Category: restoration

Lakeport Technical Reports

Technical Report #1:  Parge Coating 
Technical Report #2:  Chimneys 
Technical Report #3:  Foundation & Footers
Technical Report #4:  Windows
Technical Report #5:  Shingled Roof
Technical Report #6:  Guttering & Sheet Metal Work
Technical Report #7:  Cornice, Siding & Paint
Technical Report #8:  Lakeport Porches
Technical Report #9:  Braced Frame Construction
Technical Report #10:  Smokehouse & Mechanicals

Dendrochronology Report:  David W. Stahle and Matthew D. Therrell, Tree-Ring Dating of the Lakeport Plantation House and Shed, Chicot County, Arkansas, May 2003

Archeological Investigations at Lakeport Plantation: Randall Guending, May 2003

Technical Reports are also planned for the brick walkway, plaster work, shutters, restoration of the exterior doors, mantels, and rose window.

Restoration News August 2010

Lakeport’s restoration continues. The final three doors were installed last week: two back doors delivered after restoration last year and one upstairs door that was waiting to be rehung. The back doors’ exteriors have been faux grained in oak, as they were originally. The original black paint on the interior has been preserved. The kitchen door is especially interesting, because of the wear at the bottom. New wood replaced the wear on the exterior, but on the interior the wear can still be seen. Period rim locks have also been installed on these two doors as well.

Faux Grained Oak Exterior Doors; Office on Left, Kitchen on Right
Restoration and Wear Pattern at Base of Kitchen Door

We also had shutter hardware installed. The hardware allows for the shutters to be shut and locked from the inside. Since all but two of the original shutters were gone, we relied on photographic evidence for reproduction of the hardware.

Shutters and Hardware, ca. 1973 from Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Shutters and Hardware, August 2010

In other news, Annie Paden, the grand-daughter of Annie Taylor Worthington, donated her grandmother’s bound sheet music. While the book was bound in 1892, much of the music dates to Annie’s time at Lakeport (1877-1888). See our blog entry on the Lakeport Piano for more on Annie Worthington.

Page from Annie T. Worthington Bound Sheet Music Book

And finally, thank you to Chicot County Judge Mack Ball for adding gravel to our road.

We need your “car wheels on our gravel road”

Lakeport Explores the Delta: Hollywood Plantation, Benoit, MS

Last Tuesday my wife and I made a trip up to Benoit, Mississippi to see restoration work on Bolivar County’s last antebellum plantation home–The Hollywood Plantation (Burrus Home or “Baby Doll House”) .

Overseeing the restoration of the ca. 1858 home is Eustace Winn, a descendant of the original owner. Eustace has visited Lakeport on several occasions to check on our progress and compare notes.
John C. Burrus began construction on the Hollywood Plantation around 1858. According to the 1860 Census, nine Burrus family members lived in the house–the 45 year old J. C. Burrus, his 39 year old wife, Louisa, and seven younger Burruses ranging from 20 to 2. The two-story Greek Revival, was likely unfinished as the Civil War began in 1861. Most notably, the second story door lacks a balcony. This is a familiar theme for a home built so late in the antebellum period. We tell a similar story about Lakeport and how its interior was likely unfinished–unpainted, bare plaster walls, a missing medallion, and an unfinished ceiling medallion.
As far as I could tell in my limited search, there is not a lot of academic history written about the home or the Burrus family. James Cobb in The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity (1992) mentions John and Louisa three times, citing the John C. Burrus Papers at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, as well as a family account of the Civil War published in the Journal of the Bolivar County History Society in 1978. Citations of the Burrus Papers also appear in Harold Woodman’s King Cotton & His Retainers: Financing & Marketing the Cotton Crops of the South, 1800-1925 (1968).
The Historic American Buildings Survey documented the home in 1936 as the “Burris House.” In 1936 the house was likely vacant, but, from exterior photos, in decent condition.
Hollywood is most famous as the setting of the 1956 film Baby Doll. However, by 1956, Richard Sylbert, set director for Baby Doll, described the house as “a dilapidated, ramshackle, and hollow wreck.” Four of the columns were laying on the ground and the building “listed to the left about five or six degrees.” The interior was worse: “the entire stair railing, balusters, and curved handrail were gone”; “parts of floors burned away”; and “the walls had huge areas where the plaster had come free of the lathe.” According to Sylbert, the house was straitened, walls and ceiling were repaired “to exactly the state the story required.” (That last phrase definitely sticks out to me.) The stairway was also reconstructed. Sylbert claims to have found an original spindle sticking out of the yard; it was used to reproduce all the spindles you see in the film.

Until just a few years ago, Hollywood was again a shell, as evidence from this 2005 photo in Flickr. Even the Corinthian columns added by the set designers were gone. (Correction– The Baby Doll movie seems to show original columns, so Corinthian columns were likely added later by the Bolivar Historical Society by whom, then? .)

This image from the 1956 film Baby Doll seems to show the original Doric columns. It is not clear when the Corinthian order columns were added.

This image from the 1956 film Baby Doll seems to show the original Doric columns. It is not clear when the Corinthian order columns were added.


Eustace is making great progress since he began working on the family project three years ago. The new front columns, made of solid redwood from Washington state, replicate the originals and the interior is coming back to life again with new plaster, new woodwork that compliments what was left of the original, and, most recently, new stairs. When the restoration is finished, Hollywood will be open for tours and available for events.

After our tour, we headed up the road to Rosedale for some great food at the Blue Levee.

If the history and restoration of the Burrus House interests you, then you should visit the Lakeport Plantation across the river in Chicot County, Arkansas.  Lakeport is the last antebellum home in Arkansas along the Mississippi River.  Click here to learn about visiting Lakeport. 

Update (12/17/2012):  The Hollywood Plantation opened to the public in June 2012.  It is available for rentals and tours by appointment. We’ve had several groups schedule tours at Hollywood & Lakeport the same day. Visit their website —

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Cobb, James C. The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sylbert, Richard and Sylivia Townsend, Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.
United State Census, Manuscript Returns, Schedule of Population, 1860.
Woodman, Harold D. King Cotton & His Retainers: Financing & marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800-1925. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.

Lakeport’s Piano Returns

Lakeport’s original piano, a ca. 1869 J.A. Gray square grand and centerpiece of entertaining during the post-war era, returned to the house on the evening of June 14th. The piano was donated back to Lakeport by the Epstein-Angel family after spending roughly the last 60 years in storage at the Epstein Cotton Gin in Lake Village. Bradshaw Piano Services of Conway, Arkansas restored the piano.

The piano first shows up on the Johnson’s county taxes in 1870. Before that date, there likely was no piano in the house. As the Johnson’s moved into the house in 1860, they were still decorating, until the war interrupted their plans. We know much of the interior paintwork was not complete by the start of the War; it is also likely that the Johnsons were not able to completely furnish the home until after the war.

Shortly after the war, Amanda Worthington (1845-1896) in an August 25, 1865 diary entry, did describe music during her visit to Lakeport, but no piano. At “Aunt Lydia’s” house, she says, we “spent a very pleasant evening, danced several sets, talked and had music from several sources–we had a nice supper too.” At the nearby home of Lycurgus’s father and mother, Amanda does mention their piano: “we would run out of conversation in the daytime and after every body had played on the piano we would be at a loss what to do…Linnie & Fanny Davis both played splendidly on the piano and we made them play a great deal. ” (Worthington 2008 : 92)

Tom DeBlack has noted, the Johnsons began to get their financial feet back around 1870 making Lycurgus again “leading planter” in Chicot County. As the piano was added to the taxable property, so was a gold watch and a pleasure carriage (DeBlack 2002: 32).

Annie Taylor Worthington (1875-1963), daughter of Mary Jane Johnson and Isaac M. Worthington,
Annie Taylor Worthington, ca. 1880
Jr., began learning the piano during the time she lived at Lakeport–1876-1888. Her granddaughter, Annie Paden, remembers her playing piano beautifully, playing for her own pleasure” and at “weddings and special occasions throughout her adult life.”

The 1500 lb piano was likely left in the house in 1917, when Victor Johnson and his family moved to Greenville, Mississippi. There it stayed until the fall of 1950, when Alvin Ford and his family moved into the home. It was then moved to the Epstein Gin and put in storage.

When Lakeport received the piano, it had been sitting on its side for 60 years; rodents had chewed on some of the wood; the legs were detached with some damage; the piano’s lid was completely split; strings were broken, and the piano’s rosewood finish was unrecognizable.

Bradshaw Piano Services of Conway was selected to do a museum quality restoration of the piano. Barry and Phyllis Bradshaw have over 75 years of combined work in the piano restoration and quality control. Bradshaw Piano disassembled the piano, replaced missing rosewood veneer, cleaned and re-plated hardware, repaired damaged legs, restrung the piano, replaced blue steel tuning pins…(the list goes on)..,and restored the rosewood finish (matching the faux rosewood doors in the home).

We are excited to have the piano back at Lakeport. It is beautifully restored and again a centerpiece in the home. We hope you come out to see it.

P.S. Our next event will be Barry Bradshaw talking about restoring the piano. Time and Date still to be determined.

Large Cistern Repaired

The large hole in the large cistern has been patched!  

The large cistern, which sits along the ell porch, had a large hole in its side for many years; a photo from ca. 1956 shows the cistern intact.

  The hole was likely created by trucks that backed 
up to deliver goods to the commissary, which was in use as late as 1984.   
The large cistern is one of two cisterns at Lakeport Plantation.  They were part of the original water collection system that directed water away from 
the house and collected water for domestic use.
Rain water was captured by the built-in/box gutters on the second story of the house and half-round gutters found along the ell porch.  The water was then directed by downspouts into brick collection boxes in the brick walkway.  The water was strained and then flowed into underground troughs that originally fed into the cisterns.  Today, rainwater is directed into several collection boxes in the yard and the cisterns have been filled with sand for safety.  Uses for the water in the cisterns would have included washing, cooking, cleaning, and drinking.
To repair the cistern, a form had to be fashioned to hold the bricks in place 

as the mortar set.  
A local carpenter, Keith Carpenter (his real name), decided to use sheet metal as the form–though not what would have been used in the 19th century, it does the job using the same principle.  
Once the form was in place, Lester Davidson, a mason who has worked at Lakeport before, was able to patch the hole using bricks left over from the restoration and a mortar created from lime putty and local river sand. 
Click on the slideshow below to see more pictures of the work on the cistern and shots of the guttering system as well.