Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oaklawn ... The F. F. Becker Residence

From the Cooper Postcard Collection at MDAH

Earlier postings here featured turn-of-the-century black and white photographs of the F.F. Becker family. At least two of those photos was taken here, at the family home on West Chippewa Street. 

Many Brookhavenites -- myself included -- have only seen this magnificent home from the vantage point of  a car traveling on much lower street level.  While the home is not easily seen as one zooms by, a stately Live Oak tree, which frames the view of the home from the east, immediately grabs one's attention and, in the same blink, admiration.

This home, according to Bettie Hatcher Cox, the great granddaughter of F.F. Becker, was built by Major Reuben Webster Millsaps in the mid 1800s. (Click on embedded link for more information.)  Whether it was constructed before the Civil War broke out or erected after his return, is unclear.  Further research needed.

The Major went on to found Millsaps College in Jackson, MS.  Enter the Beckers, who came to Brookhaven from New Orleans.  They were involved in numerous successful businesses in town, including the Commercial Bank.

As their businesses flourished and their family grew, the Beckers acquired the spacious home in the 1890s.  According to Bettie, they were responsible for the current look, including the round tower and columns.  By 1910 or so, when hard economic times hit and there was a run on the bank, the family opted to sign over the home, but proudly paid 100 cents on the dollar, plus an additional 4 cents in interest.  

To learn more about this entrepreneurial family and the home itself, please see this link.  It includes a contemporary photograph of the mansion and the Live Oak that gave rise to its name.

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