In a word, this house is magnificent. Built in 1852, this house has had a true restoration. Elegant and inviting, from the front porch to the screened porch overlooking the pool in the back, you see all 5200 sq feet of pure beauty in peak condition. If you are looking for the quintessential antebellum Mississippi experience, this house will take you back in time but with all the modern conveniences. With an artist’s eye and determination for true restoration, you’ll see quality and beauty in every detail, all at a price you cannot believe.
This beautiful example of Southern Antebellum Greek Revival Architecture is considered to be a “contributing element to the National Register East Canton Historic District” and is located in the local Canton Historic District. The house was honored in 2010 by the Mississippi Historic Trust for Outstanding Restoration; also the City of Canton and the Historic Preservation Committee of Canton honored the house for the quality of the restoration. There is a photographic record of the restoration available from the agents.
The house was built by Canton’s first doctor, James Priestley in 1852. In that year the Illinois Central Railroad, connecting Chicago and New Orleans arrived in Canton, immediately making Canton the most important and prosperous city in Madison County, and to this day, the County seat.
The original house consisted of the front porch, the grand staircase, and four rooms, two up and two down, making the house one room deep. The original dining room is now the music room.
Just prior to the civil war, Dr Priestley added the west wing, a one story addition with two rooms, his office, the current library and his examining room, which is now the kitchen. In 1895, two bedrooms were added on top of the west wing, creating the house as it now appears from the west side.
The east wing was completed in 1915, the Center hall was extended from the original Center hall through to the back of the house, porches upstairs and down were enclosed, the original kitchen which had been in the back yard was now incorporated into the house proper and the empty space between the original dining room and the original kitchen was now enclosed with a bay window, creating the dining room as it exists today. Upstairs the area over the new dining room became a sleeping porch.
In 1915 the first bathrooms were installed, one up and one down.
After the Priestley family sold the house in 1996, the sleeping porch was converted into two additional bathrooms and closets. The final major addition to the House was the 40’ screened porch across the back of the house, overlooking the swimming pool. Of the original pre Civil war out buildings, only the carriage house exists today.
Canton, a beautiful example of the quintessential small Southern town, has a distinctive Greek Revival courthouse as its center, surrounded by 19th Century commercial buildings on all 4 sides. Founded in 1836 as the county seat of Madison County, it remains so to this day; the courthouse occupies the highest point in the county. With the coming of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1852, and the great prosperity that followed, the town fathers built the beautiful antebellum homes that survive to this day. The Priestley House is one of those homes. The major visual difference downtown from the 19 Century, is that the streets are paved.
Architecturally, Canton is by far one of the most interesting and intact towns in central Mississippi. The shady residential streets, on the east side of town, are a veritable encyclopedia of 19th - 20th Century residential architecture; Victorian, Queen Anne, early 20th Century Greek Revival, Edwardian and Craftsman styles are all well represented.
Unlike Jackson which was burnt during the Civil War, Canton survived intact, so the 19th Century feel survives to this day. Hollywood has taken advantage and used this in such films as A TIME TO KILL, OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, and MY DOG SKIP. The courthouse alone is a major character in A TIME TO KILL.
Canton is the epitome of a gentler, slower pace of Southern life that has in so many places, practically disappeared.
Images courtesy of Stages Mississippi Magazine
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