The Windsor Ruins in Mississippi

The Windsor Plantation at one time covered 2,600 acres (11 km²). Smith Coffee Daniell II, who was born in Mississippi in 1826, the son of an Indian fighter turned farmer and landowner, constructed the mansion itself in 1859-1861. In 1849 he married his cousin Catherine Freeland (1830–1903) by whom he had three children.

Windsor Ruins

Basic construction of the house, which was designed by David Shroder (Shroder also designed and built Rosswood, which is located in Lorman) was done by slave labor. The bricks for use in the 45 foot columns were made in a kiln across the road from the house. The columns were then covered with mortar and plaster. There were 29 of these columns supporting the projecting roof line with its plain, broad frieze and molded cornice. This provided protection for the galleries that encompassed the house at the second and third levels. The fluted columns had iron Corinthian capitals and were joined at the galleries by an ornamental iron balustrade.

Skilled carpenters were brought in from New England for the finished woodwork and the iron stairs, column capitals and balustrades were manufactured in St. Louis and shipped down the Mississippi River to the Port of Bruinsburg several miles west of Windsor.

Windsor Ruins

The mansion cost about $175,000.00 (equal to $4,526,667 today) to build and was completed in 1861. However Smith Daniell lived in the home only a few weeks before he died at the age of 34.

When completed, the home contained over 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace and, among other innovations, featured interior baths supplied with water from a tank in the attic.

On the Main floor, flanking the broad hall, were the master bedroom, a bath, 2 parlors, a study and the library. In the ell off this part of the structure was located the dining room. Directly below in the above ground basement was the kitchen, with the two connected by a dumbwaiter. Also in this basement were a school room, an on-site dairy, several storage rooms, a commissary and a doctor’s office.

Marker at the Site

On the third floor were an additional bath and 9 more bedrooms, each with their own fireplace.

Above the smaller 4th floor (which had a ballroom, but was never finished) there was a roof-top observatory.

During the American Civil War, the home was used by both Union and Confederate troops.

Confederate forces used the roof observatory as an observation platform and signal station. After the capture of the area by Union forces, the mansion was used as a hospital following the Battle of Port Gibson and as an observation station.

The home survived the war and continued to be used for social gatherings in the area. Mark Twain stayed at the home and is said to have used the roof observatory to observe the Mississippi River.

On 17 February 1890, a guest left a lighted cigar on a balcony (it is also said that someone dropped a cigar or cigarette in a pile of wood chips left by carpenters working on the 3rd floor). The family said the fire started around 3:00 in the afternoon. Having planned a seated dinner, they had gone into town to pick up the mail. As they were riding back, they saw flames shooting through the shingled roof. The fire burned from top to bottom making it impossible to extinguish, and the house was completely destroyed in the conflagration.

The only remnants today are 23 haunting columns, a few pieces of china, and a set of the wrought-iron stairs and portions of the balustrade. The flight of stairs and the balustrade are now used at Alcorn State University’s chapel down the road.

Take a Tour: