||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (May 2009)|
|Location||Claiborne County, Mississippi|
|Nearest city||Port Gibson, Mississippi|
|Area||2.1 acres (0.85 ha)|
|Governing body||Mississippi Department of Archives and History|
|NRHP Reference #||71000447|
|Added to NRHP||November 23, 1971|
|Designated USMS||October 11, 1985|
The Windsor Ruins are in Claiborne County in the U.S. state of Mississippi, about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Port Gibson near Alcorn State University. The ruins are those of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion built in the state, and have been used in various motion pictures.
The original name of the property has been lost, however it is commonly known today as Windsor, or Windsor Ruins, a name derived from the sound of the wind whistling through the columns. At one time the plantation covered 2,600 acres (11 km2). Smith Coffee Daniell II, who was born in Mississippi in 1826, the son of an Indian fighter turned farmer and landowner, constructed the mansion itself in 1859-1861. In 1849 he married his cousin Catherine Freeland (1830–1903) by whom he had seven children, three of whom survived into adulthood.
Basic construction of the house, which was designed by David Shroder (Shroder also designed and built Rosswood, which is located in Lorman) was done by slave labor. The bricks for use in the 45-foot columns were made in a kiln across the road from the house. The columns were then covered with mortar and plaster. There were 29 of these columns supporting the projecting roof line with its plain, broad frieze and molded cornice. This provided protection for the galleries that encompassed the house at the second and third levels. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals and were joined at the galleries by an ornamental iron balustrade.
Skilled carpenters were brought in from New England for the finished woodwork. The iron stairs, column capitals and balustrades were manufactured in St. Louis and shipped down the Mississippi River to the Port of Bruinsburg, several miles west of Windsor.
The mansion cost about $175,000 (equal to $4,593,426 today) to build and was completed in 1861. However Smith Daniell lived in the home only a few weeks before he died at the age of 34.
When completed, Windsor contained over 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace. Among other innovations, the mansion featured interior baths supplied with water from a tank in the attic.
On the main floor (the second floor), flanking the broad hall, were the master bedroom, a bath, two parlors, a study and the library. In the ell off this part of the structure was located the dining room. Directly below in the above-ground basement (the first floor) was the kitchen, with the two connected by a dumbwaiter. Also in this basement were a school room, an on-site dairy, several storage rooms, a commissary and a doctor's office.
On the third floor were an additional bath and nine more bedrooms.
Above the smaller fourth floor (which had a ballroom, but was never finished) was a roof-top observatory.
During the American Civil War, the home was used by both Union and Confederate troops.
Confederate forces used the roof observatory as an observation platform and signal station. After the capture of the area by Union forces, the mansion was used as a hospital following the Battle of Port Gibson and as an observation station.
On 17 February 1890, a guest left a lighted cigar on a balcony (it is also said that someone dropped a cigar or cigarette in a pile of wood chips left by carpenters working on the 3rd floor). The family said the fire started around 3:00 in the afternoon. Having planned a seated dinner, they had gone into town to pick up the mail. As they were riding back, they saw flames shooting through the shingled roof. The fire burned from top to bottom making it impossible to extinguish, and the house was completely destroyed in the conflagration.
The only remnants today are 23 haunting columns, a few pieces of china, and a set of the wrought-iron stairs and portions of the balustrade. The flight of stairs and the balustrade are now used at Alcorn State University's chapel down the road.
Near Windsor, atop an Indian mound, is a cemetery where members of the family have been buried since the early 19th century. The earliest grave is that of Frisby Freeland, an American Revolutionary War soldier.
Windsor's ruins have appeared in several motion pictures including the 1957 film Raintree County starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and most recently in the 1996 movie Ghosts of Mississippi with Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin and James Woods.
Also in the nearby area are the site of the town of Rodney, Mississippi, the Shaifer House, and the Bethel Presbyterian Church, founded in 1826. The ghost town of Rocky Springs, Mississippi is also nearby, which has only one building standing and that is the church.
The actual appearance of the mansion has been mainly conjecture since the original plans, along with all of the Daniell family photographs and drawings, were destroyed in the fire. However, in 1991, historians discovered a drawing by Henry Otis Dwight, an officer in the 20th Ohio Infantry, made while his unit was encamped on the grounds of the home. It is thought that Windsor was the first mansion Union troops encountered following Grant's crossing of the river in May 1863 in his effort to cut off Vicksburg from the south.
Windsor Ruins were added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 23, 1971 and are administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's Division of Historic Sites and Archaeology.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Windsor Ruins.|
- Windsor Plantation - History and visiting information
- Claiborne County listings at National Register of Historic Places