“One of a kind” is an overused phrase, but when Jeff Hathorn used the term to describe Windy Hill, it’s worth noting.

For 35 years, Hathorn has been an auction manager for Target Auction, a company specializing in the sale of high-end properties.

“Over the years I’ve seen some amazing properties all over the country,” Hathorn said. “Windy Hill is unique. It’s timeless.

Windy Hill will be open for bids on Thursday, with a minimum bid of $1.5 million required, although Hathorn said it has already received a qualified bid of $1.75 million. The Estate of the late Nancy Imes has set a reserve bid amount which will not be disclosed to bidders.

Windy Hill is the 11,000 square foot French Norman-inspired estate of Nancy Imes, who died in March 2021 at the age of 92. Nancy Imes was the wife of former Dispatch editor Birney Imes II, mother of former Dispatch editor Birney Imes III and grandmother of current editor Peter Imes.

The estate occupies 128 acres in the prairie region of Lowndes County. Adjoining parcels of 184 acres and 325 acres will be offered exclusively to the homebuyer at $2,500 per acre.

The house, completed in 1998, reflects the refined style and extensive travels of its owner. Working with renowned architect Ken Tate, his wife, interior designer Charme Tate, and famous landscape architect René Fransen, Nancy Imes has created a house where no detail has been overlooked. Its lush gardens, courtyards and porches make the outdoors as ideal for entertaining as the indoors, which was a priority, Birney Imes III said.

“No matter where she was, Mother made space for the family,” he said. “This house was no exception. She was generous and gracious in the way she shared it and its gardens, not only with her family, but with the community, which she welcomed inside and out. It’s a big house with vast grounds and gardens, a wonderland, really. His favorite greeting when we came to visit him was, “Don’t let the cats out. » »

The cat is out, so to speak, when it comes to interest in the property, Hathorn said.

“We’ve gotten the interest from across the country and it’s easy to see why,” he said. “It took (Imes) five years to build it and that tells you the kind of attention to detail. Everything is top of the line, using the best materials.

“We have been doing viewings for several weeks now and the level of interest in the property is very high.”

Below is an article that former Dispatch Lifestyles editor, the late Jan Swoope, wrote about the property for the Summer 2014 issue of Catfish Alley magazine.


If it’s true that homes tell stories, and they surely do, Windy Hill is a visual page-turner. Rising from wildflowers, woods and prairie grasses on 2,000 acres of tranquil countryside southwest of Columbus, Nancy Imes’ extraordinary home seems like it could share centuries-old legends, as if its weathered stone, quarried from the only face of a mountain, must have housed the same family for generations. Her charm is not accidental.

The 15-year-old house and its surroundings gradually reveal themselves to visitors who approach via a long, winding, private driveway lined with crape myrtles. The hypnotic creak of wheels on crushed stone is the only sound, no highway noise, no intrusion. As the chimneys, the dovecote and then the roof ridges of the exterior take shape, resembling a Norman farmhouse, the Mississippi seems to be gradually collapsing, replaced by the notion of a European landscape.

This “middle of nowhere” gem reflects so many elements that fuel its owner’s lively spirit – an intense appreciation of nature, world travel, intriguing discoveries and livable spaces. Windy Hill is classic, yet contemporary. Impressive, but welcoming. And there’s an “ahh” on every corner.

Dream Team

When Imes asked award-winning architect Ken Tate to build Windy Hill, she assured the Auburn University alum, “If you do exactly what I ask you to do, I will never do anything. change. When I make up my mind, I make up my mind. His clear vision was the cornerstone of the massive project that began in 1994 and was completed in 1999.

“We had kind of the perfect dream team,” said Tate, whose office is in Covington, Louisiana. The triumvirate Imes as owner, Tate as architect and his wife, Charme Tate, collaborating as interior designer, had the right chemistry. “I’ve been working for 30 years, and I’d say seven or eight projects have come together like this,” Tate said.

Imes’ vision for the new home was one of a comfortably rambling retreat more than a formal one. She wanted it to host large family gatherings and celebrate her passion for gardening. There was a lot of work to be done before the first stone was even placed atop a remote rise, where the prevailing breezes eventually inspired the name Windy Hill.

“It took us a year just to prepare the land to build the house,” Imes noted, explaining that 10 feet of prairie soil was replaced with better soil to support the heavy structure and nurture the many planned gardens.

During the construction process, something quite unique happened – Ken Tate came up with the idea for a storyline for the emergent mansion.

“Windy Hill is like a good novel that starts in the middle of a story and then slowly reveals events that happened long before the main action takes place,” he said of the project. “I didn’t know what the story was until I was halfway through the design.”

He knew his client wanted a home that looked like a French farmhouse on the outside, with more refined details on the inside. She also wanted picturesque gardens, similar to those that English landscape artist Gertrude Jekyll created at the turn of the 20th century. As Tate put the pieces together, he found himself creating a story about three different generations of a family: the late-Renaissance French farmers who built the original structure; socialite descendants of the late 18th century who remodeled the interior; and the romantics of the late 19th century who restored the house and embellished the gardens.

Once Tate knew the story, she started dictating the design.


The story of a home that has evolved over time welcomes an appealing juxtaposition. The rugged stone facade, for example, gives way to a grand lobby that rises to a trompe-l’oeil dome painted to resemble the sky. The limestone paving of the entrance was salvaged from a French chateau. To the left, a formal living room in pastels glistens in natural light from a leaded glass bay window framed in raw woods. Contrasts of rustic and refined like these resonate everywhere.

Throughout, fine craftsmanship, organic materials and creative design details merge to create a patina of time and a rich history. Vaulted timber-framed ceilings, hand-painted silk hangings in London and an antique Portuguese bed are just a few examples. The old Russian pine interior panels were made by English master carpenters who came to Mississippi to install them. Prairie Mennonite carpenters used centuries-old carpentry techniques to frame the wooden beams of the rear loggia which overlooks an expansive croquet lawn.

Ken Tate will never forget to visit the Mennonite Workshop to check on the progress of the loggia frame during one of his frequent trips to Columbus. To his surprise, the craftsmen had tested the wooden structure, to make sure everything worked as it should.

“There was the loggia, standing in a cornfield! It was a sight to behold. Only in Mississippi,” the architect said with a laugh.

Reverie Garden

Imes and Mother Nature are on very good terms. Greenery and gardens are an integral part of Windy Hill’s charisma.

“I am a gardener; I love it, I really love it,” the green-fingered owner said.

Renowned New Orleans landscape architect Rene Fransen helped design exuberant plantings and herbaceous borders that surround the home with texture and color in every direction. The lush rose garden, with its cedar arbors, brick walkways and spacious greenhouse, has been a garden club favorite for years. He is, however, about to undergo a transformation.

“I put dahlias; they hold up so much better and make great cut flowers,” Imes said.

Roses, she says wryly, don’t reciprocate the care given to them. “If they don’t sing for their supper, they don’t stay here.”

The South Garden – or Wild Garden – is an enchanting sanctuary, where flagstone paths lead to stream-fed koi ponds and where discerning visitors might imagine little people peering under a leaf.

A favorite spot is the high-walled cat garden, created with a touch of whimsy. There, Imes’ beloved Himalayans – Biscuit, Peaches and Muffin – are protected from predators and take naps next to an old French cat fountain.


Inside, Windy Hill is a fitting setting for furniture and decor that Imes has collected over a lifetime of travel. But there were compromises involved.

“The house didn’t like my Chinese stuff. He doesn’t like white, he doesn’t like pink and he doesn’t like silver,” she explained. “This house is funny – it loves brass. You have to listen to a house.

Regardless of the size of the house, Imes is often found in its smallest room, an intimate space with reading chairs, a fireplace and views of the prairies. It used to be called a conservatory. She calls it “the little room”. Through the French doors on the east and west sides, she can watch the sun, the moon, and the seasons keep their appointed rounds. In the small room, she can plan for the next occasion, when her six adult children and their families fill the rooms with conversation and laughter.

“It’s a fun house to live in. It’ll do anything I ask of it,” the matriarch said. “The long room, or family room, has room for all of us when we sit down at Christmas when we are all together. And the back patio is 95 feet long; I can feed everyone there.

It was Imes’ vision that brought such an accommodating estate to fruition and placed it amid “some of the finest land in Columbus.”

“It’s so much fun and I love living here. I’ve had a lucky life,” she said, sincerely. And that’s a fitting sentiment for any house’s story.

The main salon, called the Long Room, is shown. The interior panels of this room are made from old Russian pine, which was made by English master carpenters who came to Mississippi to install them. The bedroom opens onto the back terrace of the house. targetauction.com

Slim Smith is a columnist and editor for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]