National Geographic : 1968 Nov
With hammer and pencil the Trace Parkway moves ahead. Hard-hatters build forms for its Tennessee River bridge. Nashville engineer draws plans for the Tennessee Highway Depart ment, which buys rights of way. Ten nessee, Alabama, and Mississippi turn the land over to the Federal Govern ment for roads. dangerously out of plumb, even melting slow ly in the winter rains, for they were built of poorly baked bricks. A fading sign on a de serted ruin advertises the Jesebel night club; nearby is the Blue Cat. Built in the early 19th century, both kept night life under the hill lively right into the 1930's. Prohibition never bothered them, and ferry passengers waiting for the next boat to Louis iana would duck in for a fast drink or a try at the dice-and often miss three ferries in a row. But when the bridge opened in 1940 and the ferries went out, an era ended. Jese bel and the Blue Cat have entertained their last roisterers. I mounted the bluff to the upper city, where I met Chandler Jordan, Chairman of the Natchez Planning Commission. He car ried a sheaf of plans for a proposed restora tion of Natchez-Under-the-Hill. "Most of the tourists who come down the Trace know about the sin city," he said, "so we plan to build an ersatz Iniquityville to satisfy curiosity without impairing morals. 650 "Up and down the Trace you're going to find that the new parkway is stimulating com merce, just as the old post road did. There's hardly a Trace community that doesn't have some historical restoration plan to attract travelers," he told me. We drove about Natchez, a city intoxicated with its history, visiting buildings that still stand from the days when the old Trace was booming. At The Briars, built in 1812, Jeffer son Davis, later President of the Confederacy, wed the beautiful Varina Howell, "Rose of Mississippi." In 1798, the Duke of Orleans, later King Louis Philippe of France, visited Connelly's Tavern during a trip down the Mississippi. Rosalie, completed in 1820, be came General Grant's headquarters when the Union Army occupied Natchez. During the annual spring festival known as the Natchez Pilgrimage,* originated by Mrs. J. Balfour Miller, thousands inspect the interiors of the old houses. Year round, *See "History Repeats in Old Natchez," by William H. Nicholas, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1949.