Three significant pre-war Natchez houses have new owners.
Gloucester, located on Lower Woodville Road; Twin Oaks, located on Homochitto Street; and Brandon Hall Plantation, located on the Natchez Trace Parkway, each sold out in recent months.
Gloria James and her husband, Al Torstenson, of Seattle, bought Brandon Hall on June 9.
When contacted on Wednesday, James was speaking with wedding photographers.
“I thought I had retired, but now I’m not sure. I think maybe I have a new job,” she said.
Although she has no plans to use Brandon Hall as a bed and breakfast, James will continue to allow weddings there.
“It wasn’t something we were looking to do, but with the sale, three weddings were booked in October. We followed the seller for a wedding before closing, and it was magical. Brandon Hall just took life. The lights, the music, the people, the laughter – it was built to entertain,” James said.
James and Torstenson searched for the right property in the South for several years.
“I wanted a pre-war house. I wanted beautiful live oak trees. I love the double galleries. And I wanted space. I wanted to look outside and make it look like it would have looked in its time,” she said. “We just drove down this driveway and everyone else pales in comparison.”
James and Torstenson stayed in Elgin during their extensive search for a home in Natchez and said Ruth Ellen Calhoun was very encouraging about their planned move to Natchez.
James credited her real estate agent, Dianne Brown of Hudson and Brown Real Estate LLC of Natchez, for helping her find the perfect home. Brandon Hall was listed by Jackie Smith of Paul Green and Associates Realtors of Natchez.
“She was patient. Dianne continued to work with us. She told us we had to see this house and I told her it was too much money. She kept saying, ‘You have to see it.’ ”
James is a retired attorney from Seattle. She and her husband, Al Torstenson, were born in Canada – she in British Columbia and he in Ontario – but have lived in Seattle for many years. Torstenson is a retired United States Navy officer.
James is having Brandon Hall’s original hardwood floors refurbished and the carpeting replaced, but those are the only renovations planned.
“She’s in great condition,” James said.
In 1990, more than 30 years ago, Elizabeth Walters was researching Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long, nicknamed the “Mother of Texas.”
“I read that she lived in Propinquity in Washington, Mississippi. That’s how I first found out about Natchez,” she said.
After her visit, she said, “It was instant love. I fell madly in love with Natchez. I bought every book ever written about Natchez or Natchez houses. I didn’t come back to visit often, but as often as I could.
Walters, a lifelong educator and education administrator, married A.B. Walters in 2007.
“He asked me what kind of houses I liked. I told him I liked the Natchez ones,” she said.
Her husband had never been to Natchez and they spent part of their honeymoon here. He was in love with Natchez too, she said.
“We kept coming back. Last year we were planning a vacation with another couple in December and I suggested we come to Natchez so the four of us met here. We were here less than a week. My husband saw a sign for sale in Gloucester and pointed it out to me.
After researching the history of Natchez and its antebellum homes, Walters knew that Gloucester, built in 1803, was once the home of Winthrop Sargent, who served as the first governor of the Mississippi Territory.
The Walters called Jackie Smith, a realtor with Paul Green and Associates Realtors, and visited the house the next day while in Natchez on vacation.
“When we got home, my husband kept talking to Jackie and negotiated and bought it,” Walters said. “He set the closing date for February 4, 2022, my birthday.”
She said her husband is a self-made man.
“He grew up in the pine woods of northeast Texas in a house that had no indoor plumbing until he went to kindergarten,” she said. “When he graduated from high school and got his house, all his mom had to give him was canned food. This is how he was sent into the world.
Walters started a business installing gutters on homes and buildings. This business has grown and transformed. Today, Walter’s company, Senox Corp., manufactures seamless gutters and dominates that market in the southern United States.
The couple live on a ranch in Burnett, Texas and plan to use Gloucester as a vacation home.
“My husband retired on April 1 and handed over the running of the business to his daughter, who has been training with him for years. They were building another factory in Texas, so he really didn’t fully retire. He carries out special projects, such as supervising the construction of the factory. He also works as a demon from first light to dark on our ranch. And we have six grandchildren in Texas who are the age where they still love us.
The Walters are working with local businesses and people to get Gloucester to catch up on deferred maintenance on the house, but she said the house was in excellent condition when the couple bought it this year.
“We bought it lock, stock and barrel,” she said. “The previous owners took very few sentimental items from the house. We are working on the gardens. We want to restore the gardens to the shape they had before.
For the first time in over 20 years, Gloucester will be touring on the Autumn Pilgrimage this year.
“We hope people will come to see us and the house during the Fall Pilgrimage,” Walters said.
Cathy Stewart, a native of Gonzales, Louisiana, began taking trips to Natchez in the early 1990s.
“My love of old houses goes back a long way. I lived right there, among the plantations of River Road. My daughter worked at Houmas House (in Darrow, Louisiana) through high school and college. I love old houses,” she said.
Stewart renovated his first home in the 1980s, and Twin Oaks will be his ninth renovation and his largest.
The retired registered nurse and her husband, Montie Chapman, who is retired from the railroad industry, bought Twin Oaks in March this year directly from Concordia Bank and Trust.
She has also renovated and lives in Evergreen, a house on Cemetery Road in Natchez, which she plans to sell once renovations are complete in Twin Oaks.
“All the time I was renovating Evergreen, I was looking for a bigger house,” she said. “I was going to a meeting and I passed the meeting place and had to turn back. My neighbor was with me, I saw Twin Oaks and I saw the ‘for sale’ sign. I said, ‘What is this house? It’s not listed on real estate sites. My neighbor said, ‘No. It’s because the bank has it.
That afternoon, Stewart was driving through Twin Oaks with his contractor, Lee Blanton of RL Blanton Construction.
At the time, Stewart’s primary residence was a home in Florida near one of her two children.
“I went back to Florida and met a real estate agent who told me she could sell the Florida house in a week. I’m not a risk taker, and for me buying Twin Oaks was a risk. I had four days to decide if I wanted to do it,” she said.
Stewart worked with a Natchez attorney who prepared a bid for Twin Oaks and submitted it 10 minutes before the bid deadline, she said.
“I really didn’t expect to have it.”
Stewart said Twin Oaks will be her home and she has no plans to renovate another home.
“My kids look at me sideways when I say that,” she said.
She will not operate the house as a bed and breakfast.
“This will be our home. We love our privacy.
However, the two could open their house during the pilgrimage when it is ready, possibly in the fall of 2023.