Vicksburg’s first tour home and columned mansion is under new ownership for the first time in more than 20 years.
Anna Kate Doiron and Sam Andrews, both sixth-generation Vicksburgers, have purchased Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn from Tom Pharr. The sale was made possible through a financing agreement between the couple, Pharr, and Delta Bank of Vicksburg — all of whom entered into a non-disclosure agreement surrounding the final sale price of the property and business.
“Preserving and enhancing Anchuca has been my top priority for the last two decades,” Pharr said. “I believe they are the right couple to continue this effort as I’ve seen firsthand their appreciation for the history of this property and the surrounding neighborhood. I know they will be excellent stewards of its success.”
The couple says all current offerings of the award-winning business will remain the same. Additionally, the couple has hired Vicksburg residents Ken Rector of Bailess & Rector, LLP and Riley Nelson of May & Company, LLP to represent Anchuca’s business interests going forward.
Andrews said he has great respect for Pharr’s successful revitalization efforts, calling him not only an advocate but catalyst for investment in Vicksburg’s National Register Historic District. Andrews remembers when Pharr announced his concept for traditionally styled, new homes in the city’s oldest neighborhood.
“When Tom described his plans to build small homes on available lots in the most historic part of Vicksburg, all in close proximity to Anchuca, I was immediately interested,” Andrews said. “While the outside of each home was designed to complement the historic neighborhood, the inside included modern conveniences and a functional floor plan.”
Nearly 12 years later, Andrews and his fiancé not only own one of those new homes envisioned by Pharr, but also the historic mansion where the idea was born.
“From getting engaged here nearly a year ago to time spent with family and friends, Anchuca has been one of the best parts of our lives together in Vicksburg,” Doiron said. “Sam and I couldn’t be more excited to call it our own and continue sharing it with visitors from all over the world — it was an opportunity we couldn’t resist.”
Before moving back to Vicksburg, Pharr lived in Atlanta, Ga., where he started his own architectural and interior design business with a wide range of clients, including music legends L.A. Reid, Toni Braxton, and Sean Combs. When the opportunity arose to purchase Anchuca in 2001, the 37-year-old Pharr found himself in a “full-circle” moment as he had worked there as a teenager. Pharr believes that his early experience and the many interesting people he met there helped inspire him to choose his original career path.
“As a young kid, all I could think was that I wanted to move away and see the world, which I did,” said Pharr. “What I didn’t realize at the time was that Anchuca would bring me home and then bring people from all over the world to me so I could share Vicksburg’s unique story with them.”
During his time as approximately the 10th owner of the 192-year-old home, Pharr has impeccably maintained and enhanced the property, bringing Anchuca into the digital age and adding on the Garden Room to accommodate more events and dining space, creating a special place for the local community to enjoy as well.
Pharr credits his successful tenure of ownership with incredible support from his family, especially his mother and sister; many generous friends who shared their time and talents; and the wonderful staff, as well as faithful patrons and the local community. Moving forward, he plans to continue his design work and further develop Vicksburg’s most historic area.
“Like Anna Kate (23) and Sam (27), I was young when I bought Anchuca, so naturally many people questioned my decision,” Pharr said. “But, thankfully, I had a greater number of people who supported me. Combine that with persistence, passion, and the right attitude, and you can make anything happen. This couple most definitely shares that mindset.”
The new owners have deep ties to Vicksburg’s historic past and look forward to sharing their family stories with Anchuca’s guests. Doiron is a descendant of the family who first bottled Coca-Cola in Vicksburg in 1894, while Andrews is a descendant of the first civilian killed during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Both events took place just blocks from Anchuca.
“Tom and the talented team at Anchuca have done an incredible job preserving, enhancing, and marketing this historic property,” Andrews said. “We’re excited to build on that success for the next generation.”
Keep Cool Kid!
School is out, and summer is almost (officially) here! In climates like Mississippi’s, that calls for a swimming pool appreciation post. Sometime in the late 1970s, Anchuca’s former owner Mae Burns made the decision to add a swimming pool to the list of amenities our B&B guests can enjoy. We love the classically-shaped pool and statues on each corner representing the four seasons, which have added to Anchuca’s charm for four decades.
Today, our guests can continue to enjoy a relaxing swim or take a break to lounge by the pool during these long, summer days. Anchuca’s pool makes a great spot to enjoy the sunset and has also been the backdrop for a wedding proposal or two.(Even Ferdinand has been known to take advantage of the scenery for a cat nap.) We hope you enjoy this look back!
Also, this could be an appreciation post for the addition of Springfield house to the corner of Cherry and First East streets (see photo) but we’ll save that for another day. We love our Old Town neighborhood!
Happy 20th anniversary at Anchuca to Tom Pharr! The difference is in the details and you are a difference maker. You could live anywhere and design beautiful homes and work spaces, but we are glad that you chose this corner of the world. You see beauty behind what has been covered up and potential where there is a blank canvas. You are a great storyteller, sharing the history of our community in a way that draws people in and sends them out with a different view. You continually encourage others to join in the cause of historic preservation. In this one neighborhood, you have turned a garden into a gathering spot (with delicious food)! You have saved homes and reimagined them, including Springfield house. You have added five new homes that fit seamlessly into the fabric of the neighborhood, adding value to everyone else as well. You have donated your amazing talent for design to other areas of the city and given advice to many. Wish we had a photo of you working at Anchuca as a teenager to celebrate this milestone in your full circle story. We salute you and your tireless commitment!
The following article and photos appeared in The Vicksburg Post on July 18, 2021.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (1923)
No doubt my love of the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost is related to my affection for the 1983 film adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When two of the main characters – Ponyboy and Johnny – recite this short poem and discuss its deeper meaning, their words became permanently etched in my memory as I watched this scene play out untold times. (This also helped as I had to memorize and recite poetry for a grade in my senior English class!) However, these words recently came back to me in a different way.
If you live in this area, you will be familiar with the golden glaze of pollen that covers everything during this wonderful time of year. As lovely as the new blooms of spring are, the layers of pollen can present an array of problems from seasonal allergies to spring cleaning. Mae Burns, who owned Anchuca from 1978 until 1998, found a practical way to tackle this situation, which also coincided with the busy Spring Pilgrimage. She changed the paint color of Anchuca from its traditional white facade to a golden one to disguise the pollen (aka “Anchuca Gold” at our local Sherwin Williams). And so, the plan remains for Anchuca to Stay Gold!
Note: Like Anchuca, many of Vicksburg’s historic structures started out as red brick but were later painted or stuccoed over to help seal and preserve the old bricks. Planter’s Hall is an example of original red brick structure, and at Christ Church, there is an area that shows the original red brick.
A note about Anchuca’s original cast iron, coal-burning fireplaces
We hope you are staying warm on this unusually cold and icy day in Vicksburg. These frigid temps have us thinking about curling up with a good book by the fireplace, and also asking the question, “Did you know…?”
Anchuca’s cast iron, coal-burning fireplaces, a modern convenience at the time, were some of the first in Vicksburg. Jane and Victor Wilson, a coal and ice merchant and one of the town’s most influential citizens, are credited with adding the impressive Greek revival-style addition to the home in the late 1840s. This addition not only made Anchuca one of the first columned-mansions in Vicksburg, but also included many beautifully-designed, architectural details that are still seen today. Unlike the other wood-burning fireplaces throughout the home, the coal-burning fireplaces were supplied by Mr. Wilson’s coal yard, located just at the bottom of the hill.
Anchuca’s original, coal-burning fireplaces are beautiful architectural details.
Of course, they are not working fireplaces now (even though once replaced by gas heaters) as it would pose a safety hazard. Also, you may have noticed that Anchuca’s chimneys on the front addition are not visible from the outside as they were damaged in the devastating tornado of 1953.
Anchuca’s original chimneys were destroyed by tornado in 1953.
Stop in Vicksburg was highlight of civil war-themed cruise
Every day aboard the America Cruise Line’s America was spectacular, especially for those of us who were thrilled to be educated by the great great grandson of Confederate President Jefferson Davis as a shipmate on this boat trip up the Mississippi through Civil War territory. An added bonus was the dual entertainment of Laura and Bill Wiemuth who know how to combine musical talent, even a bit of magic, with a vast knowledge of the Mighty Mississippi. Afternoon talks by both Bertram Davis and Bill and evening music and laughter headed by Laura and Bill, coupled with fascinating tours of museums, towns, and battlefields make for an indescribably wonderful cruise.
But if there is a single day to be identified as a highlight of the trip, it was the spontaneous day we spent walking around Vicksburg with Bertram and Carol Davis and a close friend of theirs, Tom Pharr. Bertram explained the trip was ‘an extra,’ being tried by the cruise line to see if people would like it and whether it should be incorporated on future trips. I give that suggestion an A plus, and then some!
If there are any complaints at all, it’s that the Civil War themed cruise was not long enough! The 18 hour stay in Vicksburg, Mississippi simply doesn’t allow enough time to take in all the history of the battlefield and the siege of the city, the beauty of the area, the museums that abound about everything from Coca Cola to the USS Cairo, the first ironclad battleship that was sunk during the war. Or Anchuca, a magnificent mansion with a wonderful owner.
We capitalized on the Davis/Pharr friendship. Pharr is an equally friendly historian and a Vicksburg native who owns Anchuca and a couple of other residences in Vicksburg. Couple this friendship with the cruise line’s enthusiasm for introducing innovative programs to see if cruise goers would enjoy something out of the ordinary, and the walking tour was a huge bonus.
After an incredible morning talk about the Steamboat Sultana given by Wiemuth, and a several hour visit to the battlefield, we accepted the invitation to take the short walk to one of Tom’s houses, Anchuca, a luxurious and comfortable antebellum home, now restaurant and B&B, and enjoy tea in the drawing room. The home couldn’t be named more aptly…. Anchuca is a Choctaw word meaning happy home.
During tea, we were formally introduced to Tom, who immediately launched into a spirited explanation on the history of the mansion where he had worked during his high school years when it was a B&B as well as a tour guide and porter. Though he always dreamed of owning a home like this, Tim left Vicksburg for an education and career in architectural design but never quite forgot the teen age dream and the first architectural design he fell in love with. So 15 years ago when it became available, Tom decided to chuck his architectural work, return to his birthplace and buy Anchuca. Today, this Greek revival landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the most historic homes on the River, enjoys a reputation for being one of the best restaurants and B&Bs in the area, and is beautifully furnished with great antiques and art.
We also learned the friendship between Tom and Bertram was more or less meant to be. While these two historians are 21st century friends, the 19th century owners and Jefferson Davis’ older brother. Joseph, were also apparently friends; Joseph was living here at the time of his death and the Confederate President himself had given talks from the front balcony, to the devastated people of Vicksburg after the siege. It’s a very small world even over the centuries.
After tea, conversation, a tour of the mansion and the promise of more to come, we climbed further up the hill from Anchuca and the levee, all the while Tom regaling the dozen or so of us walkers with tales about Vicksburg and what made it great. He pointed out the Episcopal Church in the next block where daily services were conducted during the siege to assuage the grief of the residents, only to have the present day pastor, the Rev. Sam Godfrey, come out to greet us and open the doors to invite us in for a brief rest and more history about this still very active church and community.
Starting downhill again, on a broad street lined with crepe myrtles not yet in their full summer bloom making it easy to see this tree’s unique style of shedding its bark year round, we waved back and shouted greetings to neighbors who simply came
out to say hello and welcome. Regretfully, because of time constraints, we had to turn down the cheery invitation of the charming nonagenarian who came out on her back porch to say hello and invite us in to her antebellum home for yet another cup of tea. There’s no doubt about it, Southerners are a downright friendly and outgoing people!
One more stop before heading back to the boat was at the home where Tom now lives, another antebellum beauty with fascinating architecture, amazing porches, and a wonderful blend of historic design and modern convenience. A highlight here is an upstairs office where the walls are plastered with this very dynamic architectural designer’s drawings of some of the many homes he has helped restore to their 19th century grandeur.
Heading back to the levee, we had enough time to review some of the spectacular wall painted by local artists and depicting the history of Vicksburg from when the Sisters of Mercy had a mission there through Theodore Roosevelt’s famous bear hunting expedition and many other sites that helped make Vicksburg the spectacular city it is today. Not as attractive, but perhaps an even larger part of the city’s history, is the levee wall with the markings of how high the river rose during specific storms and hurricanes.
Vicksburg survived the Civil War, fought off Northern forces for many days, swallowed hard and overcame the devastation of its 47 day siege that marked the turning point of a war that should never have happened, and today can hold its head high and be proud of its history, beauty, strength, and the people who have made it all happen.
Written by Muriel J Smith, a Freehold, New Jersey, resident and a former newspaper editor and author, for the “Atlantic Highlands Herald” and also submitted to the “Vicksburg Post”
(reprinted with permission)