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Fall Pilgrimage hopes to attract tourists

Mary Burney and Sue Luna stepped through the open antique wood doors at The Baer House on Grove Street Friday afternoon and were immediately transported back in time to 1870 when the home was built.

The original American Chestnut and Mahogany stripped floors line the entry way and towering doorways flanked by priceless wainscoting lead into the parlor and ballroom.

The Baer House was the first of three stops during the Vicksburg Fall Pilgrimage, which started Friday. Burney and Luna, who were visiting Vicksburg from Texas, were treated to tours of Steele Cottage and McRaven House following the Baer House.

“We wanted to see some historic mansions,” Burney said. “We started out in Natchez and we wanted to see the battlefield. While we were in Natchez, they were going to have a pilgrimage of houses so we had thought about going back there. Then we went to the visitor’s center and saw the add and were like lets stay in Vicksburg. We have been very impressed by Vicksburg.”

The fall pilgrimage is part of a revived tour of the historic homes in Vicksburg, which began in the spring and is organized by the Vicksburg Bed and Breakfast Association.

The major change for the fall tour was the introduction of a city van tour, which takes guests from the Old Depot Museum to each of their three stops. The tours are lead by local historian Morgan Gates, who also runs the Haunted Vicksburg Ghost Tours.

“We realized it was complicated having all the different tour times and everything last year,” Jai Dobson, the general manager of the McRaven House and pilgrimage director, said. “We thought it would be a really cool addition to have the city tour to go along with it. You are driving around anyways and Morgan is so knowledgeable. It is really a better bet for the guests.”

Tours will resume Thursday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 1. The last tours will take place Thursday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 8.

Visitors will have three tours to choose from, each of which include three homes and costs $45 per person. Tour A includes Martha Vick, the Church of the Holy Trinity and Featherston-Magruder. Tour A will be held Sept. 28, Sept. 29, Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. Tour B includes Baer-Williams, Steele Cottage and McRaven. Tour B will be held Sept. 24 and Oct. 8. Tour C includes McNutt, Duff Green and Belle of the Bends. Tour C will take place Sept. 30, Oct. 5 and Oct. 7.

Each tour will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Old Depot Museum, 1010 Levee St. The tours include a city tour and visitors will be taken from the Old Depot Museum to each home via van.

“Hopefully it is going to put us back on the map as a destination place,” Patricia Rickrode, who owns the Baer House, said. “Every one thinks pilgrimage and they immediately think of Natchez. Our houses here are just as awesome so I hope people ultimately say lets go to Natchez and Vicksburg for a pilgrimage instead of just Natchez.”