September 9, 2017 10:05:19 PM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
In his long career in real estate, Dick Leike has not only sold some historic properties, he's bought them, too.
Leike, co-owner and president of Crye-Leike Realtors, one of the largest real estate companies in the United States, owns two historic homes in Columbus -- his residence at White Arches and Riverview, which he purchased last year and is in the process of renovating.
So when the Snow family decided to put Waverley Mansion up for sale, Leike seemed to be the obvious choice for the job.
"This is not your typical home," Leike said Friday. "It's famous all over the world. There are fan clubs in Germany and Japan. There is a market for these kinds of homes, but it's different. With Waverley, my first concern was how to price it because it's known internationally."
Waverley, located 10 miles east of West Point on what was once part of a 50,000-acre plantation, was listed on Tuesday. The 8,000-square foot home located on 34 acres has a sale price of $2,975,000.
But the value of homes like Waverley cannot be reduced to dimensions or amenities printed on a listing, said Ken P'Pool, deputy state historic preservation officer.
"The term unique gets tossed around a lot," P'Pool said. "People say things like, 'this building is the most unique' or 'that thing is most unique.' But unique means one of a kind, so something can't be most or more unique. Well, this house really is unique.
"It's a Greek Revival house, but there are a lot of Greek Revivals in Mississippi and across the nation," he said. "Where Waverley is truly unique is in its design. Looking at it from the exterior, the huge octagonal cupola that projects from the roof, then spills out to become, essentially a central hall, a rotunda.
"Its proportions are what you would only expect to see in a large public building. There is nothing like it that I am aware of."
The home is not only on the National Registry of Historic Places, it is also designated as a National Historic Landmark, one of just 40 in the state.
In some respects, Waverley's more recent history -- the story of its renewal -- is as interesting as its architecture and origins.
By the early 20th century, the property was embroiled in an estate dispute. Last occupied in 1913, the home lay vacant and neglected for almost 50 years until it was discovered by Robert and Madonna (Donna) Snow.
They bought the house in 1962 and began the arduous, room-by-room renovation and furnishing of the old home while raising four children -- Alan, Cindy, Melanie and Gage -- on the property.
The Snows entertained often at their home with Donna serving as hostess until her death in 1991 at age 67.
The family also opened the home for daily tours, and its reputation as one of the finest antebellum homes in the South soon began to grow. Robert Snow, who died in March, often could be found sitting on a bench in front of the home where he regaled visitors with his fantastic tales.
Alan Snow said the family had started making plans before his father's passing.
"He was aware that it required greater resources to maintain than we could continue to provide," Snow said. "Of course, Dad's attachment was very deep and emotional, and he knew that we had to place Waverley in the hands of someone with the resources and energy to preserve it. Three of the four children are in their 60s and, sadly, none of us are in a position to live in the home. We all strongly believe that it needs to be lived in, and that needs to be someone with the energy to keep it thriving, hopefully for decades to come."
Marketing the home
Leike said marketing Waverley will mean a different approach than is typical.
"It will be marketed internationally, and in luxury portfolios," he said. "It's a special home and will appeal to a special market."
In addition to the house and the land, the furnishings, painstakingly collected by the family to fit the period of the house, are included in the price.
"The furnishings themselves are special, too," Leike said. "For example, they have a Steinway piano from 1860 that was originally purchased by a man named Snow in Mobile, Alabama. Robert bought the piano, but the common named turned out to be a coincidence, I think."
Both Leike and P'Pool said they expect the new owners to honor the Snows' efforts to make the home available to the public.
"I do think the public will have some sort of access," Leike said. "You never know, of course, but I think something like that will happen. Whoever buys it is going to take care of it. They'll have pride in it."
"Most Mississippians recognize Waverley as a great treasure of our historical past," he said. "We all feel like we have an ownership and point to it with pride. The Snows were the epitome of people who loved that history and wanted to preserve it. They were so generous in sharing it with the public all these years. Hopefully, the new owners will continue that tradition."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]