Monday, August 15, 2022

Anchuca Mansion: The Grande Dame of Vicksburg’s Old Springfield

Photo by Michael Barrett
Photo by Michael Barrett

At 185 years old, she has never looked better.

One of the few Vicksburg properties to fully withstand the Civil War’s infamous siege in 1863, the Anchuca Mansion will celebrate yet another milestone this year – she has been open to the public for 60 years, making her one of the river city’s most oldest and valued attractions.

“It’s the first tour home in Vicksburg. On November 29, a Tuesday in 1955, the house was opened,” said Tom Pharr, who co-owns the home with Chef Chris Brinkley. Pharr had worked at the home during his high school and college years.

“It gave direction to my life even though I didn’t realize it,” Pharr said.

Anchuca has a rich history, much of it happening during the difficult years of the Civil War. The home was built in 1830 by local politician J. W. Mauldin and was modified in 1847 by local coal and ice merchant, Victor Wilson, who added the feature that gave Anchuca it’s characteristically antebellum identity: the front columns.

“From the early 1840s on, Anchuca was the first house to ever be described with masonry columns,” Pharr said.

During the war, the home became a hospital to care for those injured during the violence that fell upon the city. Its most notable inhabitant was Joseph Emory Davis, who occupied it in the post-war years until his death in 1870. Davis was the older brother and father figure to Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy.

Tours are given at Anchuca, which operates as a bed and breakfast, offering two opulent suites and two smaller rooms in the main house plus four guest rooms in the carriage house located on the grounds. A full menu and ample wine list at Anchuca Cafe provide on-site dining, including a full breakfast for guests.

Overnight guests can choose to sleep in the room where Davis lived and died. Lavish period furnishings, including a lush canopied bed, antique divan and period drapery feel like a step back in time.

Visitors can enjoy a view from the balcony reported to be the spot where Jefferson Davis, while on a visit with his brother in 1869, is reputed to have last publicly addressed the people of Vicksburg.

Guests can indulge to their heart’s content in the home’s library, filled with books on local and military history. Pharr has a keen eye to celebrate the days of old while still honoring the artistic and social progress of Vicksburg.

Tours are given at Anchuca, which operates as a bed and breakfast, offering two opulent suites and two smaller rooms in the main house, plus four guest rooms in the carriage house located on the grounds. A full menu and ample wine list at Anchuca Cafe provide on-site dining, including a full breakfast for guests. Overnight guests can choose to sleep in the room where Davis lived and died. Lavish period furnishings, including a lush canopied bed, antique divan and period drapery feel like a step back in time. Photos by Michael Barrett
Tours are given at Anchuca, which operates as a bed and breakfast, offering two opulent suites and two smaller rooms in the main house, plus four guest rooms in the carriage house located on the grounds. A full menu and ample wine list at Anchuca Cafe provide on-site dining, including a full breakfast for guests. Overnight guests can choose to sleep in the room where Davis lived and died. Lavish period furnishings, including a lush canopied bed, antique divan and period drapery feel like a step back in time.
Photos by Michael Barrett

Paintings by the late William Tolliver, whose work exhibits at the Smithsonian and who Pharr describes as a native son of Vicksburg, hang on the mansion’s walls. He also displays art by Tolliver relative and current working artist, Kenneth Humphrey. Both are African-American painters, whose work may seem out of place in a home that formerly housed Confederate leaders, but in Vicksburg, the past and present coexist in ways that create distinctive character. “It’s not something you’d expect in these formally decorated rooms, but it is the heart and soul of the community,” Pharr said.

As with most places situated on the Mississippi River, cultures have mixed.

“It is not black, white, rich, poor, it’s simply an American place, and a place people must visit to understand and enjoy,” Pharr said. He explains how the neighborhood was inhabited by people of Irish, African, eastern European and Lebanese descent.

“It’s a melting pot of ethnic and socio-economic diversity,” Pharr said. “We’ve got young couples now and young professionals. We’ve got a new generation really appreciating the old neighborhood. Yes, you have Anchuca, but you also have the little cottages across the street.”

Photo by Michael Barrett
Photo by Michael Barrett

Pharr believes so much in the neighborhood that he undertook a unique project as an investment in the area.

“It’s the first new construction in the neighborhood in 85 years,” he said, of the 6,000-square-foot home he built just across the street from the Anchuca property, a house he calls Springfield. Pharr saved most of the historic home that sat blocks away, relocated its parts and pieces and reworked them into what he calls a “new old house.”

The original home was built in the 19th century and stood at 1831 Cherry St. until its future seemed to be in danger and Pharr, aided by a few other investors, came to the rescue.

“It was important that the house retain its original appearance,” Pharr said. “The cypress siding, doors, windows, hinges, shutters and columns are all from the original house.”

Bill Seratt, the executive director of Vicksburg’s tourism entity, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said Pharr well understands the importance of antebellum architecture and the role these homes play in continuing Vicksburg’s legacy.

“Anchuca is among the finest bed and breakfast inns in the country,” he said. “We look forward to the next 60 years.”

For Pharr, it is all about what this history contributes to the lives of people today – and part of that lies in aesthetics – part of it lies in economic impact.

“It’s been an economic anchor,” he said of the 60 years Anchuca has employed room attendants, front desk people, wait staff and others who are drawn from the local community. Some, like Pharr, began as dishwashers or housekeepers. Some have gone on to become pastry chefs and general managers of upscale hotels. For this innkeeper though, the investments in neighborhood people are just as important as the bricks and mortar of an area he loves so much.

Want to go?

The Anchuca Mansion, located at 1010 First East St., Vicksburg. For more information or to make reservations, visit the website or call (888) 686-0111. Sunday brunch hours at Cafe Anchuca are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and tapas are served Monday through Saturday from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

First published in Legends Magazine. Written by Kara Martinez Bachman, photos by Michael Barrett

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