The Windsor Ruins offer a captivating look into the Old South. You have to use your imagination to see it. Visitors have visited these towering remains of a mansion for more than 150 years since a tragic fire.
You can’t look at them without wondering what things were like during the Civil War in the 1860s. Let’s find out more!
What Are the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi?
The Windsor Ruins are 23 surviving pillars that once supported the opulent home of a wealthy cotton planter. There were 29 Corinthian-style columns, but the 1890 fire that claimed the massive home destroyed the rest. Each of the masonry columns stands 40 feet high, and the “capitals” are intact, too. The capitals are the intricate iron structures at each column that resemble crowns.
The Windsor Ruins have been open to the public for decades. They aren’t a park, but they are a National Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides being an architectural curiosity, they symbolize a past era. They are from when the cotton trade and slave labor made plantation owners and their families incredibly rich.
Who Owned Windsor Ruins?
The owner of the 17,000-square-foot Windsor mansion was Smith Daniel II. His plantation included 2,600 acres. He had the palatial Greek Revival-style home built starting in 1859 and died shortly after in 1861.
His descendants owned the property until donating it to the state of Mississippi in 1971.
Where Are the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi?
These remnants of the past are in southwest Mississippi near the town of Lorman, home to Alcorn State University. They are a few miles from the Mississippi River and about 10 miles west of the small city of Port Gibson. Vicksburg is about 40 miles north, and Natchez is about the same distance to the south.
The Windsor Ruins are off U.S. Highway 61 and are a short drive from the Natchez Trace. Follow the signs to Windsor Ruins Loop.
Pro Tip: We took a closer look to find out Is It Safe to Swim in the Mississippi River? Find out before you dive in!
What Happened to the Windsor Ruins?
In its day, the magnificent mansion was perhaps Mississippi’s finest showplace. Though its owner didn’t live long enough to enjoy it fully, his family did for a while.
Windsor served as a military headquarters and hospital during the Civil War. Afterward, members of the Daniell family continued to live there and held frequent social gatherings. Tragedy struck during one of these occasions on Feb. 17, 1890. A careless guest reportedly tossed a still-lit cigarette butt or cigar into a pile of construction materials.
No one was hurt, but in a few hours, the splendid home, its lavish furnishings, and irreplaceable contents were gone. Other than the 23 columns, there were a few pieces of china, iron railings, and three iron staircases. One of the staircases is in use today on the campus of Alcorn State.
Why Do People Visit the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi?
This area of Mississippi has many other attractions tied to the Old South. You can tour Civil War battle sites and memorials, and there are many preserved antebellum mansions.
A visit to Windsor Ruins is a different experience. The ruins are in a wooded area, and there aren’t any tour guides or amenities. You’ll want to take a few pictures or videos while investigating the grounds. It can also be a thought-provoking experience. It may make you think about how our society has changed since the mansion burned.
What Do You Need to Know to Visit Windsor Ruins?
For most visitors, a stop at the Windsor Ruins is pretty brief. You can expect to spend 15 or 20 minutes there, and probably not more than a half hour. Don’t be surprised if you run into some cyclists making a pit stop from the Windsor Ruins Loop. It’s a 32-mile stretch of State Highway 552 that runs past the ruins.
The Windsor Ruins site is open daily during daylight hours. You may see some temporary fencing in some places. That’s to keep you from wandering into any areas that might be unsafe.
What Movies Were Filmed at Windsor Ruins?
If these iconic columns look familiar, you may have seen them in marketing materials promoting Mississippi. Another possibility is that you’ve seen them on the big screen. T
he Windsor Ruins first appeared in the 1957 movie “Raintree County,” starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. Almost 40 years later, they loomed significantly in “Ghosts of Mississippi.” Alec Baldwin played a prosecutor who doggedly pursued a civil rights-era murderer.
Pro Tip: After exploring the Windsor Ruins, head to one of these Mississippi Wineries That Are Actually Good.
Are the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi Worth Visiting?
Some say the Windsor Ruins have ghosts. Some even believe they’ve seen the blue-coated ghost of a Union soldier there. Rather than calling it creepy, however, most visitors agree there’s a heavy, mysterious vibe in the air.
What makes the Windsor Ruins worth visiting is their stark but riveting beauty. Photos and videos don’t do the place justice. You don’t appreciate the enormity of these columns until you stand in their shadows. Once you notice the exceptional craftsmanship, you can’t help but wonder about the mansion’s splendor. You may also try and imagine the backbreaking labor the construction would have demanded. After all, the luxurious home may have cost the equivalent of $5 million or more in today’s money.
Amazingly, these 23 columns are still standing after all these years. Looking up at them, you might wonder what stories they could tell if they could.
What are some fascinating ruins you’ve encountered?
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