinity, there was much activity at the house during this period. The house was thought to have been spared being burned by the Yankees because of Judge Burrus’ past friendship with a classmate at the University of Virginia. His friend was in command of the Union forces in the area and gave orders to spare the Burrus home. During the war, it became a hospital for hundreds of Confederate troops.
One notable visit was Confederate General Jubal Early, who hid at the home after Lee’s surrender before being secretly transported across the Mississippi River at night by his host. Among other guests who reputedly stayed at the Burrus home were John Wilkes Booth and the famous James brothers.
Note: Eustace gives tours of the Baby Doll House regularly.
Filming of “Baby Doll” at the Burrus House on Hollywood Plantation
In 1955 director Elia Kazan began filming the movie “Baby Doll” at the house. “Baby Doll” was a combination of two Tennessee Williams one-act plays, “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” and “The Long Stay Cut Short.”
In 1974 the Burrus heirs gave the home to the Bolivar County Historical Society, which raised funds to restore the house. They succeeded in partially restoring the home. Later, the Burrus Foundation was established, which funded the entire restoration of the home. “The late Dr. E.H. Winn, Jr., my grandfather, was determined to save the house,” Eustace told me. “It was the home his grandmother grew up in and they were very close. In 2015 the restoration began and with the direction to his daughter Barry Foster of New Orleans, was completed in 2012. Now my company—Hollywood Plantation, LLC—manages the house and the property.”
Two Shotgun Houses
Eustace moved two shotgun houses onto the property for overnight guests and he restored an 1840s log cabin that had been moved to the farm before the restoration of the Burrus House.
The two shotgun shacks are genuine cypress board and batten sharecropper cabins. Constructed in the 1920s, the rustic old shacks are now fully restored and have all of the amenities needed for a comfortable stay. The shacks accommodate 3 hunters (1 in 1 shack and 2 in another). Pets are allowed. The shacks have heat and air conditioning and free Wifi.
In a great location, situated behind the Baby Doll House, the shacks are perfect for a duck or deer hunting expedition or for a country getaway. The well kept shotgun shacks are impeccably presented and stay with the tradition of that time and are a great base for anyone following the Blues Trail. The relaxing atmosphere is perfect for artists or writers looking for a place to retreat. “Everyone could use a Delta Recharge,” said Eustace.
A Mississippi Delta Hunting Getaway
Eustace offers a 3-day exclusive Mississippi Delta Hunting Getaway. The hunting party, no more than 3 per getaway, arrives on Wednesday afternoon. He likes to try to get in a duck roost shoot that afternoon before dark if the hunters are up for it.
“The main focus of the hunt is trophy deer hunting,” stated Eustace. “I give my hunters an opportunity to harvest a trophy Mississippi Delta buck, which has become the most elusive and sought for trophies in the county. My private hunting spot on the Mississippi River terrain is a funnel for big bucks rutting up and down the river. Also, hunters may encounter wild boar, some of which are trophies in their own right, with their impressed tusk and whetters.”
On an ideal day the hunters wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 am to be on the stands by daylight. They take a break at lunch. They sit on the river stand and watch towboats go by all day. They see all sorts of wildlife. They might spot a bobcat or a fox while waiting on a white tailed buck. They also see lots of ducks coming in. “You never know what you are going to see,” said Eustace.
“There are not many places you can go hunting on the Mississippi River after a trophy whitetail deer,” Eustace told me. “This is THE one!”
The plantation is open to duck and deer hunters the entire month of December except Christmas Day, and it is open during the month of January. Hunters should book two weeks in advance. “I welcome anybody 18 years old and up,” said Eustace. For hunters who want to fly in by jet, the Greenville airport will accommodate them.
Meals For The Hunters
Eustace does the cooking for the hunters. He prepares an eggs, sausage and biscuits breakfast. Usually he packs a sandwich lunch for hunting in the woods. For supper one of his favorite meals is fried deer steak. After dinner the hunters may swap tales and sip some whiskey in the log house around the fireplace.
“One night during the hunters’ stay we’ll make a trip down to Doe’s, a legendary restaurant in Greenville,” said Eustace. “We’ll order steaks and tamales and salad. This meal is included in the hunters’ package.”
Julia Reed got a bit fancier at the party she staged on the plantation. Here was her menu: Rum Ramsey; Hank’s Duck Poppers (see recipe); Hoover Duck; Duck Confit Etouffee; Roasted Butternut Squash; Hearts of Romaine with Orange, Red Onion and Crispy Duck Skin; and for dessert, Beth Biundo’s Chocolate Rum Pecan Cake.
Julia’s friend, Hank Burdine, accompanied by his trusty Boykin spaniel, Boudreaux, doesn’t miss a day duck hunting. He rarely turns up at a party without his famous duck poppers, which he has taught Eustace to prepare for his guests.
Hollywood Plantation: A Unique Destination
If you don’t hunt and just want to book a shack, call or make a reservation on Airbnb. “During hunting season I don’t book the shacks. I must have them open for hunters in case they want them,” explained Eustice. The package price depends on the season or time of the year. Call for package prices.
I asked Eustace what sets Hollywood Plantation apart from other hunting destinations in the South. “I’d say it’s definitely a more unique spot than you can find most places in the heart of the Delta,” he said. “It’s the site of the Baby Doll House, and there are not very many opportunities to be able to hunt right on the Mississippi River and you can do that here!”
What To Know
Hollywood Plantation, LLC
77 Burrus Road, Benoit, MS 38725
Call 662.822.6711 for reservations