Early-1800s home in revival on Main

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

Betty Bullard stands in front of the house she is restoring at 921 Main St. Wednesday.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[2/19/04]One of Vicksburg’s oldest homes yet probably the least known is getting a makeover thanks to Betty Bullard.

The home, built between 1822 and 1825 by George Washington Ball, is at 921 Main St.

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Bullard, who owns four other properties in the Vicksburg Historic District, is quick to point out that she hasn’t taken on this project alone or lightly.

She’s enlisted the help of workers from Brewer Construction and Miller Electric.

And besides quality work, Bullard has one other high expectation: that the workers love what they do.

“When you take on a project like this, you’ve got to have people who are not just good craftsmen,” she said. “They’ve got to get a kick out of it.”

Webber Brewer does indeed. He can’t count the number of homes he and his wife have restored over the years.

“We love redoing the homes, and we love the people who own them,” he said.

And taking this project on is no easy task.

The crew is busy every day, weather permitting, removing wall coverings, installing a new roof, finishing the original hardwood floors, making the foundation level and redoing the plumbing and electrical makeup of the house. When it’s finished, the eight-room home will have four and a half baths and four bedrooms, and the original eight fireplaces in each room will be intact. Open-air verandas will be on the front and back of the home.

“We’re bringing this house to 2004 with George Washington Ball in charge,” Bullard said. “He was a man who wanted a fine home, and if he came to 2004 he’d still want a fine home.

“With the parameters of his house, we’re building a modern home.”

According to Bullard’s research and Gordon Cotton, curator and director of The Old Court House Museum-Eva W. Davis Memorial, Ball was likely a relative of the nation’s first president.

Ball’s father, Joseph Ball, owned the Vicksburg Hotel, which stood near where City Auditorium stands today.

In short, Ball was a prominent and wealthy man in Vicksburg’s early history. He was involved with local Presbyterians and Christ Episcopal Church, where his daughter was baptized.

The home is a bit of both the Greek Revival and Federal styles of architecture, said Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.

“This is one that people have missed,” she said. “If fact, it’s amazing how intact the structure is.”

Bell said Bullard’s purchase of the home is a good example of how the Foundation and the Board of Architectural Review work together.

“The owner requested a permit from the Board of Architectural Review to demolish the building,” she said.

The board gave the building a 180-day stay and searched for someone to buy the property.

“Betty Bullard stepped up to the plate and purchased it.”

And as for when the project will be completed, Bullard answers, “We don’t put a time limit on these things.

“If you don’t have the That’s not a problem’ mentality, then don’t get involved in this,” Bullard said, who’s lived in Vicksburg for nearly 50 years and whose late husband, Nat Bullard, was a former mayor of Vicksburg and chancery judge.