Situated on historic Church Street in Woodville, Mississippi some thirty minutes south of Natchez is beautiful old "Oaklawn" home of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes Sturgeon, also commonly known as the "Lewis House" or "Morris House." It was built in 1832 by Dr. Thomas Lynn.
The house is the most distinguished example of neo-classical architecture in Woodville, Mississippi and has been compared with "Rosalie" and "Arlington" in Natchez. It has a formal five-bay façade dominated by a three-bay portico of the four Tuscan columns, and features twelve-over-twelve windows and Flemish bond brickwork. On the back in perfect balance is an enclosed loggia flanked by useful cabinet rooms and a winding stair leading to the second and third floors.
The long legend in Woodville was that Dr. Lynne built the house as a wedding present to his fiancée. Because of her love of dance he included on the second floor only one large ballroom flanked by small drawing rooms. She found the house to be so impractical that she called off the engagement and soon after died of a broken heart. In reality is appears that he moved to the Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana and lived many more years, but it make a great story. In any event, he quickly sold the house.
In deed the house did originally have such a layout on the second floor, but it was altered into more useable space in the 1840s. The present owners use that room as a library.
After passing through several owners, the house became the property of Colonel John South Lewis, an early resident of Woodville and a merchant and planter. In stayed in the ownership of direct descendants of Col. Lewis until the present owner, Mr. Holmes Sturgeon, purchased it from Mrs. Mary Lewis Morris and Mrs. Elizabeth Morris Gillon in 1996. Through a cousin of the Morris family, Mr. Sturgeon is not a Lewis descendent, but is a lifelong resident of Woodville with many old family connections here. Dr. Lynn's office, in fact, was a tavern owned by Captain Prestwood Smith, Mr. Sturgeon's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
Dr. Lynn was a freemason and an active member of Woodville's Asylum Lodge in his early days, and he built his house no doubt with this in mind. It is oriented perfectly due east and west and is in complete balance. There are other elements of masonry present, as well. All of the male owners of this house have always been masons and member of the Asylum Lodge, including the present owner.
The yard encompasses beautiful oaks and camellias. Mr. Sturgeon is an active grower and collector of camellias and the proprery now contains over one hundred and twenty varieties, some of the old such as the striking "Woodville Red", as well as some very rare specimens not found elsewhere in the area.
In 1998, during a restoration, the house suffered a tragic fire, which destroyed a 1910 an 1950 wooded addition on the back. Fortunately the front original portion of the house faired better and after four years of restoration, it was restored to its original state in one of the largest and most meticulous restorations ever undertaken in Mississippi.
Today "Oaklawn" is a private residence or Mr. and Mrs. Holmes Sturgeon and their sons Walker and Lon. The first floor is available, however, for select parties and events and Mr. and Mrs. Sturgeon should be contacted for more information.
Website and photos by John Vardaman