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Photos, stories showcase homes

While her husband’s army ransacked Mississippi, Julia Grant (that’s Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) entertained a Christmas party at Airliewood, a home that the Union general had commandeered as his Holly Springs headquarters — and she invited Lida Victoria Coxe, daughter of owner and dispossessed Southern planter Col. William H. Coxe (CSA) as the honored guest.

Mrs. Grant’s Christmas indiscretion is but one of the many stories of the “Great Houses of Mississippi” (University Press of Mississippi) told through vivid color photographs by Mary Rose Carter and accompanying narratives by Mary Carol Miller.

Ninety-five full-color images present panoramic full elevations and sharply focused details of 35 homes, bringing to life stories of occupation, habitation and the dual architectural heritages that are Mississippi — hospitality and antebellum history. One home here received the first National Restoration Award. Another remains incomplete more than a century after its inception. And the Grants stayed at one time or another in no fewer than three of Mississippi’s “Great Houses,” providing a tempting Southern counterpart to the New England tradition that “George Washington slept here.” General Grant did indeed sleep here.

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