New owners renovating landmark for use as private home

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 1, 2002

Michael Hohm, 10, looks out the window of the master bathroom of Planters Hall Wednesday. His mother, Charity Hohm-Whaley said it is the best view from the house because of the Old Court House Museum. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[04/01/02] Known today as Planters Hall, the house at 822 Main St. has been a bank, a private residence, a tourist attraction, home to a group of women’s garden clubs and now it will be a private home again.

“It’s a very significant building to the history of Vicksburg,” said Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.

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“It’s one of the oldest remaining bank buildings in the state. It still has its integrity and character.”

Charity HohmnWhaley, a native of D’Lo, will move into the 170-year-old structure across Monroe Street from the Vicksburg Auditorium with her four children as soon as renovations are complete, which will be sometime in December, she said. She bought the house four months ago meaning she’s spending a year fixing it up.

Although the house has been opened for tours several years in the past, she said it is not her intention to show the house.

“I’ve considered doing an open house around Christmas, but after that, this is where I want to just raise my children,” she said.

Planters Hall was built in 1832 and was originally home to Planters Bank and its president, who was required by state law to live there. It became a family residence in the 1840s and was used as headquarters by the 28th Louisiana Regiment during the Civil War. After changing hands several times, it was sold to the Vicksburg Council of Garden Clubs in 1956 by Joseph Canizaro Sr. The council renamed it Planters Hall and opened it annually for Spring Pilgrimage.

Canizaro, who was born in the left front parlor of the house, said he’s pleased Hohm-Whaley is restoring it.

“I’m looking forward to it. I told her I’d help in any way I can and give her any information I have,” he said.

“I think she’ll do a great job.”

The most recent owner, John Slagter, bought it in 1997 but was forced to give it up when his business, Stonecraft L.L.C. in Rolling Fork, went bankrupt.

Whaley said Slagter, who was also renovating the house for a residence, had already replaced the windows and removed the paint from the walls, making needed repairs much easier to handle.

Hohm-Whaley, a charge nurse in the maternity unit of River Oaks hospital in Jackson, is a former Navy officer who said she’s moved 23 times in the past eight years, living in states from Rhode Island to Louisiana. But she has always been interested in Vicksburg and was particularly enticed to settle here, she said.

“I’d heard what the mayor was doing with downtown, changing the historical district and cleaning it up, so that finalized my decision to move to Vicksburg.”

“I think Vicksburg is beautiful I love it. I felt led by God this is where I should be, so that’s why I’m here.”

Having made several trips here on vacation, she said she became interested in Planters Hall when Harry Sharp, owner of Duff Green Mansion, recommended she and her family look at it.

“(My family) loved it and that was it we just decided to get it,” she said.

“One thing about the house is it never goes out of style. It will never decrease in value, only increase.”

She said a major factor influencing her to buy the house was its architecture, including the 15-foot ceilings, 19-inch-thick walls, 25 windows and a vault a remnant of the early bank.

Other notable features of the house include the upstairs doorway (which won an architectural award at the turn of the century) and an outside carriage house and kitchen, that Hohm-Whaley said if approved, she plans to have made into an executive rental house. She also plans to landscape the courtyard.

All interior renovations must be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and exterior renovations must be approved by the Vicksburg Foundation of Historic Preservation.

Hohm-Whaley said since the house is structurally sound, there will be no need to rebuild any part of it.

“It just mainly needs cosmetic repairs,” she said, such as painting the walls and sanding the floors.

She said the kitchen was in the worst condition, costing $15,000 in repairs. Floors were replaced with marble tiles, and new appliances and cabinets were installed. She said she has sub-contracted the construction work and has a carpenter who comes to the house every day.

She said renovations could be complete within three months, but a delaying factor is the drapery must be hand-made because of window size.

“We’re not going to move in until everything is pristine,” she said.