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Forgotten Ruins

“The Windsor Ruins”

By Brian K. Brecht

Digging through some old journals I came across an adventure friends and I made from Chicago to New Orleans in the late ‘90s. That alone is a story I will have to recount one day, but it reminded me, that the GAC had its beginnings some years ago.

Here’s a brief look at one of the stops that has fixed forever in my mind, that of the Windsor Ruins.

Located on Claiborne County Mississippi, the Windsor Ruins is one of the largest antebellum Greek revival mansions built in the state. Built by Smith Coffee Daniel, he was the son of a farmer and wealthy landowner.

When completed in 1861, the home contained over 25 rooms, each with its own fireplace and other innovations for the time. Daniel unfortunately passed only a few weeks after construction was complete.

It is said that Mark Twain stayed at the home, and wrote of its elegance in “Life on the Mississippi”. Twain has recently figured in another GAC article called “Twain and the Suicide Table”.

On 17 February 1890, the family was returning from town having been preparing for a large dinner that evening, when they saw flames shooting through the shingled roof. The fire destroyed the entire structure, top to bottom, leaving nothing but the 23 columns that still exist today.

“The Boys” (The beginnings of the GAC), at the Windsor Ruins.

The stop at Windsor Ruins was a bit of an afterthought as “The Boys” and I had planned our trip to New Orleans. The name sounded fascinating and so it was the one stop I put on our agenda. And I was thrilled I did.

There was something about walking among those columns I found exciting. You could sense what it must have been like when this structure was at its full elegance. As we often did years ago, before GPS, and the easy access of our smart phones, finding the ruins was an adventure in itself. And if you find yourself heading toward the bayou, and have some time to walk the quiet ground of Windsor, I highly recommend you take the time for exploring. It’s a chance to let your mind step back to another time.

As a side note, as I surfed for a little added detail about the ruins, I found a wonderful blog called “The Southern Lagniappe”. The author “Janie”, has a great article on Windsor if you’d like some added detail. I found her photographs really captured the majesty of the place. Something I wish I had done years ago.

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