After 90 years, Mississippi club goes in new direction, splits from Pilgrimage tradition
Published 8:00 am Sunday, January 8, 2023
The Natchez Garden Club is breaking from tradition and going its own way this spring by beginning its own Spring Pilgrimage of Historic Homes.
Donna Sessions, president of the Natchez Garden Club, said members wanted to make changes to the typical Pilgrimage experience, offering more homes on tour and more things to do for tourists to the city, as well as extending Pilgrimage from the typical one-month time frame into May.
For most of its 90-year history, the Pilgrimage Garden Club and the Natchez Garden Club have cooperated on opening their respective members’ homes for Spring Pilgrimage, which generates millions of dollars of tourism revenue for Natchez businesses.
“We decided we wanted to begin our own Pilgrimage,” Sessions said. “We wanted to go in a different direction.”
Homes on the Natchez Garden Club’s tour will include Magnolia Hall, The House on Ellicott’s Hill, The Towers, Myrtle Terrace, Gloucester, Choctaw Hall, Sunnyside, Glenfield, The Thomas Staniforth House, Elms Court, Cherokee, Texada and The Gardens.
Marsha Colson, president of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, said she did not have a comment on the change, except for saying the Pilgrimage Garden Club’s annual Spring Pilgrimage will go forward as usual from March 11 through April 11. Private homes open on the Pilgrimage Garden Club Tour will be Sweet Auburn, Rip Rap, Pleasant Hill, The Burn, Routhland, Linden, Elgin, Richmond, Airlie, Concord Quarters, Lansdowne, Brandon Hall, The Banker’s House, Ravenna, Green Leaves and Oak Hill, in addition to museum homes Stanton Hall, Rosalie and Longwood.
Sessions said some of the Natchez Garden Club home tours will be offered in the evening, as well.
“We wanted to allow flexibility for our homes,” Sessions said. “They told us the times they wanted to be on tour. Flexibility is going to be beneficial for our homes and tourists.”
In addition, the Natchez Garden Club’s Spring Pilgrimage of Historic Homes will run from March 1 through May 15.
“Year after year, we see tourists still in town after Pilgrimage is over. Not every home will be on tour every day, but doing a longer Pilgrimage will mean our homes and history will be available to more tourists,” she said.
Sessions said she is excited about the different types of homes that tourists will get to see.
“We have homes like The Gardens all the way to mansions like The Towers, Choctaw and Magnolia Hall,” she said.
The Natchez Garden Club has partnered with Little Easy Tours to be the primary provider of tickets to its home tours. No longer will tickets to Natchez Garden Club homes be available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, Sessions said. However, tickets will still be available through City Sightseeing, which is Warren Reuther’s platform, and Visit Natchez.
“Little Easy Tours has done a fantastic job promoting the Natchez Garden Club properties in the past, and sold a lot of tickets to our Christmas Homes Tour this year,” Sessions said.
“What we want is to enhance the tourist experience in Natchez by providing more of a variety of styles of homes for the tourists to see and providing a variety of experiences also for tourists, like after-hours events such as our Candlelight Dinners at Magnolia Hall and we are adding other late afternoon and evening events, as well,” she said.
Tickets to tours of homes on the Pilgrimage Garden Club’s Spring Pilgrimage are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and its website.