UPDATE: (May '08) The Historical Pilgrimage was an interesting and enjoyable event! All four homes were a joy to tour and gave us the opportunity to glimpse some of Jefferson's architectural gems.
We once restored a 130 year old home in Pennsylvania, so we appreciate all the work that goes into bringing a historic structure back to life!
Jefferson gives one the opportunity to tour homes that have already been polished up and renewed during its annual historic house tour.
The Jefferson Historical Pilgrimage is in its 61st year this May 2-4. 2008. Four charming homes were opened for viewing--the McKinnon House (pictured) will be one of these. To see all of the homes open for the tour, go to www.the excelsiorhouse.com/tour.htm
Picture #2 The Atkins-Castleman House
Tickets for the Pilgrimage Tour were purchased at Excelsior Hotel (903-665-2513 or 800-490-7270) which is located at 211 W. Austin St. The cost of the tour was $15 per adult and $3 for children under 12.
Call Marion Chamber of Commerce for more information (903) 665-2672 or (888) GO RELAX.
We traveled to Jefferson for a Texas-style Mardi Gras celebration on the first weekend in February. But remember, this is the Bible belt, so you won't find the wild abandon you might experience in New Orleans.
The Krewe of Hebe organized two parades: The Doo Dah parade on Friday evening, where revelers were invited to don a costume and weave their way through the town and The Grand Parade, which began on Saturday afternoon and consisted of floats, Shriners on mini-cars. a marching band and plenty of motorcyclers--all tossing shiny beaded necklaces.
A main stage hosted several different musical groups and other venues in town offered country-western and cajun-style zydeco music.
Children's events were scheduled for Sunday afternoon: a costume contest, children's parade and ugly dog contest, plus other activities.
Jefferson has many restored buildings and homes, so a walk about town was truly enlightening.
This is said to be a town of bed and breakfasts, so many of the architectural beauties are designated lodging places.
We attempted to book a room in town, but since this was a last minute trip we weren't successful.
Some B&B's were recent constructions, like Scarlett O'Hardy's pictured here, while others were restorations. Here are just a few of Jefferson's jewels:
picture #2 Hale House Inn
picture #3 Alley-Carlson House
picture #4 House of the Seasons
picture #5 Singleton Virginia Cross
Tree-lined streets, unique architecture, friendly people and great shops to visit will draw us back to Jefferson for another visit. A house tour in early May could be the occasion or maybe it will be the re-enactment of the battle of Port Jefferson during this same time.
Walking from town, we headed to Scarlett O'Hardy's Gone With the Wind Museum. After sampling some of the great food in town, we surely needed the exercise.
A Mardi Gras celebration always seems to be accompanied by high spirits, festive atmosphere and colorful bead necklaces!
Beads of all shapes and sizes were sold everywhere! Some had additional plastic charms strung with the beads, such as fleur de lis, stars, etc. (picture 2)
Jim and I made sure we had plenty of beads to toss from the Jefferson Hotel balcony!
We had paid $5 each to have that privilege, so I made the most of it. Here I am tossing these shiny "trophies" to the expectant crowd below. This was my favorite part of Mardi Gras! It was a "heady" experience casting these sought-after mementos to the wind!
This 1860's structure has seen a great deal of Jefferson's history.
According to records, it was first a private home, then through the years became a Sisters of Charity convent, hospital and school by the name of St. Mary's.
It is now The Jefferson Playhouse, but prior to this the building had been purchased and an addition constructed by the Hebrew Sinai Congregation as their synagogue. This is the site of the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial presented each year. (If you're curious about Diamond Bessie, see my custom tips).
I think it's nice that The Jessie Allen Garden Club provides members as guides for tours of The Playhouse and the Ruth Lester House, a Victorian dwelling restored by this group.
For further info. see website below.
A moving re-enactment ceremony occurred on Sunday morning at 10:00 am in front of Christ Episcopal Church, where a presentation of colors was made to the Jefferson Guards. It was the 29th re-enactment of this occasion.
This moment in history involved a daughter of the pastor of this church, Miss Fanny Benners, who wrote a dramatic farewell to the local soldiers as they went off to fight in the Civil War.
As we watched, the Lone Star Confederate Color Guard and Drum Corps portrayed the Jefferson Guard. A band in Civil War era uniform played a lively tune as soldiers marched or rode their horses to the church. A young woman playing the pastor's daughter arrived astride a horse and presented a banner to the group (pic #2). Someone then read her farewell speech.
I think we could all envision the emotions and pride of that long ago day. It was so touching!
The Jefferson Guards were organized in 1861 by Captain W.M. Duke, who was a member of Christ Episcopal Church
Imagination created the Battle of Port Jefferson, a re-enactment portraying what may have happened IF the Confederate troops had not defeated Union General Nathan Banks in Mansfield, Louisiana. They might indeed have entered Jefferson...this is the "what if" scenario.
The Gray (pic #2) and the Blue (pic #2) meet here each year in tents, campers and patriotic fervor. Several bivouacks are set up throughout town in parks or green areas, where camp fires blaze and period costumes dot the landscape.
This event begins with a parade of the Union and Confederate participants through Jefferson. Skirmishes play out on the streets, soldiers on horseback gallop by, ladies in lovely gowns ply the sidewalks (pic #3) and gunfire erupts as one side confronts the other. It was fun to be in the middle of this chaos!
The main battle took place on Saturday afternoon at 4pm.
As we followed the battle, we came across this peaceful bivouack set up in a small park near the center of town.
Men and women were in costume, some settling around a fire cooking their lunch and others resting in their tents. They encouraged us to explore the area where they were camped.
A friendly dog or two came up to greet us, while one of the horses nibbled on grass where it was tied (pic #2). We spoke with a member of a Texas regiment who told us they were traveling to Gettysburg this summer for a special re-enactment. He was gracious enough to inform us where the other re-enactments would be throughout the next few months.
As a surprise birthday party for my 60th, my son flew in one of my close friends from when we lived in California, and treated me to an evening out in Jefferson. Antique shops, old fashioned soda fountains, and plenty of good eating was on the agenda!
Jefferson is a great place to spend a weekend in East Texas!
I definitely recommend visiting Jefferson!
Jefferson is a very historic town of about 2100 (up 4% since 2000) located at the intersection of US Highway 59 and Texas Highway 49 in eastern Texas, not far from the Louisiana border. Jefferson was founded in 1841 on land received from the Caddo Nation, and was named after Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson got a lot of traffic as a riverport and shortly after the Civil War, had a population of over 30,000. Jefferson is the county seat of Marion County and is well worth a visit. Marion County was established in 1860, and was named after Revolutionary War General Francis Marion. The Marion County Courthouse was built in 1914, and was designed by fames architect Elmer G. Withers using the Classical Revival Style of Architecture.
There are many historical sites in Jefferson. One of them is the Excelsior Hotel. The frame part of the hotel was built in the 1850s and the brick addition dates from 1864. This was considered a great place to stay during Jefferson's riverboat days and famous guests indluded: Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses Grant along with poet Oscar Wilde. The Excelsior is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can still stay here, and there is a restaurant which serves breakfast.
As was frequently the case, it was not long after the first settlers arrived in the area that churches were organized. The First Baptist Church was formed here in 1855 and went through a number of buildings before the current one was built in 1944 replacing the beautiful 1869 building which was destroyed by fire.
This impressive home was built in 1910 using the Classical Revival style of architecture. It was the home of Robert Bruce Walker and his family until 1972. Walker was a businessman and a former mayor in Jefferson. The nice doric columns and wrap-around porch are a couple of features of this style of architecture. The Walker House is one of several houses of historical and/or architectural interest in Jefferson.
This nice park is in the downtown area of Jefferson and is used as a site for weddings, celebrations of national holidays and various other community activities. There is also a series of free concerts presented here and it is a nice place to relax. The park was donated to the town in 1993 by George and Michelle Otstott.
There are some great shops in the historic district. Loads of gift shops with collectibles and books as well as mouthwatering homemade fudge and chocolate shops. There are plenty of crafts and souvenirs as well, all in the old fashioned Victorian era look.