Historically Significant, Architecturally Magnificent
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Ray Van Dusen & LWM Southern Photos.
For many years a friend and I have traveled to Aberdeen, Mississippi (pop: 5,600), an easy two-hour drive from Jackson, Tennessee. Over the years we have grown to love the town of Aberdeen and appreciate its rich history and fine homes. And the Pilgrimage organizers and homeowners who open their homes to the public are friendly and gracious.
Between 250 and 300 visitors from 18 states were represented at the Pilgrimage last year. This year’s Pilgrimage will take place April 5-7.
“Aberdeen is one of 13 Certified Retirement Communities in the state of Mississippi,” said Tina Robbins, Executive Director of the Aberdeen Visitors Bureau. “Retirees love the historic homes,” said Robbins. “Some have restored the old homes, and others have purchased the already restored homes. Retirees enjoy the slower pace here and the walkability of the town. Some live near the marina and have boats on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Also, there are many small events throughout the year that bring the community together. And the close proximity to Tupelo and Columbus and access to the airport in Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis is a plus. There is an international airport within 2 ½ hours in any direction.”
History Of Aberdeen
Aberdeen was founded in 1835 by Robert Gordon, a Scotsman who recognized the potential of the site located on a hill next to the Tombigbee River. In 1837 the town was incorporated, and in 1849 it became the seat of Monroe County, the first county established north of Jackson. During this era of amazing growth, Aberdeen became the second largest city in Mississippi as well as the largest port on the Tombigbee River. “Cotton was King” in 1850, and cotton from the rich lands north and west was hauled to Aberdeen and shipped by boat to Mobile. The wealthy merchants and landowners who owned the huge plantations near town competed in the building of large mansions in Aberdeen during this time of great prosperity. Many of the furnishings for these great homes were purchased in Europe and shipped to Aberdeen by steamboat up the Tombigbee. Before the turn of the century, Aberdeen again experienced a time of affluence, resulting in some of the most beautiful examples of early Victorian architecture to be seen in Mississippi.
In addition to its beautiful homes, other attractions to be seen in Aberdeen include: six historic churches, the 1857 Monroe County Court House, two cemeteries circa 1845 and 1857, pre-1900 store facades and the magnolia-lined boulevard on Commerce Street, plus “Silk Stocking Avenue” (Franklin Street), the main Victorian residential street.
Each spring The Pilgrimage includes church, home and cemetery tours conducted by local high school students.
For nature lovers, the Blue Bluff Recreation Area on the waterway features developed camp sites, playgrounds, boat ramps and other amenities.
The dates of the Aberdeen, Mississippi Annual Southern Heritage Pilgrimage are Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7.
Pilgrimage tickets are available online until April 1 at www.aberdeenpilgrimage.org. During Pilgrimage weekend tickets may be purchased at the historic Elkin Theater located at 110 West Commerce Street Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6 from 9am-4pm and Sunday, April 7 from noon until 4 pm.
Homes On The Tour This Year
There are ten antebellum planters’ townhouses and cottages and beautifully appointed Victorian homes on the tour this year: Pruitt Place (1840), Lauri Mundi (1847), The Magnolias (circa 1850), Gregg Hamilton (1850), Sunset Manor (1852), Dunlee (1853), Mon Chalet (1854), Bella Vida (1879), Watkins Hill (1897) and McKinney House (1902).
“Watkins Hill has never been on the tour,” said Robbins. “It has new owners. A magnificent house, it is a work in progress. It was built in 1897, but in 1920 renovations were made which changed the architectural style from Victorian to American Four Square.”
She added that Sunset Manor has a new owner, who has done extensive renovation on the home. The back of the house is said to be the oldest portion of the original house still standing in Aberdeen.
McKinney House has never been on the Spring Pilgrimage Home Tour. “A new owner has brought new life to this house,” stated Robbins.
Lauri Mundi, one of the finest examples of antebellum architecture, will be open on Saturday, April 6 from 9am-noon and from 2-5 pm. The owners from New Orleans are present every year for the Pilgrimage, and they enjoy their Aberdeen home throughout the year. This lovely home sat empty for many years. The owners have done extensive research on this home and enjoy sharing information with guests.
A new event this year will be the showing of the “Steel Magnolias” movie, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, on Friday evening, April 5 at the Elkin Theater located at 110 West Commerce Street. This is a free event. Doors will open at 6:30 pm, and the movie will show at 7 pm. Local “celebrities” will be in the lobby of the theater for a meet and greet.
Other weekend events and things to know during Spring Pilgrimage include the following:
Hospitality at the Goat Shed (behind the Three Goats Cottage Bed and Breakfast), 106 W. Jefferson St.
Aberdeen City Hall at 125 West Commerce Street with its marble grand staircase with ironwork balustrades and the L.C. Tiffany stained glass dome skylight (free guided tours).
A Carriage Ride through History on April 5 and 6
Riverview Garden Club and Luncheon at First Baptist Church on April 5 from 11:30 am-2:00 pm at 310 W. Commerce Street (Tickets are $10).
Church Walking Tour, new this year, on April 5 and 6 from 11:30am-1:30 pm: $3
Civil War Encampment at The Magnolias at 732 W. Commerce St.
Boy Scout Pancake Breakfast at First United Methodist Church at 300 College Place on April 6 from 6-11 am (Be sure to see the Tiffany windows!).
Storytelling on April 6 from 3:30-5:00 pm in the chapel on the grounds of the Adams-French House.
Proper Tea at the Cottage Tea Room at 109 E. Washington St. on April 6 and 7 (Call 662-369-1157 or 662-319-7923 for reservations; $22),
Candlelight Tour of Bella Vida, an 1879 Second Empire home, located at 503 S. Franklin St. on Friday, April 5 from 7-10 pm ($25 per person).March 31 is the deadline for reservations. Storytelling, music and hors d’oeuvres. For reservations please email Lyndalou46@gmail.com.
The Annual Antique and Classic Car and Truck Show will be held on Saturday, April 6 at the Monroe County Courthouse at 301 S. Chestnut St.
Lodging & Dining
For information on lodging and dining in and around Aberdeen, Mississippi visit www.aberdeenpilgrimage.org. Rooms are available in Aberdeen and in nearby West Point, Columbus, and Amory. Tupelo is a 30-minute drive from Aberdeen.
“The annual Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage has a positive economic impact, and it offers an opportunity to see the homes of residents, many of whom have collected antiques, and they enjoy sharing the history of their homes,” said Tina Robbins, Executive Director of the Aberdeen Visitors Bureau.
Calendar Of Events
Bukka White Blues Festival: October 11-2
Holiday Home Tour: December 8 from 1-4 pm
What To Know
44th Southern Heritage Pilgrimage
Tour Dates: April 5-7, 2019
Ticket Information: Pilgrimage tickets are available online until April 1 at www.aberdeenpilgrimage.org. Tickets will be sold at the Elkin Theater, 110 West Commerce Street April 5-7.
The Aberdeen Visitors Bureau
204 E. Commerce Street