When our artist friend Lisa in Ecuador checked in on our “Spring Fling” camping trip across the South, and learned that one of our destinations was Natchez, Mississippi, she got excited. Why? Because she has a connection.
Today Lisa lives in Ecuador creating beautiful art, dealing with power outages and dicey internet, and runs the wonderful blog Zeebra Designs & Destinations. But she grew up in the Mississippi Delta and lived in Natchez in the 1990s. So we asked her for recommendations. She said, “For sure pause at the corner of Orleans and Commerce and peer at the white Colonial Revival house with the corner turret. That was my home and a grand restoration project turned bed and breakfast.”
Well that piqued our interest – you know how we love a cool house. So upon arrival we set out on our own self-styled walking tour of historic Natchez, oohing and aahing over porticos and pediments. But when we reached the corner of Orleans and Commerce our jaws dropped. All we could say was, “Wow! Now that’s a house.”
“In 1995, I was looking for a modest little house to use as a studio and place to teach. After almost a year of not finding anything interesting, I commented to my real estate friend that I’d like to look at The Bailey House just to put it out of my mind. The weekly ad in the newspaper mentioned a stained glass window, and I was curious to see the old home.” –Lisa
“From the outside it was quite neglected, the yard was overgrown. When I stepped into that house one cold February day, it was a visual shock. The house had not been used for quite some time. There was a lot to absorb visually, just to grasp what was original and what was added.” –Lisa
A Little History
The Jacobs House (later known as the Bailey House), built in 1897, boasts the city’s most impressive residential stained glass and reflects the prosperity of the Jewish merchant class in late 19th and 20th centuries. The house was later owned by the Bailey family who operated a clothing store on the first floor called Tot,Teen and Mom.
“Over the years the house had been divided into little apartments, all three floors of the 7,000-square foot house. The top floor was originally the ballroom, I was told. The only way to justify buying/restoring the house was to use it as a bed and breakfast. We began restoring the house – transforming the ugly duckling back to the swan that she was. It was a true joy to witness the changes as old layers were taken back to original plaster walls, as partitions were removed and the rooms restored to their original sizes, as paint was removed from giant pocket doors, etc etc.” –Lisa
The house won restoration awards, the B&B won “Property of the Year” for tourism by the Chamber of Commerce, and Fodor’s listed it in their “Best B&Bs of the South.”
“I am grateful for the experience and the amazing guests that entered as strangers and left as part of an extended family! “ –Lisa
Later, after the restoration, a friend asked Lisa, “Why did you do this?” She looked at her friend and replied, “I felt sorry for it. It seemed to whisper HELP.”
As with many lives and stories, Lisa has closed that chapter of her life. Today the house is a private residence with lovely owners who graciously endure curious tourists like us trying to snap a few photos.
This wonderful story from Lisa is one of the unexpected joys of blogging. Who knew we would find a Natchez connection in Ecuador! Thanks Lisa for enriching our Natchez experience. Check out Lisa’s great art here.
Terri & James