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March 2005

Pilgrimage Pride
by: Whitley Rives

Jorja Swanee Lynn has been in love all her life -- with a house.
     Growing up, she would walk by the abandoned Walter Place in Holly Springs, with its castle-like appearance done up in an unusual Greek Revival style, complete with massive Gothic towers. She wondered what treasures lay inside.
After marrying Mike Lynn, she brought him to the house and together they peeked in the windows. "Buy me this house," she said. He laughed.
"I'll never be able to afford this house," he said. That all changed after the Lynns moved away and Mike pursued a career in sports management.
     In the middle of all this success and a new life up North, a spark still burned in Jorja's heart. By 1983, the owners wanted to sell Walter Place; the Lynns got the house and everything inside.
      "I was ecstatic, to say the least," Jorja says. "This house was built back when grandeur was the thing to do."

     Mike retired as general manager of the Minnesota Vikings in 1993 so Holly Springs and Jorja's beloved

Walter Place became home.
     Walter Place Estate, Cottages and Gardens is the centerpiece of the 67th Annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage, April 13-17. It is one of many beautiful homes on tour in the town dubbed "The Antebellum Capital of the Mid-South."
When General Ulysses S. Grant pulled the Union army out of Holly Springs, his wife and son were living at Walter Place. It is widely believed that, as a result, he spared the town the usual destruction inflicted on Confederate towns, preserving one of the most impressive collections of antebellum properties in the nation.
Walter Place was built by Harvey Washington Walter, who gained his wealth building railroads. After surviving the Civil War, he and his sons died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878.
Walter's youngest daughter married Oscar Johnson, a native of nearby Red Banks. After becoming wealthy in St. Louis during the Spanish-American War, they returned to Holly Springs and purchased the home where she had grown up. Johnson added two cottages to the property for use by guests and commissioned designs for lavish gardens, which he planned to make into a park for the city. But Johnson died before his dreams were realized.
By the time the Lynns entered the picture, every feature in the house, from the early 1900s wiring to the floors, begged for attention.

     "I tell people to be careful what they wish for," she says, laughing. "I might have written the Great American Novel or done something amazing but instead I've spent all my free time working on this house."

     Still, there was plenty of satisfaction. The Lynns found Johnson's original landscaping plans and recently completed the first phase in a three-year plan that features a 5-acre botanical garden.
Walter Place isn't the only beautifully restored home on the pilgrimage, however. Among those featured for the first time are Crump Place, the boyhood home of E.H. "Boss" Crump, legendary mayor of Memphis; Montrose, built in 1858 as a wedding present; and Finley Place, which, along with its 2,500-acre Strawberry Plains estate, is now home to the National Audubon Society. The Terrace and Hilltop are also on the tour.
Hilltop, built in 1856, will likely be one of the tour’s popular stops because owner Dr. Alfred Hale has painstakingly filled it with museum-quality antiques collected on his travels throughout Europe, New York and New Orleans. Hale boasts what is considered the largest private collection of Sevres porcelain in America. Visitors should enjoy the exquisite collections. Designer Dottie Sanders ASID of Memphis coordinated the color schemes, draperies and furniture placement.
Pilgrimage participants can watch as re-enactors recreate military life during the Civil War. Eight interpretive markers will be dedicated on Saturday, April 16, commemorating the 1862 Van Dorn Raid on the Union supply base in Holly Springs. In the raid, Confederate cavalry destroyed stockpiles of Union supplies, forcing Grant to retreat to

In addition, Rev. Will Berger of Cleveland, Miss., will treat visitors to recitals on three vintage Pilcher organs Friday and Saturday. Visitors may ride carriages drawn by Percheron horses and tour the Yellow Fever Martyrs Church and Museum.
Evening events include a wine and cheese reception at Montrose and candlelight tours of Hillcrest Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the state where costumed storytellers will bring to life some of Holly Springs' most illustrious characters.
Visitors can also visit Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum and Cultural Center of African-American History, named for the civil rights pioneer, journalist and teacher who was one of the founders of the NAACP.
Holly Springs is also home to the Kate Freeman Clark Memorial Art Gallery, containing the largest collection of paintings by a single artist in the world. Kate Freeman Clark left Holly Springs at 16 to study at the New York School of Art. She showed her 1,000-plus works in cities from Chicago to New York. Upon her death at 81, she willed her home, paintings and money to the city to build a gallery to house her work.
The Holly Springs Pilgrimage begins April 13 and 14 with a preview opening of Walter Place Estate, Cottages and Gardens and continues April 15-17. Ticket prices for the various events range from $12 for the wine-and-cheese reception and cemetery tour to $35 for all-day home tours.
For more information and advance tickets call Susie Murphy at 662.252.6479, Mindy Gresham at 662.252.1537 or the Holly Springs Tourism and Recreation Bureau at 662.252.2515; e-mail,; or online,

Other Mississippi Pilgrimages:

Natchez Spring Pilgrimage
March 12-16, 601.446.6631

Vicksburg Spring Pilgrimage
March 12-April 2, 601.636.9421

Columbus Spring Pilgrimage
March 25-April 10, 662.329.3533

Historic Tour of Homes
Magnolia, March 30, 601.783.6572

Mississippi Gulf Coast Annual Spring Pilgrimage
April 2-9; includes Biloxi (228.872.7738), Waveland (228.463.9222), Ocean Springs (228.875.4424)

Aberdeen Spring Pilgrimage
April 7-10, 662.369.9440

Brookhaven Tour of
Homes and Gardens

April 30, 601.833.1411