Upriver Residential Historic District
The Upriver Residential Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. 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 Upriver Residential Historic District is located in the old northern suburban area of Natchez. The Upriver Residential Historic District, which is principally late nineteenth and early twentieth century in character, was developed on the sub-divided grounds of pre-Civil War suburban villa estates like The Burn, Riverview, The Towers, Airlie, Cottage Gardens, The Wigwam, Shadyside, and Melmont. The southern boundary of the Upriver Residential Historic District is basically formed by Monroe Street, the northern boundary street of the Natchez On-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District, a district based on the late eighteenth century Spanish plan of the old town. The western boundary of the Upriver Residential Historic District is primarily formed by the bluff edge and the eastern boundary of the Clifton Heights Historic District, a late nineteenth century corporate subdivision of Clifton, a suburban estate destroyed during the Civil War. The eastern boundary of the Upriver Residential Historic District is Pine Street, which is also the eastern boundary of the Natchez On-Top-of-the-Hill Historic District, and the northern boundary is formed by Elm Street/Bishop Street except in the area of development around Shadyside, which is located slightly to the north of Elm Street/Bishop Street and to the east of Pine Street. Although the western and southern boundaries are basically determined by boundaries of adjoining National Register districts, the northern and eastern boundaries are determined by the changing character of the development to the north and east of the Upriver Residential Historic District. This changing character is clearly illustrated on a city tax map by the overall increase in housing density as indicated by the decreasing lot size north and east of the district boundaries.
The Upriver Residential Historic District occupies an undulating terrain and is not intersected by the deep bayous, or ravines, so common to other areas of the city. Areas of high elevation are principally the house sites of the pre-Civil War suburban villa residences like Airlie, Riverview, The Burn, The Towers, and the Wigwam.
The streets of the Upriver Residential Historic District are fairly regular south of Oak Street, but they become more irregularly laid out in the northern part of the district. No formal street planting of trees exists within the Upriver Residential Historic District, but most of the streets draw abundant shade from randomly placed street trees and from large trees located in the yards of the houses. The lower income neighborhoods located at the southern end of North Rankin Street, North Wall Street, Reynolds Street, and Maple Street have very little street shade as the houses border the streets and have little yard space in front or between.
The structural density of the streets with fine, large residences is characteristically lower than the structural density of the low income neighborhoods that contain tenant houses. The structural density of the Upriver Residential District has remained unchanged in the upper income areas but the structural density of the lower income neighborhood areas has declined as older tenant houses have been allowed to deteriorate and to be demolished. The facade lines in the areas with finer dwellings are further back from the street with the houses being positioned approximately twenty to thirty feet from the curb. The facade lines in the lower neighborhoods characteristically abut the street. The buildings within the Upriver Residential Historic District are almost all residential, although one factory, three churches, a public school, a former hospital, and a handful of small commercial buildings are located within the district boundaries.
The open spaces within the Upriver Residential Historic District are limited to the large expanses of lawn that surround some of the villa residences and larger houses and to the few vacant lots. The parking lots within the boundaries are associated only with the churches. The yards of the larger houses are well kept but have no formal gardens.
The primary building period of the Upriver Residential Historic District is from 1886 to 1925. The majority of the buildings are in the Queen Anne or Colonial Revival style, and they range from being outstanding examples of these styles to simple cottages with representative design elements. The Bungalow residences in the Upriver Residential Historic District are not outstanding but are good representative examples of the style. Other distinct architectural styles represented in the building inventory are the Federal style, Greek Revival style, Italianate style, Gothic Revival style, and the Spanish Colonial Revival style.
Almost all of the contributing residential elements in the Upriver Residential Historic District are constructed of wood. About half of the pivotal pre-Civil War suburban villa residences are constructed of brick, but only a very few of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival residences are brick. Most of the intrusive elements in the district have been rendered intrusive due to incompatible and unsympathetic brick veneering. Most of the plainer cottages derive some ornamentation, as do the more lavish buildings, from the inclusion of a railed porch with turned or rectangular-sectioned balusters, brackets, spindle friezes, and ornamental posts or columns. Fish-scale shingles are widely used on the gable-end of gabled projections. Other ornamentation derives from weathervanes, applied wooden decoration like sunbursts, leaded and stained glass, iron fencing, and semi-circular, oval, or circular lights in gable ends. The majority of the houses are painted white but a few are painted in varying shades of yellow, green, and peach.
Alterations within the Upriver Residential Historic District have been minimal. Most alterations have occurred as the result of deterioration of ornamental porch detail. Queen Anne cottages frequently appear to have replacement millwork, like new box columns instead of the appropriate turned posts, or they suffer from obviously missing millwork like railings. The larger houses of the Upriver Residential Historic District tend to be in good condition in almost all neighborhoods of the district, but the smaller tenant houses, few of which are owner occupied, are endangered due to their poor condition. The intrusions within the Upriver Residential Historic District boundaries are the result, with few exceptions, of unsympathetic remodeling with brick veneer.
The Upriver Residential Historic District represents one of the most architecturally and historically significant collections of mid-nineteenth century, late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century residences in Mississippi. This architectural significance is based on the high degree of architectural finish exhibited by many of the district elements, on their individual architectural integrity, and on the overall integrity of the individual neighborhoods that make up the district. Shadyside (107 Shadyside Street) and The Burn (712 North Union Street) are outstanding examples of the Greek Revival style. The Wigwam (307 Oak Street) and The Towers (801 Maple Street) are the city's best pre-Civil War examples of the Italianate style. The pre-Civil War, or possibly "bellum," residence at 611 North Union Street is one of the city's few residential expressions of Gothic Revival. Outstanding and individually significant examples of the Queen Anne style are 508 North Union Street and the eclectic residences at 801, 803, and 805 North Union Street. The John Dicks House (802 North Union Street), Mississippi's only residence by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White with Sidney Stratton as architect, is one of the most outstanding Colonial Revival buildings in the state. Good institutional architecture is represented by Carpenter School Number 1 (700 North Union Street) by Chattanooga architect Reuben Harris Hunt and the city's only significant factory building is the Natchez Pecan Shelling building (512 Broadway Street) at the southwest corner of the district. The small frame tenant houses in the neighborhoods of Maple Street, Madison Street, Mulberry Alley, and North Wall Street were constructed in the late nineteenth century as housing for the employees of the Rosalie Cotton Mill and the Natchez Cotton Mill and are the surviving few of many such small residences. They serve as the only tangible reminders of a textile industry once hoped to be the answer to the city's declining economic prosperity after the Civil War. The interspersing in the Upriver Residential District of the large fine houses of the middle to upper class citizenry of the city with the small tenant houses that line the adjacent street or alley may seem peculiar but is a housing pattern typical of Natchez, where the employees who worked in the houses lived in close proximity. Many of the smaller tenant houses that once lined the streets in other areas of the city have virtually disappeared, and this particular housing pattern survives most intact in the Upriver Residential Historic District. The district further abounds in good representative examples of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival cottages and Bungalows. The listing of the Upriver Residential District on the National Register should be instrumental in halting the decline of the neighborhood and in insuring the preservation of the smaller tenant houses that are rapidly disappearing from the streets of Natchez. Many of the larger houses have already been converted into apartments and most of the smaller houses are not owner occupied, so the tax incentives for preservation should encourage a renewed interest in this architecturally significant area of Natchez.
Mary Warren Miller, preservation consultant with the Historic Natchez Foundation Inspection of Upriver Residential District, November through July 1983.
† Mary Warren Miller, Historic Natchez Foundation, Upriver Residential District, Adams County, Natchez, MS, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.