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Koontz House


The Koontz House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Koontz House (also known as Green Leaves, 303 South Rankin Street) is located on a high terrace at the southeast corner of the intersection of Rankin and Washington streets in Natchez. The Koontz House is a frame one-story Greek Revival residence raised on a tall brick foundation. The principal block, nearly square, is five bays wide, designed with a center-passage double-pile plan. A low hip roof covers the block, terminating at a lantern which admits light to the attic through narrow clerestory windows. Wings flank the center section and extend beyond the east elevation to form a spacious three-sided rear courtyard. The facade (west elevation) is faced with flush siding and further enriched by a Doric frieze with triglyphs, guttae, mutules, and metopes, which breaks out in the center bay to form a small entrance portico supported by fluted columns. A two-panel entrance door bordered by side lights and transom is contained in an elegant frontispiece designed with fluted engaged Ionic columns, antae, and entablature, richly carved in egg-and-dart, enriched talon, and waterleaf motifs. The pair of double-hung six-over-six windows flank the portico. Jibs below double-hung sash allow access to the iron galleries fronting each wing.

Although the double-pile plan of the Koontz House provides a somewhat static setting, the interior design of the house is notable for both its excellence and integrity. Door and window openings in the central passage and double parlors are framed by elaborate frontispieces designed with symmetrically molded pilasters with caps carved in egg-and-dart motif, wide friezes, and overhanging cornices with enriched-talon bed molds. In other, less formal, areas, only symmetrically molded trim and corner blocks are used. Five-panel doors are fitted with silver-plated hardware and were originally grained to imitate oak, a treatment that survives on the doors between the double parlors. Battered-and-eared marble chimney pieces, probably inspired by Lafever's The Beauties of Modern Architecture (1835), plate 46, are used in the parlors, while later-addition arched marble mantels with Rococo Revival cartouches furnish the two chambers opposite. A canvas-covered punkah that formerly hung in the dining room was seasonally exchanged for a cast-bronze chandelier, now permanently in place.

A service wing, situated north and east of the main house, is a multilevel assembly of galleries, a frame hyphen, and a two-story kitchen of seven-course common-bond brick. Although the wing has served principally as an outbuilding since the mid-nineteenth century, the kitchen was probably used as a residence prior to construction of the mansion house, its former use suggested by the presence of a fine pilastered chimney piece with fielded panels, five-part frieze, and returned cornice which remains in a second-floor chamber. Opposite the service wing is a one-story bedroom wing fronted by a large gallery extending from the main house. Added ca. 1850, the wing is artfully matched to the existing structure by use of identical moldings and similar chimney pieces, and by a faithful duplication of exterior materials, proportion, and architectural features.

Significance

Built ca. 1836, during the initial popularity of the Greek Revival style in Natchez during the 1830s, the Koontz House is significant for architectural excellence and integrity of interior design, which have, along with the grounds and the house contents, been carefully preserved by the family occupying it since 1849. The rich architectural detailing lavished on both interior and exterior transform the relatively simple structure into an encyclopaedic array of stylish motifs and correct re-creations of various Greek orders. In addition to its main architectural significance, the Koontz House retains an impressive collection of period decorative treatments and objects, which makes it one of the most valuable national documents of mid-nineteenth-century taste.

The Koontz House has long been associated with the Koontz family, residents of the house since 1849. Legal records and stylistic analysis indicate that the house was constructed for Edward P. Fourniquet, who had purchased the property in 1836 for $4,400 (Adams Co., Miss. Deed Book Y:328). Three years later the property was appraised at $20,000 (Tax Rolls, Adams Co., Miss., 1839). In 1849, it was acquired by George Washington Koontz, who had arrived in Natchez from Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1836. He became associated with locally prominent bankers, William and Audley Britton, brothers with whom he became a full partner in 1847. Since 1867, the partnership has been styled Britton and Koontz Bank, and continues in operation as one of the major financial institutions in the Natchez area.

Between 1849 and 1860, Koontz added a large bedroom wing to the main house to accommodate his eight children, and fitted the interior of his residence with the elegant appointments for which it is much admired. Gilded window cornices, for example, remain in the parlors, as does much of the Empire and Rococo Revival furniture placed there by an early resident. Floors are still covered with nineteenth century wall-to-wall carpet.

References

Adams County, Mississippi. Chancery Clerk. Deed Books C, L, O, V, Y, GG, LL. Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. Microfilm.

James, D. Clayton. Antebellum Natchez. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968.

Mississippi. Auditor. Real and Personal Tax Rolls, Adams Co. 1820, 1831, 1834, 1836, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1843, 1846, 1847, 1848, 1852.

United States. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules, Adams Co., Miss., 1830, 1840.

† William C. Allen and Mary Elizabeth McCahon, architectural historians, Koontz House, Adams County, Natchez, MS, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Koontz House Map

Street Names
Rankin Street South

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