Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation                Back to Home

1107 Washington Street
Vicksburg, Mississippi  39183   
601-636-5010      E-Mail

What is a Vicksburg Pierced Column?

The Vicksburg Pierced Column is an architectural elements that is found more often in Vicksburg than in any other community.  The column is called "pierced" because it is not a solid, round, or square support.  The center section is jigsawn in a variety of patterns and split in the middle or slightly lower than middle with a boxed section which often contains a jigsawn ornament.  There is a plain or molded base and capital. 

In 1987, the Foundation conducted an inventory of building which retained pierced columns and conducted research in order to determine the origin of the column.  

At that time, there were fifty extant buildings with the columns and evidence though historic photographs of about fifty more buildings which, at one time, had porches supported by pierced columns.

The Foundation sent inquiries to state historic preservation offices throughout the southeast and north along the Mississippi River requesting information about builds with similar columns in their states.  From their response, we learned that there were single examples in New Orleans, Pensacola, and a couple of other towns, but no community had anywhere near the number of pierced columns that Vicksburg had.

We also checked old newspaper advertisements placed by lumber yards, builders, and hardware stores to see if pierced columns were mentioned; they were not.  At present, we do not know who created the first pierced columns or why they became so popular in Vicksburg.

The pierced column appears in about 1870, the height of the steamboat era and when Italianate was the most prevalent style. It has been suggested that the column was designed by a carpenter off of one of the steamboats.  The reason for the suggestion is that the center section of the column  is oftentimes a diamond, heart, or spade, being the icons most associated with card playing. Perhaps the carpenter played poker aboard a riverboat, but his identify remains a mystery. 

All we know is that in 1987 there were about fifty buildings with columns and those fifty could be divided into fourteen different styles of columns.  Today, there are only forty buildings that retain their pierced columns, but the support remains an important architectural detail that is truly Vicksburg's own

Help us find the answer to this mystery!  Do you have a clue in your attic?


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