The Burn 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.
The Burn (712 North Union Street) is situated on a high knoll rising from the western side of North Union Street in the northern suburbs of the old town area of Natchez. The Burn is a story-and-a-half frame Greek Revival house set upon a brick basement half raised in the front and fully raised in the rear. The gabled roof is pierced by four inside end brick chimneys, and by two gabled dormers on the front slope, and a large shed dormer on the rear slope, added ca. 1940. The easterly facade is a five-bay composition. The weatherboarded end bays are defined by pilasters with applied rectilinear bands of Grecian design resting upon a wide molded base and supporting an elaborately enriched full entablature of the Greek Doric order. The base and the entablature break forward before the three plastered central bays to define a pedimented portico supported by fluted Greek Doric columns. The columns are linked by a railing of rectangular sectioned balusters with richly molded hand and base rails. The portico is adorned by molded panels set into the soffit of the entablature and by a thermal window set into the matched boards of the tympanum.
The windows of the plastered front section are set above molded panels, and the plastered wall is finished with a molded base with two fasciae that matches the bases of the first floor interior and the upstairs hall. All windows of the house contain six-over-six double-hung sash and are closed by shutter blinds. The entrance consists of a full entablature supported by attached half-round fluted columns and pilasters. The single-leaf eight-panel molded door is surrounded by a transom and side lights set over molded panels.
The interior design of The Burn is a double-pile central-hall plan. Door and window surrounds have two fasciae and molded architraves, and windows are set over molded panels. Rooms on the northerly side of the house are separated by sliding doors carrying full entablatures supported by symmetrically molded pilasters that are elaborations of the door and window architraves. All rooms except the southerly front room have original wooden mantels with attached half-round Greek Doric columns supporting entablatures. The southerly front room has a mid-nineteenth-century mantel with cartouche. The four main downstairs rooms have original elaborate plaster ceiling pieces. Cornices of an earlier period design, chair railing in the dining room, and an upstairs ceiling piece, however, are later additions.
The outstanding architectural feature of The Burn is the staircase, which rises in a short straight flight along the southerly hall wall before making a graceful half-circular turn through space to terminate in the upstairs hall. The newel is composed of a series of turned balusters, and the stair is adorned with ornamental brackets. Upstairs, the four bedrooms and the portico room have two-panel molded doors, architrave door and window surrounds, and simply beaded bases. The front two bedrooms have wooden architrave mantelpieces, while the larger rear bedrooms have finer pilastered mantelpieces.
A partially enclosed original service stair leads from the upstairs hall to the double-tiered rear gallery, which is entered from the main floor by a frontispiece doorway identical to the front. The upper gallery has been enclosed and extended on the end bays but remains open across the central bays, where it is supported by original round Doric columns. A double flight of stairs, not original, leads to the ground-level gallery, which is supported by brick piers. The raised basement is divided into four rooms, all extensively renovated. One room appears to have served originally as a winter kitchen. An original brick two-story hipped-roof outbuilding has been converted into guest accommodations. The second-story gallery of the four-room building was originally connected to the main house by a railed walk to the second-story rear gallery of the latter.
The Burn, a beautifully detailed and proportioned suburban structure, is the oldest documented Greek Revival residence in Natchez. (Britton and Koontz First National Bank, originally The Agricultural Bank, constructed in 1833, is the earliest documented Greek Revival building. An 1832 date attributed to the front of Richmond has not been substantiated.)
The Burn was constructed in 1834 (Clarence A. Walworth, The Walworths of America [Albany, New York: Weed-Parsons Printing Co., 1897], p.129) as the residence of John P. Walworth, wealthy planter, merchant, banker, and politician (Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi [Chicago: The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891], II, 981). The builder of the house was the firm of Montgomery and Keys (spelled variously as Keyes), which, in an 1837 proposal (subsequently adopted) to erect the west wing and the west kitchen of the National Register of Historic Places property Historic Jefferson College, suggested that the college board members take a "squint" at the Walworth house in the northern part of the city for an example of the firm's work (Jefferson College papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Z59, folder 69).
John P. Walworth was born in Aurora, New York, in 1798, and came to Natchez by way of Cleveland, Ohio (Walworth, pp. 129-30) in 1819 (Memoirs, II, 981). His first job was as a clerk in the Natchez post office (Ibid.) but by 1825 he and his brother Horace had established their own mercantile business in Natchez (The Ariel, Nov. 7, 1825, p.7). In 1827, Walworth married Sarah Wren, daughter of Woodsen Wren, an early Natchez postmaster and organizer of Masonic lodges in Mississippi (Natchez Daily Courier, Apr. 10, 1855, p.2). In 1833, Walworth became president of The Planters' Bank. Later he served Natchez as mayor and alderman (Memoirs, II, 981). By 1860, Walworth had accumulated real estate valued at $300,000 and personal property at $26,000 (Population Schedules, Adams Co., Miss., 1860, p.31), making him one of the wealthiest men in Adams County. Listed in the 1860 census as a planter, his working plantations were located across the Mississippi River in Louisiana and Arkansas (Memoirs, II, 981).
According to family tradition, The Burn received its historic name at the time of its construction. The Scottish word for "brook" was chosen because a small brook originally flowed through the property (Alice Walworth Graham, great-granddaughter of John P. Walworth, interviewed by Mary Warren Miller, research consultant, at Natchez, Feb. 12, 1979). An 1881 deed is the first legal reference to the house by its historic name (Adams Co., Miss., Deed Book XX;136). According to the 1864 map of the defenses of Natchez, The Burn was located within Fort McPherson, the Union fortification in Natchez, and family tradition maintains that the house was used as a Union hospital during the war (Graham). Photographs of the house taken during the Union occupation of Natchez show Union soldiers on the porch (Mr. and Mrs. Reuben L. Harper, The Burn, Natchez, Miss.).
After the deaths of John Walworth and his wife, The Burn became the property of their son, Douglas, who was adjutant general to William T. Martin, Confederate general from Natchez, with whom he was also associated in a law practice (Memoirs, II, 981). Douglas Walworth was a state legislator in 1859-60 (Ibid.) and served many years as editor of The Daily Democrat in Natchez (The Daily Democrat, Jan. 3, 1893, p.2). His antebellum mansion, Elmo, was seized by the Union army, converted to a Negro school, and eventually destroyed by fire (Graham). The Burn remained in the Walworth family until 1935 (Deed Book 4T:244). In 1978, the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Reuben L. Harper (Deed Book 13Z:412), who have undertaken extensive renovation of the house and grounds.
[The Burn is now a Bed and Breakfast and included in the Natchez Pilgrimage tour.]
Adams Co., Miss. Chancery Clerk. Deed Books XX, 4T, 13Z.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1891.
Graham, Alice Walworth, great-granddaughter of John P. Walworth. Interviewed by Mary Warren Miller, private consultant, at Natchez, Feb. 12, 1979.
Jackson. Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Jefferson College papers.
Natchez Daily Courier, Apr. 10, 1855.
The Ariel [Natchez], Nov. 7, 1825.
The Daily Democrat [Natchez], Jan. 3, 1893.
United States. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules, Adams Co., Miss., 1830-1860.
Walworth, Clarence A. The Walworths in America. Albany, New York: Weed-Parsons Printing Co., 1897.
† Mary Warren Miller, consultant, The Burn, Adams County, Mississippi, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.