Historic Balfour a home again
Published 12:56 am Saturday, March 15, 2014
Balfour House feels new again after being unoccupied for years, as a Texas family is taking up residence in one of the city’s most historic homes and plans to reopen its doors at Crawford and Cherry streets to the public during the 2014 Tapestry: The Pilgrimage to Vicksburg.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to renovate a historical home,” said Charlotte Seale, the newest resident of the stately, two-story structure. “Everyone has been so nice, and the house will be beautiful.”
Seale, who grew up in Lake Charles, La., and her family recently moved to Vicksburg via Madison, but not before several other stops along the way. That included trips to Mississippi many times to visit family friends in the Belhaven area in Jackson.
Seale said she graduated from Millsaps College in the 1980s, and began a teaching career in Houston, Texas.
“The pay was better for teachers there,” Seale said. She returned to the Magnolia State, where both of her college-age children are being educated.
Seale said moving into the Balfour House and becoming its newest resident is a good fit for this stage of her life.
“This is my first time to do anything like this, but the house has good feelings,” Seale said.
Seale said she did research on the Balfour home before the move, and she and Matthew Wiggins Jr., of Kemah, Texas, are in the process of readying the house for the spring tours.
“Most of the renovations are cosmetic,” Seale said, but the goal is to return the home to its original state.
The Balfour House was built in 1835 and features elements of the Greek Revival and Federal styles. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally the home Dr. William and Emma Balfour. Emma Balfour is most known for the diary she kept during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863.
In 1862 during a Christmas Eve ball at the Balfour home, the guest — mostly Confederate officers and their wives — were interrupted during the party when a a Confederate courier entered the home.
The courier, wearing a cape that was dripping water through the house from the rainy night, made his way through the crowd to deliver a message to Gen. M. L. Smith. Upon reading the note, the general turned to the party-goers and announced “This ball is at an end. The enemy are coming down the river. All non-combatants must leave the city.”
The house suffered damage during the siege when a shell hit above a second story window.