Architecture / Art / Mississippi / Travel

Natchez Beauty: Lisa’s Labor of Love

Baily House Sign

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.”

Lisa's House 2

Lisa's House 1

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 

Bay Window Swing

“Paul and Virginia” stained glass, based on a painting titled “Springtime” by Pierre-August Cot that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The love story by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, touches on social classes, slavery, love, religion and the Enlightenment. How perfect for the South! –Photo courtesy of Ben Hillyer, The Natchez Democrat

Bay Window

The stained-glass bay window on the side of the house. You can just make out the outline of the lovers on the swing.

“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

Tot & TeenThe 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

Lisa's House 3

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.

Columns

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.

Cheers,
Terri & James

Fence

 

 

68 thoughts on “Natchez Beauty: Lisa’s Labor of Love

    • She certainly did, Rajiv! I know from my past house renovation projects how bittersweet it can be when you hand the keys over to the new owner. So glad you stopped by. ~Terri

  1. What a beautiful home! And the stained glass is lovely! It is wonderful when your blogging friends can reach across the internet and help you set a course for adventure.

    • You’re so right, Laura. We were pleased to have a couple of blog connections in Natchez who lead us to some great finds that we would have missed otherwise. You must discover the same thing as you’re touring New Hampshire – it’s the story behind the story that’s so fascinating. 🙂 ~Terri

  2. What a magnificent property! This is the type of place I’ve always dreamed of having … but alas, my abode is several notches lower on the WOW scale.

    Your posts are always filled with interesting architecture and landmarks. Is this just a special interest for you, or was it your background in education or career?

    • Joanne, I love your word “Wow Scale.” Lisa’s house definitely knocked our socks off. 🙂

      Architecture has always been a special interest for us – ever since we moved to New Orleans fresh out of college and rented our first “shotgun house.” That lead to buying distressed houses and bringing them back to life. So we’ve renovated houses for eons – both in the US and abroad. It’s actually how we’ve financed much of our travel. So we always appreciate what it takes to tackle a project the size of Lisa’s house. 🙂 ~Terri

  3. What a legacy she left behind! I can’t wait to see Lisa’s art — but obviously this was a pretty big, magnificent canvas, too! Thanks for sharing … and if we ever get to Natchez, I’m heading for Bailey House to have a look! Great story….

    • Thanks so much, Betty! Lisa didn’t prepare us for what a stately beauty her house is. It’s just so gracious and welcoming. If you do get to Natchez, that whole neighborhood is a visual delight. And her art is also wonderful – so full of joy. ~Terri

    • I thought that was great too, Sue. We’ve renovated so many houses, and when we start we always say that the house has to “talk to us and tell us what it wants and needs.” By “listening to the house” we’ve avoided making lots of mistakes. 🙂 How about you and Dave – have you been involved in home renovations? ~Terri

      • Definitely some renos but not too many completely on our own. When we were first married our parents helped is a great deal with some big renos.
        There have definitely been some ‘words’ flying about during these times but I don’t think we can blame the house for saying such things 🙂

  4. This is mouth-watering gorgeous. Yes, jaw dropping too. I don’t know that I’d ever want to leave a house like that behind after putting all that blood, sweat and tears into renovating it. Sigh. Life continues to present us with twists and turns, doesn’t it. Wow! Wonderful architecture. 😀

    • Tess, I saw a few photos of the interior and it was as beautiful as the outside. Taking on a project of that magnitude just boggles the mind. And you’re so right about life’s twists and turns, I’ve always liked the saying that when one door closes, another door opens. 🙂 ~Terri

  5. Being a long time follower of Lisa’s blog, I was looking forward to this glimpse of Lisa’s Natchez connections. It doesn’t surprise me that she could take on a project this size and turn it into an award winning residence/B&B. Look what she has done to her river house. Kudos to you both for taking the time to find her place and share this with us. 🙂

    • Thank you Lynne. We bonded with Lisa long ago because she and James (geophysicist by trade) started talking about earthquakes … and it just continued on from then. Watching all the work on her river house has been amazing. Now seeing her Natchez project I’m in double awe. 🙂 ~Terri

  6. Love this house and the stained glass window. So glad you spied it and shared it. Now, I guess I’ll just have to go back since we missed it on our trip to Natchez!!

    • Rusha, I think a trip back to Natchez is always a good idea. I just learned from Carol (below) that we missed the Tiffany window in the Episcopal church. I guess we’ll be going back too. 🙂 ~Terri

  7. The grace and beauty of this house is thrilling. Present day architects would do well to learn from the past and design homes that one hundred years from now people would think “how wonderful. how beautiful”.

    • Virginia, I realized when I saw Lisa’s house that I’m a total sucker for a turret … and an upstairs porch. 🙂 Many would argue that in architecture, as in fashion, you can’t go wrong if you stick with the classics. And this house is a classic beauty. ~Terri

    • Thanks Marie! After we saw the house we asked Lisa about its history and how she came to own it. What a fascinating story that gave us additional insight into her wonderful artistic talents. ~Terri

  8. It is beautiful Terri and James, and Natchez is an elegant old town. Some of my ancestors were hanging out there in the early 1800s. I’ve been through there several times and included it on my bike journey around North America. And of course, the Natchez Trace starts there: one of America’s truly great highways. Great blog. –Curt

    • Thanks Curt … and welcome home! Hope you and Peggy had a great trip. Natchez is such a fascinating place – real Old South. Interesting that your ancestors spent time there – then came your way? And what a perfect stop for your bike trip. We did the Natchez Trace when we lived in New Orleans, so we were eager to see it again. It didn’t disappoint, and James will have a post on it on Monday. 🙂 ~Terri

  9. We both love old houses and the stories behind them. In the 1980’s we took on a restoration project of an old 1920’s home when we lived in Butte, Montana, so I can somewhat appreciate the work, vision, tenacity and enthusiasm that is necessary to accomplish what Lisa was able to complete. Great post!

    • Many thanks Anita! We’ve done several renovation projects, but to tackle a project this size boggles the mind. I mean, where do you start? I’ll have to ask Lisa that. In our last project we had to have the house jacked up. Not fun. What were the main challenges of your renovation? ~Terri

  10. well hi from mindo.. julie and i have made a fast dash to get supplies and back to their home (half hour on a good day) on 4sd roads.. the timeout for art should come out any second.. i am so grateful that the roads are temp open and i was able to see this extremely well done post! i almost cried – thank you!

    i scanned most of the comments and when i reach a base w/internet for a few hours i will be back to thank all for their kind comments.

    if we are offline for another ten days, send onions!!! and garlic.. and spinach.. and aggs!

    zhey maybe some red wine as well!

    and grits?

    bye, and thanks again.

    z

    • Hi Lisa, We knew you would surface from the Cloudforest soon! 🙂 Thanks, and you’re very welcome. Everyone loves your house and can’t imagine all the work it took. But of course, once they’ve seen all the gorgeous work you’re doing these days they understand. Have a great adventure … and if you don’t resurface in a few weeks we’ll send supplies. And since you’re the consummate Southerner you would want grits. 🙂 ~Terri

      • hey
        we’re up for air and will be returning to the property soon.. we had lots of rain last night, but this morning was beautiful…

        i read the comments again when i was offline earlier this week.. there’s one point – by painting and selling artwork for most of my adult life, i’ve learned to wean away from my work without too much heartwrenching anxiety! selling the house was a bit like that.. it’s so nice when someone admires what’s been done, and you pass the reins to the new owner.

        the rodriguez family was the perfect family.. jack is an oncologist and linda is a linguist-lovely woman, and my heart smiles to know that they are happily tending that grand swan of a home!

      • Lisa, we’re the same way about renovation and selling houses. We love the work, we love living there, and we love finding new folks to love the house and pass the reins onto. 🙂 So we totally understand. How was your trip – aside from the rain? ~T

  11. I love old houses like this that come with a story. What wonderful memories Lisa must have, although it would have been a tremendous undertaking.

  12. What a wonderful post you’ve put together! I’d never heard of Natchez before today but I was fascinated to read the story of the renovation. “I felt sorry for it” is the perfect reason. Lisa’s artwork is amazing but I had no idea what she had done before arriving in Ecuador. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am hugely impressed. Hugs to Lisa. I don’t make it to her posts as often as I should (nor yours!) 🙂

    • Thank you so much Jo! It had been many years since we’d been back to Natchez. We’re big fans of the author Greg Iles (who was born in Berlin, but grew up in Natchez, and has now returned as an adult. He bases many of his books in Natchez.) and think it’s a fascinating, “Deep South” town. When Lisa shared her story we were even more intrigued. She’s one talented woman! As always, so glad you stopped by. I’m really enjoying your Monday Walks. 🙂 ~Terri

      • We first discovered him when we lived in Berlin – he wrote Spandau Phoenix. Then he moved his settings back to the US. A few years ago he was in a car wreck and lost his leg. He’s been going through a long rehab and only just now started writing again.

  13. Oh, I just love buildings with stories to tell. Thank you for sharing this one! Also, do you know Andra Watkins? She’s a blogger who recently walked the entire length of the Natchez Trace.

    • You’re welcome Jennie! Lisa and her house are full of stories! 🙂 And yes to Andra – I think it’s so cool that she walked the Trace. It’s quite an accomplishment. Btw, how’s the house selling going? ~Terri

  14. Pingback: Twist: Items that Caught My Attention | Zeebra Designs & Destinations

    • Thanks so much Madhu. We were so impressed with the work she had done – she made it look effortless. But since we’re renovators too, we knew the work that went into bringing the house back around. 🙂 ~Terri

  15. Oh, the memories!! I believe that my friends and I were the first official guests of The Bailey House – going by the smell of paint that was still tacky to the touch. We made fast friends with Lisa and my husband and I were married there – 17 years ago in September. The house was beautiful and so special to us. I will never forget the wonderful memories spent in the kitchen with her and Miss Margaret!! We truly felt like we were at home when we were there. We miss it all!

    • Sharon, that’s the most wonderful story! I found myself smiling all the way through it. And you were married there – that makes it extra special. 🙂 I am so glad that you stopped by to share this story and your memories. Did you know Lisa before your stay at the Bailey House? All the best, Terri

    • Oh my! I did a fast search to find this, and fondly appreciated your story again,, then with unhurried joy, scrolled through the comments. How beautiful it was to read Sharon’s comment! I often think of Sharon and Roe, who became great personal friends, and it was a joy when they were married there with that grand stained-glass window smiling down on us all….

      You’ll appreciate that I spent time with a geologist/volcanologist last month and learned enough in a day-trip around Chimborazo to earn a college credit or two!

      The property has changed owners, so I will be weaning back to more quality moments on WordPress. More soon! Z

      • It’s good to hear from you Lisa, and I hope that things are going well on your end. We loved your old Natchez house and we’re glad that our post brought back some fond memories for you. We know it must have been an incredible labor of love.

        And as your geologist friend probably told you, Ecuador, and in fact all of the west coast of S. America, is the perfect spot to observe and study earthquakes, volcanoes, and the underlying cause, plate tectonics. Mostly I’ve seen photos in textbooks, and I’m sure it must have been interesting to actually be able to see it in nature. Take care. ~James

      • si.. he mentioned ‘hurricane-force winds on chimborazo, and said that every single time he was up on cayambe, the hurricane-force winds all but blew him off… i cannot image doing that – those guys and gals are tough!

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