Temple Heights Mansion
The glorious Temple Heights mansion can be found in the oldest residential
area in Columbus, sitting on top of a large grassy bank on Ninth Street North.
Wow! What a massive, impressive southern townhouse mansion!! Tom and I took a road trip through the South during the summer of 2019, hoping to catch mansion tours in southern states. However, Temple Heights is only open for inside tours during the annual Pilgrimage event. However, we got an eyeful of the outside of this Greek Revival beauty on steroids!
After reading the sign in front that requested visitors to use the side stairs, we went up the side steps of this property, where we got some great photos to share with our website readers. There was no sign warning against trespassing.
The temple form structure of this grand effort shouts Greek Revival architecture, looking very much like a Temple which explains why the original owners called their mansion, Temple Heights. According to the Mississippi Preservation website, “It is an admirable example of noble simplicity, beauty, and harmony in Doric style.”
Yes indeed! Apparently this was the preferred architectural style to have in 1854! There are grand colonnades of five Greek pillars along the front and along the sides, that appeared after the Harris family remodeled it in 1854 to be more Greek Revival, downplaying its Federalist style roots. They hold up large porticos on each side of the mansion. The original enclosed front porch was taken out to make room for the massive structure needed to support the porticos.
The interior rooms remain mostly in the Federalist style and have the original marble mantles above the fireplaces. There are four stories. Originally, each floor had two large rooms and a hallway. The third floor has a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room, while the fourth floor is the unfinished attic.
I looked up Temple Heights Mansion’s 1978 registration for NRHP. They reported in detail the attributes of Temple Heights.
“Built into the side of the hill, the nearly square, clapboarded, gable-roofed structure stands two and a half stories high, with a full basement under the southern or rear portion. Exterior paved, single-shoulder chimneys on the western elevation are laid in common bond. Nine-over-nine windows on the first level of the three-bay dwelling diminish to six-over-nine on the second and third levels. All windows feature Grecian surrounds set with end blocks and are fitted with operable louvered blinds that retain their original latch-type hardware.”
The inside of Temple Heights must be something to see as well. Tom and I want to plan another trip to Columbus when “The Pilgrimage” takes place. The trick is getting tickets from the Columbus Visitor’s Bureau.
“In the double parlors, are Persian, marble mantles built from virgin timber.The house combines Federal and Greek Revival features. The home includes four floors, porches on three sides, and 14 Doric columns. The home is the setting for historic narratives about 19th century life in Columbus. Temple Heights has been featured in The Magazine Antiques and on HGTV’s Old Homes Restored.”
To find out more details about the mansion, go to their website:
In 1830, a treaty was made between the government and the Choctaw Native Americans, which made available the rich land just south of Columbus; perfect for plantations. General Richard T. Brownrigg who was a North Carolinian, a wealthy, well-established planter, and a former representative in the North Carolina Legislature, was ready for an adventure after his brother-in-law told him of the opportunity to start a plantation on this rich soil.
In 1835, General Brownrigg left North Carolina, moving his large family of eleven, and his ninety-one slaves, with wagons and animals as well. They traveled over the great smokey mountains to settle on General Richard’s new plantation, on his newly-acquired Columbus area land.
This newly purchased estate was part of a two-portion land grant given to a government interpreter who helped to settle the Indian treaty, a deal that the Choctaw “couldn’t refuse.” (The God Father film, 1972).
In 1837, the good General Richard decided to build one of the city of Columbus’ first townhomes, which he called Temple Heights. He was inspired to do so after his married daughter, Sarah Sportsman, complained about living at the country plantation because of its the rugged isolation, bad roads in the winter, and lack of naturally clean water that didn’t have to be boiled. Conditions were basic during this frontier era. I would agree with her as I wouldn’t like those conditions either.
The Brownrigg family jumped right into the social and spiritual life of Columbus. They were the movers and shakers in bringing refinement and culture to Columbus. General Brownrigg helped to build the Columbus Episcopal Church and became the high elder there, and kept his hand in local politics, being active in the Whig Party. His son, John, became a prominent physician, serving the health needs of the community.
Temple Heights was a proper illustration of his wealth. The mansion was used for entertaining family, friends and the neighborhood. They probably held cultural and social events in one of their grand parlors.
Unfortunately, the good General Richard didn’t get to live here very long, because he died at Temple Heights just twelve years later. After his death, Temple Heights was put on the real estate market by his wife, due to a bad business decision made by General Richard that didn’t pan out.
Temple Heights was bought by the wealthy Harris family in the late 1840s. The money received from this sale proved to be a great help financially for the surviving members of the Brownrigg family.
Thomas W. Harris was a successful lawyer from Georgia. Harris represented the Cherokee Indians in their legal fight to stay in Georgia and not be moved to Oklahoma. In 1854, Mr. and Mrs. Harris decided to remodel the outside look of Temple Heights, planning to enhance the Greek Revival style and downplay the Federal style decor elements. The magnificent Greek pillars and porticos that adorn the front and sides of Temple Heights are their contribution.
The Harris family had several daughters, who grew up at Temple Heights. Daughter Mary was married in the parlor. She and her new husband also lived in the mansion, as there was plenty of room.
In 1867, Temple Heights was put back on the real estate market. Civil War widow Mrs. Jane Fontaine bought this magnificent structure and moved in with her daughter Annie. Her claim-to-fame was that she came up with the idea, and was the force behind starting the popular event, Decoration Day in 1866. It was later renamed Memorial Day, and became a Federal holiday.
In 1887, Pastor J. H. Kennebrew purchased this mansion, and moved in with his wife Fannie, and their five daughters. Fannie put in her will that Temple Heights could not be sold until all of her daughters were married. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, lived in Temple Heights for her whole life as she remained single. As she became older, she was considered to be a bit odd, using “mercurochrome for lipstick and rouge, and chalk dust for facial powder.”
She had an interesting appearance, with a chalk-white face, crimson lips and flaming red hair that she dyed herself. She must have startled her neighbors and friends who accepted her as she was, a bit eccentric!
Temple Heights stayed in the Kennebrew family for seventy-one years, owned by various descendants of the five Kennebrew daughters. Throughout the years, it was well maintained, and never allowed to fall into disrepair.
In 1965, Elizabeth died, and Temple Heights was again on the real estate market and bought by Mr. and Mrs. Carl H. Butler who were related to the two surviving Kennebrew family members. The Butlers restored it to its former 1854 self, the dream home of the Harris family. They applied for NRHP listing for Temple Heights, and received it on May 22nd, 1978.
Temple Heights stayed in the Butler family until 2016, when it was sold to its current owners, the Novotnys family, who continue to maintain this glorious mansion. Temple Heights is opened for tours during The Pilgrimage event, and throughout the spring and summer, via the Columbus Visitors Bureau.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Spirits of some of the daughters who lived in this mansion apparently still reside or visit, very much approving of what the Butlers and the Novtnys have restored and maintained their glorious forever home.
When people tragically die unexpectedly, taking them away from what they loved in this world, they may decide to stay and try to find ways to carry on in spirit form, not ready to leave just yet.
Berkeley Mansion, VA (A freak bolt of lightning killed William Harrison IV and two of his daughters, who were trying to shut a window. Harrison’s spirit is still the host in the life of this house museum. The spirits of his daughters keep him company).
USS Lexington, TX (Saw a lot of hot action in four major WW2 battles, suffering many dead. Many spirits were suddenly pulled out of their bodies unexpectedly and are still on duty, sometimes helping and interacting).
Loveland Castle, OH (This labor of love’s owner Harry Andrews isn’t going to let a quirky accident that took his life stop him).
Temple Heights Mansion, MS (Marry Harris was a newlywed, and had lived with her beloved in this mansion only 3 months before she suddenly died).
People who dearly love their home and live there for a time, sometimes want to stay in their home as a spirit, and find ways to announce themselves to the living.
Jocelyn Castle, NE (The spirits of the thee members of the Jocelyn family have decided to reside in their beloved castle in their afterlife, and enjoy watching the activities of the living).
Adam House, SD (W. East Adams loved this grand, elegant mansion, and as a spirit is spending his afterlife here).
Pittock Mansion Museum, OR (Because Mr. and Mrs. Pittock didn’t get to live very long in their retirement home, their spirits moved back inside when their mansion became a house museum).
Temple Heights Mansion, MS (Elizabeth Kennebrew lived her lifetime here, still resides full time as a spirit, and is willing to share it with the living. Annie Fontaine also likes to stay here to remember her good memories).
Sometimes spirits who have a spectral family member who has decided to stay in a special place will visit them while enjoying the environment as well.
Old Allen House, AR (Spectral family members come to visit the spirit of LaDell, who is restless and chooses to stay in the family home. Her son also resides with her, as he died suddenly before he was ready to do so).
LeDuc House Museum, MN (The spirit of Mr. LeDuc enjoys his home, with his spectral daughter by his side).
Eldridge Hotel, KS (The friendly spirit of Col. Eldridge has spectral friends and family who come to visit him They also have a special connection to the hotel).
Temple Heights Mansion, MS (The spirit of Elizabeth’s sister, Laura has come to visit and enjoys Temple Heights).
Two spirits reside peacefully with the owners, though they inadvertently have given visitors and guests an occasional thrill. Other spirits of family members like to visit too.
Miss Elizabeth’s seen & unseen Appearances
During the month of July 1991, tourists came for an open house tour.
In the middle of the master bedroom, the spirit of Miss Elizabeth appeared before them, in all her glory, as a good hostess must be cordial.
Being a minister’s daughter, she was used to entertaining people from the congregation.
The Spirit of Miss Elizabeth has been seen throughout the house.
Going up the stairs, and the hallways are favorite places.
Her disembodied voice is thought to be heard.
Miss Elizabeth disliked a scary Halloween Decoration.
Dixie Butler had a scarecrow with the face of a Jack-o-lantern sitting on her nightstand, facing toward the inside of the room.
When she awoke, the scarecrow was facing toward the windows instead.
The next few nights, she made it a point to have the scarecrow face the inside of her room. Every morning, it had turned around to face the windows.
Spirit of Mary Harris
Described as being pleasant but noisy!
She wants the living to know that she is still there.
Doors have been known to open and close by themselves, and sounds of voices float from empty rooms.
An overnight guest got a thrill when she awoke in the night, and saw through a female spirit, identified as Mary, who had opened the guest’s second floor bedroom door.
This female spirit became a bright ball of mist as she crossed the hallway and floated up some stairs.
Spirit of Annie Fountaine
Dixie Butler saw the spirit of a woman standing in the corner of the entrance hall, near the window by the entrance door.
After this spirit disappeared, Dixie went over to the window where the spirit was standing and saw a name etched into the windowpane, “Annie Fountaine.”
It was a common practice for young women to etch their name into a window with their engagement ring.
The third and fourth floor attics are favorite places for spirits to congregate and socialize.
Apparitions of spirits have been spied going up the stairway to the third floor attic.
Disembodied voices of women talking on the third floor can be heard on the second floor.
Lights are turned on and off frequently on the third floor.
Enjoying the Common Areas
Could be the spirit of Elizabeth Kennebrew, or Mary Harris or Annie Fountaine or Laura Kennebrew
Another guest took polaroid pictures of their sofa, that happened to have the family cat sitting on it, looking at something next to it.
When the pictures quickly developed, a similar bright ball of mist was sitting on the sofa next to the cat.
The families who have lived in this mansion in the late 19th, 20th & 21st centuries have had a boatload of activity with these spectral ladies of the house.
Guests have also had personal experiences.
No hard evidence have been published online, though the polaroid pictures did catch something on the sofa.
Most Probably so! Two spectral ladies who loved this grand Temple Heights Mansion are most probably still in residence, willing to share their beloved mansion with the living.
Temple Heights Mansion (Brownrigg-Harris-Kennebrew House)
515 North 9th Street
Columbus, MS 39701
The glorious Temple Heights mansion can be found in the oldest residential area in Columbus, sitting on top of a large grassy bank on Ninth Street North.
- eights Mansion 515 N 9th St, Columbus, MS 39701
- misspreservation.com/2016/03/29/1940-inaugural-columbus-pilgrimage-tour-of-homes/ – history
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr