Windsor Ruins Stabilization Project - posted October 05, 2017
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is taking steps to stabilize and preserve the Windsor Ruins site in Claiborne County. More than a century of exposure to the elements has caused erosion to the 45-foot-tall masonry columns and fracturing of the cast iron capitals.
In 2016, MDAH commissioned architectural conservator George Fore to study the site. Fore’s report, submitted to the department earlier this year, includes recommendations to repair and conserve the twenty-three columns and five partial columns.
“Windsor Ruins is iconic, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History is committed to preserving the site’s integrity,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “About three cubic feet of its masonry disintegrates annually. Half the decorative stucco on the columns has been lost and continues to erode, and four to six pieces of the iron capitals detach and fall every year.”
At its September teleconference meeting, the MDAH board of trustees selected WFT Architects, P.A., to develop architectural plans for the stabilization project. Lawson Newman, the project architect for the restoration of the Mississippi State Capitol, will serve in that same role for the Windsor stabilization project. Newman was the project architect for the restoration of the Medgar Evers House Museum in Jackson and the exterior restoration of the John W. Boddie House at Tougaloo College.
“Preserving this site presents a real challenge,” said Newman. “The columns were never intended to stand without the support and protection of the rest of the house. But we are drawn here precisely because of its exposed, deteriorated state, and any attempt to restore or shelter the columns would transform the site from a ruin into something else.”
Recent improvements at Windsor include cutting back trees and foliage that were encroaching on the columns, clearing the overgrown area between the site and the road, and the installation of new signage. Temporary fencing has been erected to protect visitors at the site from falling debris. “This metal fence will have a minimal impact on the view of the Ruins while keeping the site safe and accessible for all,” said Blount.
Windsor Plantation was built for Smith Coffee Daniell II in 1861. The house, one of the largest private residences in the state before the Civil War, was constructed near the town of Bruinsburg, where Union soldiers crossed the Mississippi River to begin their attack on Vicksburg. In 1890, a fire destroyed the residence but left standing its twenty-nine enormous columns.
Windsor Ruins was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, acquired by MDAH in 1974, and designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1985.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is the second-oldest state department of archives and history in the United States. A comprehensive historical agency, the department collects, preserves, and provides access to the archival resources of the state, administers various museums and historic sites, and oversees statewide programs for historic preservation, government records management, and publications. The department is headquartered in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, located on the corner of North and Amite Streets in downtown Jackson. For more information call 601-576-6850.