RAYMOND — Perhaps the hardest thing about writing a story on the Dupree House is trying to merely describe the place. Farm house or country mansion seems somehow misleading. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History said it is “…a picturesque, transitional Greek Revival/Italianate design…”
“I call it a plantation house with wrap-around porches,” said Grenada native Brenda Davis, owner of Dupree House along with husband, Charles. “It’s hard to put into words.”
Indeed the Dupree House and the adjacent Mamie’s Cottage, both of which have been converted into a meeting and banquet facility and bed and breakfast located about five miles outside of Raymond in rural Hinds County, are originals practically from the floors to the ceiling.
“Just about all the work we’ve done is cosmetic,” said Charles, a Raymond native who said as a boy he used to ride his bike to the old boarded-up Dupree House. “They’re both pretty much pristine and look the same as when they were built.”
The Dupree House was built at its current site in the latter 1870s by Dr. H.T.T. Dupree. The 1,100 acres of land already had a three-room structure on it which dated back to the 1850s, and Dupree assimilated it into his new plantation replete with saw and grist mills. Though Dupree had children, they produced no grandchildren, and the house was eventually sold at an estate auction.
In the late 1970s, Brenda, a previous husband and her parents bought the Dupree House for their residence. No thought of using the house for anything but a home was entertained until Brenda’s husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness and she was forced to make some decisions about her future.
Brenda said the answer came “almost by accident.” After entertaining him one night at their home, Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College in Raymond, called to ask if he could have some visitors he was entertaining come to the house to socialize. It was a success.
“Then there was another party, and another party and another,” Brenda said. “That’s how it started.”
The idea was to see yet another turn. Over the years Brenda had visited a number of bed and breakfast inns and found them both charming and interesting. “I often thought, ‘I could do this…I think’,” Brenda said. The dream became opportunity in November 1997 when the former residence of Mamie Dietrick Rutledge came up for sale.
Mamie was the adopted daughter of Dr. Dupree. She lived at the Dupree House until 1919 when she and her stepmother, Pattie, moved into a small house in Raymond next door to the Methodist Church, where Mamie lived until her death in 1975. The property was owned by the church until 1997 when the church, looking to expand, put the house up for sale.
The Davises knew the Mamie-Dupree connection and thought it would be a tremendous addition. What they did not know was how old it was. They were astounded to find it dated from 1840, making it one of the oldest surviving structures in the historical area. They bought it and had it partially dismantled and moved to the Dupree grounds.
Though more cosmetic alterations are planned for June, the 14-room, 6,700-square-foot (excluding porches) Dupree Home is a finished product. The imposing yet charming two-story structure can hold receptions or parties for 200 people, while 60 can be accommodated for a banquet-style get-together. Brenda said she uses two local caterers, but allows renters to choose their own food service if they choose.
The Mamie Cottage, which opened in November 1998, is also complete and has been restored to a two-suite inn which can sleep four in one room and three in the other. The cottage does boast modern amenities of private bathrooms, coffee makers, refrigerators and televisions, but appears today pretty much as it did 159 years ago.
The Davis’ restoration work has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year the couple was given an award of merit from the Mississippi Heritage Trust for “appropriate rehabilitation” of an historic structure. Both Davises gave due credit to their contractor, Michael Collins of Brandon, and the mover of the Mamie Cottage, Hugh Jenkins of Hazelhurst, for their contributions.
The Davises have also been rewarded with renters. Both Davises said their early expectations have been more than met. They are currently booked solid through May and have some reservations already made into October. They have entertained guests from places like Texas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and even England. They are members of the Natchez Trace Bed and Breakfast Reservation Service (the Trace abuts their property) which they said has accounted for about 50% of their business. They have also just had their brochures put in all Mississippi Welcome Centers within the last couple of weeks and are hoping for even more exposure.
“The restoration and maintenance of a bed and breakfast is expensive, and you have to generate income to offset the costs,” Brenda said. “But on a personal note, it’s very gratifying when a guest, like one today, comes up and says, ‘It was just what I was looking for.’ That’s special. And I think, ‘Maybe I really can do this.’”