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Ravennaside


Ravennaside 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

Ravennaside (601 South Union Street), located on approximately three acres at the corner of South Union Street and Ravenna Lane, is a Neo-Classical residence with an irregular configuration. The two-story wooden structure features a tiled hip roof and two porticoes. The north (front) facade has two-story wooden Ionic columns supporting a pediment with demilune light. The semicircular west portico has five columns and is crowned by a balustrade. The facades are separated by a three-story octagonal tower surmounted by a balustrade. A balcony wraps around the angled walls of the tower, crosses the north facade, and continues around the east side of the building, where one-story columns are used for support. The lower gallery measures 120 feet in length. The massive frontispiece contains two full-size oak doors with round-arch panels inset with beveled glass. Round-arch side lights frame the doors and are set beneath an oval fanlight with narrow muntins radiating from the center. Slender Ionic columns support the dentiled entablature, and the hardware is silverplated. The exterior has not been altered, although in the process of restoration some of the fabric required stripping, repairing, and/or replacement. The original architectural character of Ravennaside has been respected, however. The floor of the lower gallery, for example, was replaced with wood of the same type and thickness.

The Ravennaside floor plan is typical of houses of the period, with wide expanses of space divided by sliding paneled wooden doors. Opposite the entry is the stairwell, with broad steps leading to a landing before continuing to the second floor. From the landing a balcony projects into the library, now called the Trace Room. The rectangular paneled newel post of the stairway supports an original Art Nouveau statue of a female form with a swag containing electrical bulbs. Spiral posts of oak are an integral part of the stairway design and originally supported spandrels of curved wooden fretwork. Oak millwork ornamented with carved oak leaves is a major feature throughout the house. In the restoration, layers of white paint were removed from the woodwork to reveal the natural finish. A scenic window set into the chimney is of exceptional quality. It is not signed and no documentation is known to exist, but comparable windows in Natchez were done by the Tiffany Studios in New York City. Brass sconces with flame shades flanking the window are original, as is the hanging brass lantern suspended in the doorway to the library. The brick chimney was originally natural in color but was later painted white. The door to the east veranda has an excellent stained-glass transom and panel in its upper portion.

The parlor/music room is west (right) of the entrance room and large enough to be a ballroom. The pinwheel-design parquet floor with its geometric sections of maple and oak is notable. The west end of the room is angled to form the exterior walls of the octagonal tower. Double-hung windows with single panes are incorporated into the angles. The white marble mantle is adorned with a carved fruit-filled basket and cornucopias. Delicate gilded plasterwork ornaments the ceiling where the crystal chandelier is suspended. Since the furnishings are white and gold, the room is called the Gold Room. The dining room is to the rear of the Gold Room, separated from it by a hallway and furnished with the original golden oak suite. East of the dining room and south of the entry is the library, the dominant feature of which is the photomurals of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Architectural elements include a Palladian window on the east wall, a balcony suspended from the stairwell, and a mantelpiece with Ionic columns and surround of green tile with bas relief details. Butler's pantry, breezeway, and kitchen complete the floor plan of the main level. The butler's pantry is of special interest because of the strip map of the Natchez Trace Parkway mounted on the wall. The breezeway separates the butler's pantry from the kitchen, which has been modernized. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a sitting room, in addition to hallways, dressing rooms, and bathrooms. Each of the bedrooms has a mantelpiece faced with tile, and the master bedroom has a niche with a marble lavabo.

Adjacent to the house is an octagonal greenhouse with the year 1907 on the step. A barn, blacksmith shop, and cottage on the rear grounds are older than Ravennaside and are associated with the history of Ravenna, the adjoining property.

Significance

Ravennaside is an outstanding example of Neo-Classical residential architecture, complete with original furnishings on the main level. It is also noteworthy as the former home of Roane Fleming Byrnes (1890-1970), internationally known for her promotion of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Ravennaside was built by Mrs. Byrnes' parents, Anna Metcalfe Fleming and James S. Fleming, on land acquired by Anna's father in 1884 (Adams Co., Miss., Deed Book 22:9). The site adjoins the property of Ravenna (ca. 1837), home of the Metcalfe family since 1857. Roane, eldest child of Anna and James, was twelve in 1902 when her family moved from Ravenna into their new house, Ravennaside. In 1917 Roane married Charles Ferriday Byrnes, and they lived with her parents and brother at Ravennaside. In 1943 Mrs. Byrnes inherited the house, which she occupied until her death in 1970.

Mrs. Byrnes became associated with the Mississippi Natchez Trace Association in 1934 and served as president of the organization from 1935 until a few months before her death. On behalf of the Trace, she wrote letters, sent telegrams, entertained whatever she felt was necessary to promote the Natchez Trace Parkway on local, state, national, and international levels. She was recognized in 1936 for her efforts toward getting a $500,000 bill for right-of-way purchases through the Mississippi legislature. On May 13, 1938, the Natchez Trace Parkway became a permanent part of the National Park Service. The pen used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign the bill into law was sent to Mrs. Byrnes and kept in the Trace Room at Ravennaside. The American Association for State and Local History selected Mrs. Byrnes for an Award of Merit in 1966. The citation read: "For the leadership that led to the creation and development of the Natchez Trace Parkway of the National Park Service."

Mrs. Byrnes was also active in the areas of historic preservation and race relations. She was a charter member of the Natchez Garden Club (1929) and promoted the tour of homes which evolved into the annual Natchez Pilgrimage. She was instrumental in the preservation of Connelly's Tavern, the Priest House, and Lawyers' Lodge. For a woman of her time and place, Mrs. Byrnes was advanced in her view of racial harmony. She made frequent contributions to black churches and worked with the Negro Civic and Business League in Natchez to finance a community center for young blacks. In 1960 she called on her fellow citizens to support the Mary Lynch Fund, which sponsored a young black woman in the Ninth International Games for the Deaf in Helsinki. Mrs. Byrnes stated her philosophy: "I hate those words communism, integration, and segregation. I like the word, friendship. That's what we are working for" (Buck Peden, "Down the Middle," Natchez Times, Mar. 19, 1961). At Mrs. Byrnes' funeral service in 1970, black and white members of the clergy formed the cortege.

Ravennaside was inherited by George Lawrence Adams, who sold it in 1973 to the present [1979] owner (Deed Book 12N:479). They have opened the house to visitors, who are made aware of its significance as the former home of Roane Fleming Byrnes. The contribution of the Neo-Classical structure to the local built environment is also apparent, for the architectural heritage of Natchez did not end, as sometimes seems the case in Pilgrimage publicity, with the War Between the States. There are numerous late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings which, like Ravennaside, are unique and eclectic, finished and furnished as superb examples of their time.

References

Adams Co., Miss. Deed Books 12N, ZZ.

Crocker, Mary Wallace. Inspection of Ravennaside, Natchez, Miss., May,1978.

Jackson, Miss. Department of Archives and History, Statewide Survey File, Ravennaside.

Keating, Bern. "Today Along the Natchez Trace," National Geographic 134:641-667.

Peden, Buck. "Down the Middle," Natchez Times, Mar. 19, 1961.

Prevost, Verbie. "Roane Fleming Byrnes: A Critical Biography," Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Miss., 1974.

† Mary Wallace Crocker, Professor, Memphis State University, Ravennaside, Adams County, Natchez, MS, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Ravennaside Map

Street Names
Union Street South

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