September 29, 2012 6:19:17 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
It must have been quite a night, in late 1868, when Marcellus Hatch wagered his lovely Columbus home in a poker game. While there is no documented evidence to prove the story, legend has it that Hatch and Richard E. Moore had been gambling into the wee hours, when Hatch put up the house against Moore's Prairie plantation.
Unfortunately for Hatch, he was "sandbagged" by his opponent's pair of deuces, so the story goes, and the property known today as Baskerville Manor became the new home of Moore and his wife, Frances Swoope Moore, for a grand sum of $9,000.
Rachel Baskerville George enjoys sharing the story of how Moore, her ancestor, came to join the lineage of owners who have lived in the circa 1860 home on Third Avenue North. Now, it's her turn. This past week -- following a long period of restoration and renovation -- George truly became "mistress of the house," moving in and making it her primary residence.
She will share her home with visitors to Columbus' fifth annual Fall Tour of Homes Oct. 5-7. She joins eight more antebellum and Victorian cottages and mansions opening their doors to the public. Griffin-Eyrie, the Stephen D. Lee Home, Rosedale, Rosewood Manor and gardens, Summertime, Temple Heights, Waverley Plantation and White Arches are also featured.
Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau and Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation, said, "This is the only tour we do throughout the year that combines both antebellum and Victorian homes. It's a chance to enjoy historic Columbus against the backdrop of autumn."
By any other name
George's home may be best known to many as Hamilton Hall, named for Annie Hamilton, who purchased it in 1925.
The house built in two sections -- the back in the 1840s, the front by 1860 -- is considered a grand example of Italianate architecture. Its 9-foot-tall windows, delicate iron work, graceful curved overhangs, plus columns and arches are typical to the style.
As George moved from room to room, she shared stories of restoration and renovation and noted features such as solid brick walls ranging from 9- to 24-inches thick, heart pine floors, richly-hued walnut paneling and a "funeral niche," just across the foyer from the parlor's wedding alcove.
"This is a full service house," George quipped. "You could marry, have a baptism and be buried, all here."
On the walls, she showcases local and Southern artists. Those already represented include her own mother, as well as Judy Hanson, Elayne Goodman, Eugenia Summer, Ralph Null and Betty Stone. Stained glasswork by Columbus glass artisan Jane Crawford is featured throughout the house.
Much of the interior still bears the talented design and handwork done by former owner Eugenia Talbott Howard.
Bill Moss of Columbus did most of the faux finishes. Master Gardener Alice Lancaster of Columbus designed the new landscaping.
In the parlor
"I drove this here in a pickup truck from Macon when it came to live with me," said George, of a large portrait of Fannie Moore Harrison, a daughter of Richard E. and Frances Moore. It seems only fitting she hangs now in what was once her family's home. Beneath the portrait is a wooden fireplace mantle, original to the house and now painted with a faux marbled finish.
At the opposite end of the parlor flush with natural light is the wedding alcove, which has already been the site of a wedding since George acquired the house. At present it holds an 1875 rosewood square grand piano, made by Kranich & Bach in the rococo revival style.
Days of old
Baskerville Manor's rear section is thought to have served at one time as a tavern, where travelers on Military Road could change or rest horses and take respite in an ale or meal before going on their way. Unlike many antebellum homes, the original kitchen was attached to the house.
"That was because the whole house was made of brick, which reduced the risk of fire," noted George.
The carriage house is said to be the only one still standing in Columbus. It's floored with 8-inch thick square bricks.
"This will probably eventually be a bed and breakfast," said George, leading the way into a guest bedroom, which was once a stall for horses. Rocking chairs and an entertainment bar now sit in the breezeway, where carriages pulled through.
The original smokehouse is also still standing.
For George, moving into the home she's lived just a block away from most of her life -- a house she served many years ago in as Pilgrimage hostess, a house she watched go through stages of disrepair and revival as previous owners moved in or moved on -- has been a homecoming of sorts. Her father and mother had even considered the house back in the late 1950s. Five decades later, it is their daughter putting her personal stamp on the gracious home and opening its doors once again for visitors to enjoy.
Carpenter said, "We're so fortunate to have homeowners who share their beautiful homes with us. It's really exciting this year because we're hosting the tour amidst several other things going on in Columbus."
The weekend's activities include a national fishing tournament, the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival, a Mississippi University for Women theater performance and a free public gallery talk by floral designer and artist Ralph Null at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, among other events.
"There will be opportunities for everyone, whatever their interests may be. Our new CCVB branding says 'Columbus, The City that Has it All,' and that week is really an example of what that phrase means," Carpenter concluded.
How to go
Day and evening tours are available during the Fall Tour of Homes. Tickets are $18, or $15 for seniors and military personnel. Tickets for students K-12 are $10.
Rosedale, the S.D. Lee Home, Baskerville Manor, White Arches, Rosewood Manor, Griffin-Eyrie Home and Temple Heights are open for varying tour times Oct. 5.
On Oct. 6, Baskerville Manor, Summertime, Rosewood Manor, Waverley Plantation, Temple Heights and Rosedale are open at various times.
On Oct. 7, from 2-5 p.m., Waverley Plantation and Summertime will host tours.
Purchase tickets at the CCVB office at 117 Third St. S. or call 800-920-3533.
Complimentary coffee and pastries will be served at the CCVB office Saturday, Oct. 6, from 8 a.m. to noon. The Tennessee Williams Home at 300 Main St. will also be open to visitors.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.