Leona Blume had a plan when she moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi to marry her sweetheart, Lazrus Baer. She wanted to impress people with her wealth and prestige. To do that, she purchased a Greek Revival Style Mansion, damaged during the Civil War, and began to convert it into a Federal Style Mansion. Construction was begun, with Leona keeping a watchful eye from the street. If the Craftsmen hired to do the job made a mistake, they were quickly replaced. The long and proud history of the Baer House Inn had begun.
Miss Leona, determined to show the city her wealth, had the symbols of wealth added inside and outside the house. The original concrete steps and walkway, built when only the extremely wealthy had concrete, still stand today. Leona was a strong willed woman, who believed in grandeur. She often entertained in her well appointed downstairs. Her children were never allowed to enter downstairs, living completely upstairs, even entering the house by their own staircase.
She was determined to have an indoor kitchen, although she never set foot in the kitchen in her life. When her husband, Lazrus, balked and insisted they would have an outdoor kitchen, the outdoor kitchen “caught fire.” Leona refused to allow the firefighters to enter her property and watched as the kitchen burned to the ground. Soon after, Leona had her indoor kitchen.
Leona was as strong willed with her children as her home. Her oldest daughter, Sarah, refused to marry the gentleman Leona had arranged for her to wed, preferring to marry for love. Discovering Sarah had defied her wishes, Leona declared her dead. As a devout Jewish citizen, she persuaded the local Rabbi to add her name to the Book of the Dead and erected a tombstone for Sarah in a local cemetery.
Leona probably would have “turned in her grave” to discover Sarah was eventually left in charge of her prized home. The next occupants, the Williams family, had a completely different approach to the home than Leona. The children were welcome occupants of every room and the house became a home. The Grand Ball room still shows scratch marks where the children used the room as their personal roller skating rink.
Today, the Baer House Inn, owned by Corey and Patricia Rickrhode, has been christened the “Baer-Williams House” and is a gracious bed and breakfast. We dined on tasty snacks- cheese toast with pepper jelly, deviled eggs for my Celiac daughter, tea and lemonade- while seated at a 500 year old table. Imagine being able to eat at a table that was around before Columbus began his voyages to the New World! There are seven lovely guestrooms, many featuring period antiques, and a full breakfast served each morning.
The Rickrhodes are gracious hosts and are happy to answer questions about the history of their home. (Tip: For those wanting a spooky thrill, ask about the ghosts of Baer House.) Tours are available, along with specialty packages. The Baer House is located on Grove Street in historic downtown and is easily within walking distance of shops, museums and historic properties.
Have you visited Vicksburg? Do you have a favorite site to recommend?