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Frozen in Time: The Broken Dreams of Nutt’s Folly

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The Magnolia State is known for its elegant antebellum homes with displays of lavish pre-Civil War wealth, but none is more haunting and heartbreaking than the home historians refer to as the broken home of Mississippi or Nutt’s Folly.

Developed in Natchez, one of the oldest settlements on the Mississippi River, the Longwood Plantation home was built with one million bricks and showcases the classic architecture of the 19th century, a time when more millionaires lived and had businesses in Natchez than anywhere else in the country.

And while the mansion has a glamorous exterior, the 30,000 square foot, five-floor home with 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, and 96 columns remains unfinished today. Dr. Haller Nutt, an extremely rich owner of several cotton plantations, hired famed Philadelphia, Penn. architect Samuel Sloan to build his masterpiece in 1860. This remarkable structure, which holds the unofficial title of the largest octagonal-shaped house in the United States, and possibly in the world, is only an empty shell.

Behind the fabulous white balconies, red bricks, and exotic oriental designs with a domed cupola on the top, there is nothing, except a heartbreaking story that has left many believing the home is haunted by the ghosts of Nutt and his wife Julia. The home was meant to be a glorious gift for his wife and portray their wealth as an object of admiration for centuries, but it has now become known only as Nutt’s Folly.

The American Civil War stopped the Moorish Revival style home’s development. Only nine rooms of the lowest level had been fully completed when the Pennsylvanian artisans working inside were told about the war. They immediately laid down their tools where they were standing and left, never to return.

The family suffered great financial losses during the war and had much of their wealth stolen and the lands burned, leaving them unable to find money to finish the remaining floors. The once ambitious owner died in 1864 reportedly from pneumonia or a heart attack. His wife and their eight children lived there until she died in 1897.

The whole scene was left frozen in time until Nutt’s decedents donated the property to the Pilgrimage Garden Club in 1970. It’s been preserved as a museum and historic site with year-round daily tours.

The original furniture as well as empty luggage and wooden packing crates, remain in the basement. On the unfinished floors, tools, materials, and paint buckets still lay scattered. Parts of columns lie on the floor, waiting for workers who never returned.

And since this octagonal mansion still vividly depicts the rise and the fall of the South in the war, the unfinished Longwood Plantation has become a legendary haunted house. There have been several reported sightings of the ghosts of Nutt and his wife in and around the mansion. It was reported that Nutt was seen in the garden and his wife, who reportedly smells of roses, on the staircase.

Paranormal investigators have visited the home to measure activity. Also, the ghostly atmosphere made it a perfect location for the popular HBO series True Blood. In several 2010 episodes, the mansion and property were used as the castle of the vampire king of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Click here for additional information about touring the Longwood Plantation.


Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning Mississippi Gulf Coast journalist with decades of experience in writing and photography. She lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and has two adult children who also live on the Coast.

Connect with her by email at [email protected] with story ideas or find her @cherieward on Instagram. She would love to hear from you.


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