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Lani and Ron Riches
Monmouth Plantation
Natchez, Mississippi

A Labor of Love

Lani and Ron Riches

When Lani and Ron Riches, a young couple from Southern California, first visited Natchez in 1977 to tour the antebellum houses, they were introduced to the Greek Revival style Monmouth Plantation and, from that time on, fell under its spell. Monmouth stood high on a hill - desolate, dilapidated, and abandoned. Its glorious history was overshadowed by weeds growing out of the walls, cracked plaster, peeling paint, and plastic snakes in the windows to "keep out the varmints."

The Riches decided to buy Monmouth Plantation as a Valentine's Day gift to each other and wanted to restore this mansion that seemed to cry out for their help. Ron was a property developer in Los Angeles and Lani's family owned a paint and wallpaper business. They, with a team of professionals that included an architectural historian, an archeologist, a fifth-generation wood grainer, and landscape architects and contractors experienced in working on antebellum buildings, began the effort in earnest. The result is an historically authentic restoration. Lani and Ron spent the past 25 years acquiring many pieces of furniture, china, and silver original to the home, most notably the sword presented for valor by President James K. Polk to General John Anthony Quitman (then Governor of Mississippi), whose family lived at Monmouth for nearly 100 years.

Today, the moss-draped oak trees that still stand on each side of the plantation house are joined by lovely landscaped gardens and pathways that meander past the outbuildings and lead to a vintage gazebo overlooking a pond and a wisteria-draped pergola while Mississippi songbirds sing happily overhead.

"We went into this project out of love," said Ron Riches. "It wasn't a business venture but a kind of craziness. We didn't even know we were going to run it as a hotel. Initially we thought we might live here." But it did wind up being a hotel - not only one of the romantic hotels in the world, but also a National Historic Landmark.


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