Finding Vicksburg History at Baer House
Baer House is a lovely bed and breakfast located on a quiet street in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It is also a historic reminder of the past when Vicksburg was a prosperous 19th century river town before and after the Civil War.
In addition to being excellent overnight accommodations, the house, built in 1870, is also open for tours.
On the day I visited, I was welcomed by owners Corey and Patricia Rickrode. Corey carried on with the tour and offered me insight into the history of the house, its occupants and the city itself.
Room to room I followed Corey as he showed me the beautiful antique-filled rooms, but it was his telling of the Baers that kept me riveted to his every word. Truly, the Baer family story would make an excellent movie-of-the-week.
The Baer Family
Lazarus Baer, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, owned a dry goods business in Vicksburg which allowed him and his wife Leona the capital to build the Eastlake Victorian house. The couple raised one son and four daughters. Leona isolated her children to the second floor while the first floor was reserved for her, her husband and their many guests. There was even a separate outside staircase for the children to use.
Leona was high-society. She often entertained in her elegant home with its fine art and furnishings. She was also a strong-willed mother and arranged marriages for her daughters. Three of her daughters, according to her plan, married the wealthy Jewish men she had chosen for them. Her daughter Sarah, however, fell in love with a friend of the family and after the couple eloped, her mother held a funeral for Sarah and had her symbolically buried. Leona also cut her daughter out of the family completely although Sarah lived only two blocks away.
The unmarried son passed away, the other daughters moved from the area, and in 1897, Leona passed away.
Lazarus, now alone in his grand home, would sit on his porch and watch his neighbors including a nanny and two children who passed by his home daily. One day, he started to talk to them and, to his astonishment, discovered they were his grandchildren — Sarah’s children.
He welcomed Sarah back into his home, realizing she wasn’t the terrible person Leona had made her out to be.
The Williams Family
After Lazrus passed away in 1924, the eldest married daughters, who had no interest in the Vicksburg property, told Sarah to do what she wanted with the house.
Now in control of everything Leona cherished, Sarah approached the Williams family, a poor but very generous family with seven children and asked if they would like to live in the big home on the hill. Sarah told them to move in and give her whatever they could as rent and the Williams family took over the Baer House and all its possessions.
The kind-hearted Williams family began giving away Leona’s possessions to people who truly needed them and then started taking in poor people who had nowhere else to go.
In time, the house became a boarding house and, finally, a bed and breakfast.
A desire to live and work in a bed and breakfast brought Corey and Patricia Rickrode to Mississippi from Northern California, but it was their love of history, specifically Vicksburg’s rich Civil War history, that led the couple to purchase the Baer House.
The home is lovely with its polished wood, ornate decor and period furnishings.
The large parlor has a lovely bay window; perfect for guests to enjoy after a day of touring Vicksburg National Military Park, the city’s museums or taking a walking tour with David Maggio, one of the excellent guides available through the Vicksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Seven guest bedrooms are available for overnight guests, featuring fireplaces, chandeliers and Victorian furnishings.
Baer House is located at 1117 Grove Street in Vicksburg. For more information, overnight reservations or to tour the house call (601) 883-1525 or email at email@example.com.
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