Join us for the Behind the Big House Tour

Delve behind the hoop-skirts and mint juleps to the hard life behind the big house.

The south has a rich and varied history. The storybook life seen on the silver screen is often just one side of our past. Behind the grand mansions, beyond the freshly pressed linens, laid small and intimate slave dwellings where work, toil, and history also happened.

Many historic figures began their lives in these small dwellings such as Civil Rights icon and journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who was born in Holly Springs a slave and freed four years later. She strove to give rights to women as well as end lynching and was eventually driven from the south to Chicago. During the Holly Springs Pilgrimage of Homes, April 11th-13th, visitors will learn much more about this human rights pioneer as well as our unique past in the Behind the Big House Tour.

In addition to touring five of the towns historic mansions included on this year’s Pilgrimage, guests will be allowed a rare look into the lives of Holly Springs’ slave population during the “Behind the Big House Tour.” Another side of antebellum life will be seen through these surviving structures with a historic interpretation by Joseph McGill, a field agent with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Thanks to grant assistance from the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division and sponsored by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.: McGill will spend a few nights in Holly Springs’ slave cabins and then bring their story to life during the weekend long event.  “For so long folks have been visiting the plantation and going into the big house, and without those structures, the big house could not have existed,” says McGill.

On Tour: Burton Place, Hugh Craft and Magnolias Slave Quarters

*All quarters will be available to tour unmanned during the entire Pilgrimage but see schedule below to meet Joe. For more information on Joe’s project go to

Wednesday, 9th April
9 am- 4 pm – School Group Tours

Thursday, 10th April
9 am- 11:30 am – School Groups
1 pm- 2:15 pm – Oxford Lecture

Friday, 11th April
9:30 am – 12 pm – Joe McGill at Magnolia Place slaves’ quarters.
1 pm- 2:15 pm- Rust College Lecture

2:30 pm – 4 pm – Joe McGill at Burton Place slaves’ quarters
*Lunch Break from 12-1

Saturday, 12th April
9:30 am – 12 pm- Joe McGill at Magnolia Place slaves’ quarters.
1 pm- 2:15 pm- Ida B. Wells Museum for Lecture
2:30 pm- 4 pm- Joe McGill at Hugh Craft House
*Lunch Break from 12-1

Sunday, 13th April
9:30 am- 4 pm- All sites open for tours

Sponsored by Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division.

We hope to continue this project and begin open conversations about this shared history little hear about. If you wish to help, please email us at

*Historic photos courtesy of The Collection of Chesley Thorne Smith.


Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. (501c3) formed in 2005 with the hope of bringing historic preservation advocacy and educational outreach to the community. As one of our inaugural undertakings we acquired Chalmers Institute and are currently working to not only pay off the bank note on the property but to stabilize and eventually rehabilitate Chalmers Institute into regional resource once more. Constructed in 1837, Chalmers Institute, was Mississippi’s first legislatively recognized University. Within these walls countless leaders, writers, educators, and citizens received the educational foundations that would help to shape their lives, careers, and region’s history. Its enrollment actively continued until 1879 when it became another casualty of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. This proud structure entered its second life as residence until the 1980s. It now awaits its third life as a contributing member of the community with your help.