An excellent way to become familiar with Natchez is by touring the historic downtown area on foot.
Most walking tours begin at the Bluff Park, the grassy promenade that skirts Broadway and overlooks the river.
Because of the importance of the Mississippi River to the development of Natchez, a few moments there at the gazebo — a 20th-century replica of a 19th-century structure — sets the mood for a tour of historic downtown. Nearby are markers to honor writer Richard Wright and to memorialize more than 200 black residents who died in a nightclub fire in 1940.
Click on the following link to download the Natchez On The River walking tour. Downtown walking tour
1. Over the river, the low flatlands of Louisiana stretch as far as the eye can see, the same land where fortunes were made in cotton in antebellum days. Today, as in the 19th century, cotton grows in that rich land.
The oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River, Natchez was 200 years ago the destination of flatboatmen and travelers who journeyed on the river and on the Natchez Trace.
In later years, travelers disembarked from steamboats at Natchez Under-the-Hill and climbed Silver Street to walk through the tree-lined streets and admire buildings, houses and manicured gardens.
Steamboat travelers took carriage rides into the suburbs, where they visited homes such as Dunleith, Monmouth and D’Evereux.
What the visitor saw as they visited the town has changed little since then, and that is part of the attraction that lures tourists to Natchez today.
On Silver Street along the historic riverfront is the Natchez Under-the-Hill Saloon famous for its musical jam sessions on the weekends and the giant rocking chairs that make river-looking a favorite pastime. Also on the riverfront is the Isle of Capri Casino, located in a replica of a big old-time Mississippi River steamboat.
Looking from the bluff toward the town, the visitor sees streets running to and from the river and parallel to the river.
These are the same streets, for the most part, that were laid out by the Spaniards when they ruled Natchez in the late 18th century.
Across from the gazebo on Broadway Street is Bontura, the brick house that was built by Robert Smith, a free black man who owned a Natchez stable and carriage company in the mid-19th century.
2. At the south end of the bluff is Rosalie, the antebellum house built in the 1820s by Peter Little, not far from the site of old Fort Rosalie.
Established by the French in 1716, the fort site stretches along the bluffs to the south of Rosalie and is included in the new Natchez National Historical Park. Plans for the site include exhibits about the fort’s history. The park also includes antebellum Melrose, located on the outskirts of town, and the William Johnson House on State Street.
A walk along Broadway Street to Rosalie will lead past the The Parsonage, built in 1852 on land donated to the Methodist Church by Peter Little.
3. A continued stroll across Canal Street and up Washington Street takes the visitor to what is called the old Spanish section of town — the intersection of Washington and Wall streets, specifically, where on one corner stands Texada, built by Manuel Texada and believed to be the first brick house constructed in Natchez.
Other important houses are on the other three corners of Washington and Wall streets — Greenlea, the Griffith-McComas House and Holly Hedges. Signs on these houses make them easily identifiable.
Just to the north of Greenlea is The Governor Holmes House, which was built in 1794 and was home to David Holmes, who served as Mississippi Territory’s last governor and the state’s first governor.
4. Continue down Washington Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street to stop by other unique and historic stops. Magnolia Hall, at Pearl Street, was built in in the late 1850s and restored by the Natchez Garden Club. A block south on Pearl is Pleasant Hill, the first house to occupy the spot where Magnolia Hall was built. Pleasant Hill was moved to its present location to make way for the new Henderson mansion.
5. Trinity Episcopal Church, at Commerce Street, features rare art glass windows designed and installed by Louis C. Tiffany. Across the street is Glen Auburn, circa 1875. The Victorian home is one of the finest examples of French Second Empire architecture in the South. Temple B’Nai Israel was built in 1905, replacing the first synagogue, which had been built in 1872 and burned in 1904.
As you make your way to Martin Luther King Jr. Street be sure to catch a glimpse of Van Court Town House, at the corner of South Union Street; and Green Leaves, at the corner of South Rankin Street.
6. On the corner of Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. Street amid spacious grounds stands The Elms, where early Natchez residents included John Henderson, who wrote the first book printed in the Natchez territory.
7. The walker may continue down Martin Luther King Jr. Street past The Elms for one block and then back toward the river on State Street.
A half-block turn up Rankin will lead to an entrance into Memorial Park, located along Rankin, Main and Union giving the walking tourists an opportunity to view the impressive St. Mary Basilica along Main Street.
Main Street in Natchez is a lovingly preserved set of buildings dating, for the most part, from the early 1800s to the late 19th century. Most of the commercial buildings were built during the post-Civil War years, when a large merchant class moved to Natchez to take advantage of a revival in river trade along the Mississippi.
8. At the corner of Main and Commerce streets is the former Britton & Koontz First National Bank, built as a bank in 1835, the first Greek Revival building built in Mississippi.
From the intersection of Commerce and Main streets, walk half a block south to The Natchez Institute, built in 1901 as a public school and now home to the Historic Natchez Foundation.
9. At South Pearl and State streets is the First Presbyterian Church, built about 1828, which houses a photographic history of Natchez by photographer Henry Norman and restored by Natchez resident Dr. Thomas Gandy. The photos are on display at Stratton Chapel behind the church with entrance on State Street.
Across Pearl Street from the church is Natchez City Hall and, behind it, facing Wall Street, the Adams County Courthouse, built in the 1820s and renovated in the 1920s.
10. Turning down State Street from the Presbyterian Church, walking tourists will pass on the left, across from the courthouse, the red brick former Adams County Jail built in the 1890s, now county offices. A rare Queen Anne style building, the old jail is one of only a few remaining in the country built to resemble a house but to serve as a jail. It was renovated in 1994 and now serves as the county administration building.
11. Just past the intersection is the house owned by William Johnson. Johnson, a freed black man who worked as a barber, wrote a diary describing Natchez life in the pre-Civil War days. The William Johnson House is now incorporated as part of the Natchez National Historical Park.
To see the north side of town, walk down Canal Street to Main Street. From here the tourist can walk down Franklin Street and then past Ellicott Hill, corner of Canal and Jefferson streets.
12. The House on Ellicott Hill was one of the first restoration projects in the city, undertaken in the 1930s and also was the site of the raising of the first American Flag over the Natchez Territory in 1797.
Up Jefferson Street one block is Wall Street again, where a turn to the left will take the visitor by Choctaw on the left. The 1830s house has been restored recently.
13. Across Wall Street is White Wings and, on the hill, across High Street, is Cherokee, with its lofty setting and beautiful gardens. A turn down High Street to the east again will lead to Stanton Hall, Pearl and High streets.
14. Stanton Hall, built in the 1850s and now owned and preserved by the Pilgrimage Garden Club, is considered by many to be the grandest of the Natchez mansions.
On the grounds of Stanton Hall is the famous Carriage House Restaurant, known for its fried chicken and tiny Southern-style biscuits. From the Pearl Street side of Stanton Hall, look across to Myrtle Bank, corner of Pearl and Monroe, built about 1835 and embellished in the 1870s.
Also at Pearl and High streets are two other important and architecturally interesting houses — Myrtle Terrace and Dr. Dubs Town House.
Continue up Pearl Street to Main Street and turn west to go three blocks to return to the Bluff Park.