Arlington is a historic Federal-style house located in Natchez, Mississippi. According to tradition, Arlington was built by John Hampton White, a New Jersey native, and constructed for his wife, Jane Surget White. It is believed by scholars to have been built about 1819-1820. The design of the house, while not documented, has been attributed to Levi Weeks, the architect of Auburn (ca.1812) in Natchez. The style introduced at Auburn was interpreted in a slightly different way at Arlington to create the second of the grand column mansions for which Natchez is known.
The land was originally purchased by a wealthy Natchez planter, Lewis Evans, in 1806. Evans established a plantation and built a house on the property. In 1814, he sold a portion of the property that included the house to Johnathan Thompson, a land speculator. Deed records indicate Thompson owned the property from 1814 to 1818. Thompson sold Arlington in December of 1818 to Jane Surget White, the daughter of a wealthy French immigrant. John Hampton White died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1819. Jane Surgent White died in 1825.
The main house is a large two-story red brick structure with a partial basement. Marble features can be found throughout the house including the front porch, window trim, and porch steps. The floor plan is composed of a grand central hall opening from front to back, flanked by two rooms on each side, with a staircase located in a secondary hall between two of the rooms. This same floor plan is also seen at Rosalie (ca. 1820) and Melrose (ca. 1845), among others. Antebellum alterations include the rear gallery with the necessary roof extension, several marble Greek Revival mantles, and a cast-iron porch on the east service entrance. Bathrooms were added around 1920.
Arlington has remained in the same family for the last 80 years, most recently inherited by Dr. Vaughn of Gulfport from his late mother. For the most part, the doctor has been an absentee owner. A disastrous fire swept through Arlington in September of 2002, destroying the roof and portions of the second floor. The fire was attributed to a spiderweb of electrical extension cords at the rear of the second floor.
As soon as the fire marshall allowed, professionals from the Historic Natchez Foundation and the National Park Service worked alongside dozens of private citizens to salvage furnishings and pack draperies, antiques, and thousands of books. The waterlogged books were quickly moved to local meat freezers around town. A National Park Service grant from the Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiative paid for the freeze-drying of the historic volumes, most of which were then donated to the Mississippi Department of Archives & History and NPS where they have joined a collection of historic volumes from other nearby homes. Once the freeze-drying was complete, an army of volunteers cleaned the books under the direction of a paper conservator and cataloged them into the park’s collections. Luckily before the fire, a priceless collection of correspondence discovered in an attic trunk at Arlington about the slave trade was removed and sent to the University of North Carolina.
The roof on Arlington was replaced after the fire through the efforts of the Historic Natchez Foundation even though they were unsure if they were ever going to recoup the funds from the owner. It was thought an eventual restoration would happen after the fire by Dr. Vaughn, if not immediately, then within a reasonable period of time. However, that never happened. One issue is that he did not have adequate insurance on the house when it burned. Arlington has since suffered from vandalism and continues to deteriorate. Following the fire, a lawsuit was filed by the Natchez Preservation Commission. In 2009, the City of Natchez took Dr. Vaughn to court for demolition by neglect. Judge Jim Blough fined him only $559 for all of their efforts. Today, the house remains abandoned and legal issues allow the owner to let this National Historic Landmark continue to rot.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your support. Please share the blog with your friends.
If you would like to receive the Abandoned Southeast blog in your email, you can sign up on the main page. For more of my work, please check out my books available through Amazon.