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The Edwards Hotel
Case study A: The Heidelberg Hotel
Case study B: The Cherokee Hotel
Case study C: The Jefferson Davis Hotel
THE EDWARDS HOTEL:
SIGNIFICANCE AND THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF THE DEEP SOUTH
CHARLENE MARIE EIFFERT
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ARCHITECTURAL STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Charlene Marie Eiffert
To my parents
I would like to thank God for placing me in the right place at the right time: in a
loving family, amidst a supportive academic community, in Gainesville during Hurricane
Katrina and in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on March 15. So
many things in my life would be different if I were left to my own devices, so being in
good hands has everything to do with my success.
I thank my parents. I am especially grateful to my father for teaching me that I
can create my own future by the things I do today. Also, his lighthearted "study long,
study wrong" mantra has helped a perfectionist like me to stop myself when I have done
all I can. These two pieces of advice have taught me to never give up and to sometimes
just let it go: an odd pairing of concepts that, when applied correctly, are my recipe for
success. To my mother I am grateful for her constant encouragement during every
stressful moment of this process, and every one of life's processes so far. She has taught
me so much, particularly to use discouragement as a motivating force. Her role as my
friend is equal to her role as my mother. I love them both.
I thank my "chosen family." I thank Robby, my teammate, for making my
archival research worth every minute. I am so blessed to have someone who views my
successes and failures as his as well. I thank him for losing sleep when I do, and
celebrating victories big and small with me. His presence in my life is the best thing to
have come from this hard work.
I also thank my committee for their commitment to my success. I thank Professor
Peter E. Prugh for his compassion, his motivation and the way he has fostered my
dedication to learning. I am grateful to Dr. Kristin Larsen for illustrating the rewards of a
strong work ethic and for going beyond her duties time and again for many students,
myself included. I also thank Professor Roy Graham for keeping me on my toes,
challenging the status quo, and matching my ambition with opportunities.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF FIGURES ........................................... ............................ viii
LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................ .. ix
ABSTRACT ............................................................................. x
1 IN TR OD U CTION ................................................................ ............... ..1.... .. .....
2 LITERA TU RE REV IEW ..................... ................................................................5......
H otel L ife and P personality ....................................................................... .............. .5...
The First-Class Hotel and the Age of the Common Man .......................................6...
Living Downtown ........................ ........ ..........8....8
3 R E SE A R C H M E T H O D S .................. ....................................................................... 10
4 D EFIN IN G SIG N IFICA N CE ......................................... ........................ ................ 13
5 CON TEX TU AL SU PPO R T ................................................................... ............... 18
The H otel as an Am erican Tradition ....................... .......................................... 19
H historical Context: The D eep South...................................................... ................ 20
M ississippi Politics ............................................................................................... 24
Jackson H history ..................................................................................................... 27
6 TH E ED W AR D S H O TEL ...................................................................... ................ 34
Jackson D evelops............. .. .................. .................. ............ ........ .... ... ........... 35
Political Significance ..... ..................................................................... ............. 36
Social Side of P politics .... ... ......................................... ....................... . .......... 40
Politics and Prohibition ... ................................................................................ 41
7 CASE STUDY A: THE HEIDELBERG HOTEL.....................................................43
8 CASE STUDY B: THE CHEROKEE HOTEL............................................ 48
9 CASE STUDY C: THE JEFFERSON DAVIS Hotel.......................................51
10 O B SER V A TIO N S ............. .. .................. .................. ......................................... 53
Industry Interaction .... ........................................................ ...... ...... 53
U official C reaction of L egislation......................................................... ................ 54
Urban Justification..................... .. ........... ............................... 54
G ild ed A g e Id eals ....................................................................................................... 5 5
Preservation and History..................... ............... 57
Recommendations for Future Research....................................................60
A TIMELINE FOR THE EDWARDS HOTEL ...........................................................62
B REV IEW OF H O TEL PA TTERN S............................................................. ............... 64
L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ... ........................................................................ ................ 65
BIO GR APH ICAL SK ETCH .................................................................... ................ 69
LIST OF FIGURES
1-1 Forty years of vacancy have taken their toll on the Edwards............................ 2
1-2 Neoclassical entryway of the abandoned Edwards Hotel........................................2...
1-3 An editorial cartoon generalizing public view of the hotel's significance.................3...
5-1 View of the Jackson Train Depot from the Edwards Hotel....................................28
5-2 Steel fram e of the Edw ards H otel, 1923................................................. ................ 32
7-1 T he H eidelberg H otel, 1928 ......................................... ........................ ................ 44
7-2 Huey Long received press and associates in the Heidelberg Hotel, where he lived a
public life. Seen here, Long at work in his pajamas at the Heidelberg................45
8-1 The Cherokee H otel ............................................................. .......... 49
9-1 The Jefferson Davis Hotel ............................................................ ...52
B R eview of H otel Patterns ...................................................... .......... 64
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Architectural Studies
THE EDWARDS HOTEL:
SIGNIFICANCEAND THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF THE DEEP SOUTH
Charlene Marie Eiffert
Chair: Peter E. Prugh
Cochair: Roy E. Graham
Major Department: Architecture
The Edwards House was the political center. I guess eighty percent of the members of
the legislature lived at the Edwards House. We could have our meetings there, our sub-
committee meeting. Well, "smoke-filled room" meetings
-John Junkin, Mississippi Politics
The future of the Edwards Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, vacant for forty years, is
the focus of discussion relative to downtown Jackson redevelopment efforts. The present
building, built in 1923, served downtown business and social needs, and as the residences
for lobbyists and politicians during legislative sessions at the nearby capitol. The
historical significance of the Edwards Hotel is currently being debated on the state and
local levels. However, state and regional significance, primarily due to the political and
cultural history of the Deep South has not been considered in discussions about the
hotel's future. The focus of this research is to explore the significance of the Edwards
Hotel in its local context and within the urban environment. Additionally, it investigates
the hotel's role in the urban environment and in the development of a capital city in a
primarily rural state in the Deep South.
The study will investigate significance within the historic preservation field by
looking at several definitions for it as seen across the profession. Oral histories and
archival research are employed to explore the history of the Edwards Hotel with an
emphasis on political and social significance to the state of Mississippi. Case studies
from Baton Rouge, Tallahassee, and Alabama will explore the hotel's significance to the
political landscape of the South, particularly in the first part of the twentieth century.
Based on the history of the sites and the hotel's period of significance as determined by
the National Register of Historic Places, the dates in focus for the study are
approximately 1890 to 1940.
This study is important to understanding the role of hotels in the development of the
urban South, because it explores the social and political significance of the Edwards
Hotel. The study contributes to the understanding of significance by expanding it to
include regional patterns. The research also reinforces the role of history within historic
This study examines the issue of historical significance, focusing on regional
history relevant to an historic southern hotel. An abandoned landmark hotel in the heart
of a small downtown in Jackson, Mississippi has been sitting vacant for forty years. The
structure, the former Edwards Hotel, is the subject of debate in metropolitan Jackson, as
redevelopment plans repeatedly failed to rally enough support and funding. Changes in
the political structure including a current mayor with a proactive approach to downtown
redevelopment have put the building, once one of Jackson's signature structures, in the
spotlight once again. Within the last year, the Mayor's office has threatened demolition
should plans for rehabilitation not take immediate shape. For this reason, the community
and its public officials are in need of the fullest understanding of the hotel's contribution.
The site was home to the original Confederate House hotel built in 1861, which
was replaced by a frame and brick hotel in 1868. In 1923 the current structure, the
Edwards Hotel, was built. In 1954, the hotel was purchased by Dumas Milner, who
removed many character-defining features, including a decorative stained glass skylight.
Interior features and spatial massing were altered, and the hotel was marketed as a
convention and business center renamed the King Edward Hotel. Milner's modern
convention center hotel, with rooftop pool and conference facilities lasted only until
1967, when the King Edward Hotel closed. Despite National Register status in 1976 and
city landmark status in1991, remains vacant to date. From 1967 to 2004 the King
Edward suffered from "false starts, empty promises and unfounded rumors from hotel
owners and half-hearted investors" (Lynch: 2005, 17).
Figures 1-1 and 1-2. Forty years of vacancy have taken their toll on the Edwards
(Photograph taken by Charlene M. Eiffert)
Suggestions for use include another hotel, demolition and mixed use
developments. As of 2004, the Jackson Redevelopment Authority approved a
development package for the hotel from a partnership that includes Historic Restoration,
Incorporated (a New Orleans renovation-based development giant), Saints running back
Deuce McAllister, and Jackson Attorney David Watkins. The structural assessments that
this partnership is currently undertaking are the closest the vacant King Edward has come
to redevelopment and rescue in nearly forty years.
Known by all in the community as the "King Edward," those who see any value
in it attribute it to nostalgia, a familiar landmark in a familiar part of downtown. Local
governmental support is low, and the mayor is growing impatient with the "eyesore",
now restricted from public access because of structural instability and health concerns. In
2001, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes declared the King Edward "is only historical
now to the pigeons" (Mayer: 2001, 1).
Figure 1-3. Editorial cartoon generalizing public view of the hotel's significance.
The community sees the Edwards Hotel as a nostalgic artifact, while its
significance goes far beyond this concept. The Edwards Hotel: Significance and the
Political Landscape of the Deep Snui, examines the role that the structure played in
shaping Mississippi history. The Edwards Hotel is key to understanding the political
culture of Mississippi and the Deep South. Further, this study shows a pattern of these
hotels in capital cities across the region, and utilizes these structures to learn more about
the development of the South. The historical research presented here illustrates that the
hotel is significant to the cultural history and the heritage of Mississippi and to the
political landscape of the Deep South, particularly in the first part of the twentieth
century. In examining the Edwards Hotel and case studies in neighboring states, this
thesis outlines the significant role of such hotels in Southern, regional socio-political
history, and forms the basis for a thematic study of such hotels.
The study utilizes publications and census information to provide historical
context support for the Edward's Hotel. A series of oral histories were gathered to collect
accounts of happenings in and around the structure. Case studies are introduced and
developed to suggest the existence of a pattern across the Deep South. The hotels used as
case studies are from capital cities in states with rural, agricultural traditions: Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, Tallahassee, Florida, and Montgomery, Alabama. Together, they
illustrate the role of the luxury hotel in the development of a "legitimate" urban
environment and the progress of politics in the Deep South.
Literature regarding the habits of early twentieth century American hotel living became
available as early as the 1920s. There is less literature to be found on the political legacy
associated with these institutions, particularly for the southeastern region of the United
States. Several resources on these topics contributed greatly to this study. Among them
are "Hotel Life and Personality," which provides information on the behavioral
characteristics of hotel residents during the 1920s. "The First-Class Hotel and the Age of
the Common Man" explains the history of the urban hotel and its civic role. Living
Downtown observes similarities between social position and luxury hotels, and
investigates the role of the structures in the urban environment. This collection of
publications provides concepts for this study, which will focus on political patterns in the
Deep South, to build upon.
Hotel Life and Personality
The March 1928 publication of the American Journal of Sociology included the
Norman S. Hayner article "Hotel Life and Personality." The extensive article profiles
personality patterns in the hotel environment in the era of its publication and heralds the
hotel as "one of the great machines that serve men in this Iron Age" (Hayner: 1928, 793).
"Hotel Life and Personality" is separated into three parts. The first deals with
habits for travelers. Hayner finds that people who lived in hotels did so for freedom,
conveniences and protection. The second section contains a discussion of the types of
people who reside in hotels. Childless families and professional men are cited as primary
occupants. Hayner discovers that the individual grows "accustomed to living, eating and
all but sleeping in public" (Hayner: 1928, 793).
The third and final section of the publication describes the behavior of hotel
occupants while away from home. Hotel life, Hayner finds, is marked by a tendency to
act upon impulses rather than on the ideals or standards that he or his peers would
normally use (Hayner: 1928, 794). Men in hotel life "surely come in contact with life in
all its streaked regalia. They have caught prohibitionists drunk and reformers with
women" (Hayner: 1928, 792).
Hayner's research focuses primarily on characteristics of hotel life. Specific
attention is given to personality patterns in the hotel environment. This study explains
that these behaviors were manifested in the political realm during the time. Further, this
study illustrates how the political characteristics of hotel living lend significance to these
The First-Class Hotel and the Age of the Common Man
The Edwards Hotel is of political significance, but it also had a notable social
effect in the cultural landscape. Doris E. King's 1957 contribution to the Journal of
.S,,he ii History, "The First-Class Hotel and the Age of the Common Man," discusses
social implications of these structures, though her research fails to bring attention to such
patterns specific to the South.
Somewhat out of sequence, King eventually defines her term "first-class hotel"
with several characteristics, suggesting most should be present for first-class designation.
These characteristics include an imposing, public-looking building style, costly and
luxurious construction that is "awe-inspiring," independence from government
management, and operation by a well-trained staff or servants (King: 1957, 181).
King discusses the rise of the American hotel from the British-inspired taverns.
The study compares the hotels to British boarding houses, finding that American hotels
have more the architectural characteristics of public buildings, even architecturally. She
notes general British reactions to hotel life at the turn of the century. Generalizing this
reaction, King states that "Americans are by nature a gregarious people who loved to live
in public, to see and be seen, to hear and be heard" (King: 1957, 177). Thus, the
American "first-class hotel" has a specific social function.
The focus is not entirely of a comparative nature, as the first-class hotel is
classified as a "peculiarly American institution" (King: 1957, 175). King perceives the
story of the development of the first class hotel as "part of the story of the Rise of the
Common Man" (King: 1957, 173). Giving the American hotel's history, King credits
Boston's Exchange Hotel which, built in 1809, served as a "bold and daring precursor" to
the twentieth century hotel by establishing a lobby and by designating hotel bar rooms
(King: 1957, 179).
The hotel's relevance to civic identity is of particular focus in King's study. By
1840, the typical American hotel was owned by "civic-minded merchants and was
considered a show place necessary for the honor of the town" (King: 1957, 179). In
1860, a Baltimore circuit judge ruled a certain hotel could not be closed because a first-
class hotel was a "public necessity" (King: 1957, 179). This facilitated interaction,
including informal opportunities for local officials to meet, and contributed towards civic
identity, with specific focus on the southern region of the United States.
The most notable contribution to literature on the development of hotel culture is
Paul Groth's Living Downtown, which addresses the history of residential hotels in the
United States. This description is insufficient, however, as his body of research expands
into architecture, social and cultural implications, and urban planning. Groth (1957)
discusses conflicting ideas about hotel life and similarities among hotel standards and
He suggests that the hotels match the social statuses of their residents, as
emphasized by a New York hotel keeper in 1903:
We have fine hotels for fine people
Good hotels for good people
Plain hotels for plain people
And some bum hotels for the bums (Groth: 1957, 20).
Material culture therefore reinforced, not merely reflected, social position and power
(Groth: 1957, 20). Luxury hotels offered the greatest advantage in the instant social
position conferred upon residents. For this reason, the lobbies and barrooms of expensive
hotels had a concentration of political, business and social life. Groth (1957) explains
that sojourning politicians comprised a significant amount of hotel residents.
Through the 1800s, each urban political party patronized a particular hotel (Groth:
1957, 20). This study will show that in smaller urban areas, all political parties would
meet in one luxury hotel, and will illustrate that this habit of political patronage lasted
well into the first half of the twentieth century in the Deep South. Groth (1957) also
reviews the history of the role of hotels in the United States, observing that they were
often the most important landmark in a city until the prominent office buildings replaced
them in the 1890s. This study suggests that this trend lasted until around 1940s in the
The most unique observation made in Living Downtown concerns the civic role
that the downtown luxury hotel plays. Groth (1957) explains that cities did not have the
power to "enforce greater urban organization" until the 1920s (187). Hotel owners
played a role in this by helping to specialize districts in which they stood. These
structures influenced ideas about arrangements of urban space by acting as a "scale
model of a successful future city" (Groth: 1957, 53). According to Groth, hotels present
a "total scheme for a diverse but centrally planned set of activities and spaces" (Groth:
1957, 53). Hotels, according to Groth (1957) changed the nature of downtown.
The literature reviewed herein discusses the lifestyles of typical hotel residents.
The sources explain personality patterns and social implications as well as address
motives for hotel living. This study of the Edwards Hotel will show its role in the
development of Jackson, Mississippi. Further, the case studies used herein will suggest
similar patterns in capital cities in the Deep South.
Several methods of research were implemented for this study in order to gain a
multi-faceted understanding of the Edwards Hotel. Archival research was done in
Jackson, Mississippi and in each capital city in which a hotel was reviewed. On-site
visits were made, an extensive collection of oral histories were examined, and informal
interviews were conducted. Specific historical literature was also reviewed. Most
importantly, case studies provided invaluable information about regional patterns. The
combination of these research types yields the fullest understanding of the subject for
research of this scope.
Site visits proved especially beneficial when looking at the proximity of the hotel
and state government buildings. During the visit, seeing the scale of the Edwards Hotel
(in relation to adjacent structures in use at the time) aided in understanding the impact
that the hotel had on the developing urban environment.
This study reviews literature to obtain contextual histories of the South, the state
of Mississippi and the city of Jackson itself. These resources illustrate the unique
relationship between politician and constituents that was found throughout the South at
this time, and highlight the important economic trends that were found across the region.
The study of southern history and culture using these resources supplements the historical
facts about the Edwards Hotel.
Informal meetings held with leaders in politics and planning in Jackson,
Mississippi made clear the current attitudes about the vacant hotel. Municipal leaders
vary in their assessment of the hotel's significance, and these meetings made this range
abundantly clear. The need for these municipal leaders to be further informed regarding
the building's history also was confirmed as a result of these meetings.
State archives were extensively used in Mississippi and in each state reviewed. The
Mississippi Department of Archives and History was an invaluable resource throughout
the researching process. Extensive records on the development of metropolitan Jackson
provided necessary contextual evidence for the study of the Edwards Hotel.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History maintains an extensive oral
history series that it makes available in its Special Collections Room. These oral
histories provided a resource that made this study possible. Oral histories were
conducted decades ago by professional historians. Included among them are the oral
histories of the former owner of the Edwards Hotel, several members of the staff, and
local journalists who wrote about political happenings in Jackson. Of most value were
the oral histories with politicians who spoke about their legislative career and,
subsequently, their interactions at the Edwards Hotel.
Mississippi and Louisiana both have site files for their respective hotels.
Additionally, all cities' state archives had site files for individual politicians relevant to
the established period of significance for this study. Reviewing the correspondence for
legislators revealed their social habits and their dependence on the Edwards Hotel for
caucuses. Newspaper resources dating back to 1900 provided information about social
responses to the hotel that emerged in Jackson and in each of the case study cities.
Utilizing case studies in this study was the most effective way of reviewing the
patterns of Southern hotels in capital cities. The case studies used are the Heidelberg
Hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Cherokee Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida, and the
Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama. These hotels were chosen because of
their location in capital cities in what is commonly referred to as the Deep South. These
hotels were also built within a decade of one another, and were all within a close
proximity to the capitol buildings in their respective cities. The case studies are used to
illustrate consistencies in hotel use by political figures, dignitaries and citizens.
Historic preservation in the United States encompasses more than its founders in
house museums and garden clubs could have ever imagined. Like never before,
preservationists are looking to the future as much as to the past, planning new directions
for the movement. New applications including landscape preservation and cultural
resource management are finding their place among the Monticellos and Mount Vernons
upon which the movement was founded.
An awareness of the history and theoretical concepts in preservation movement
has been developed, allowing self-reflection. Where has the profession been? Where is
it going? Concepts once more narrowly applied are being carefully reexamined. With
this examination, room for expansion of ideas becomes possible. One such concept
receiving deserved attention is that of significance, which is no longer primarily
concerned with famous places, events or personages. Significance is now being applied
to intangibles in our surroundings. Phrases like sense ofplace and cultural landscape are
more than just popular preservation concepts. These expanding arenas for preservation
allow for recognition of value among resources of every type: archaeological,
environmental, historical, and architectural.
For this reason, before addressing the "significance" of a certain site, a definition
of the term is necessary. Because it characterizes so many persons, places and things, the
word often is dismissed as synonymous with "importance." Unfortunately, this word gets
us no closer to criteria by which to judge historic structures. What is more, defining this
term faces more challenges than just its subjectivity.
Ideas about significance are changing within the preservation field. Activists,
professionals and academics are actively debating how inclusive preservation should be.
It can be argued that a broader, more conceptually flexible standard for applying the term
significance can cheapen the honor bestowed upon high-style nominees for historic
landmark status. This argument is not always made aloud, but can be seen in action
through review boards and heard in the stories of rural architectural examples being
refused several times for local and state listing.
Others apply the label of "significance" more liberally:
We are finding that everything and every place may in fact be important to
somebody, all of these places may be significant in some frame of
reference to someone. This situation leads to the oft-heard charge that
preservation professionals consider everything to be significant to
someone in a pluralistic society. (Lyon: 1998, 46)
Liberal application of the term "significance" can undermine the credibility of the
preservation movement. Most, however, including the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, the National Register of Historic Places and International Council on
Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) generally agree that the conceptual expansion of
preservation to include previously ignored groups of people and structures is beneficial.
Because of this expansion of preservation's concepts, a clear and consistent
understanding of "significance" is critical.
As part of understanding the meaning of the term significance as it is used in
preservation, investigations into how significance is acquired can help define the term.
One can look to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for assistance with defining
significance. This non-profit organization, established in 1949, includes in its objectives
"the identification of important national preservation issues, the support of preservation
efforts, and the expansion of private and public financial resources for preservation
activities" (Murtagh: 2006, 28). The National Register of Historic Places has a fifty year
minimum for buildings being considered for its listing of nationally valued historic
structures. This guideline can imply that age can determine significance. But the fifty
year minimum standard is for successful fulfillment of the word historic and lends
nothing to determining significance. The National Register considers some exceptional
properties to have acquired this illusive quality of significance that fall short of the fifty-
year threshold. Significance is therefore not dependant on age.
Significance, more than any preservation officer would like to admit, is a matter
of perception. Constructed socially, which is to say it is shaped by people's relationships
and perceptions of a particular structure and their relationship to it, significance can
change when the facts do not. For example, in 1955 the federal government attempted to
sell Ellis Island because its services were no longer needed. Today, the island is
preserved and now serves as one of the nation's most popular museums. "It was not the
past that changed. The meaning men and women gave to it changed: men and women
with the ability to do something about what they believed" (Green: 1994, 91).
Significance as a perceived human response can be applied to a building by the people
and places around it, past and present. If this definition of significance seems transient,
perhaps it is. If so, it serves as a testimony to the importance and the urgency of the work
done within historic preservation because resources can be dismissed and demolished so
In the National Register's Bulletin 15, significance is in "objects that possess
integrity.., and that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to
the broad patterns of our history." The very definition by the National Register uses
significance as a defining characteristic! In spite of this, two satisfactory pieces of
information from this description of significance are evident: the elements of significance
within the context of historic preservation (1) transcend architectural value, and the
elements are (2) associated with a broad pattern of history.
The National Register has made strides to illustrate that the contributions of an
historic building go beyond architectural value. Before the establishment of the National
Register, the concept of significance was already heavily debated. The idea of a building
having "significance" for purely architectural reasons was new and in question, since the
earliest buildings deemed "significant" were associated with famous figures in American
history. There are presently four recognized criteria through the National Register that
serve as the "basis for judging significance, at the national, state, and local levels"
(Murtagh: 2006, 181). These four criteria include (a) association with events that have
made a contribution to broad patterns of history, (b) association with the lives of persons
in the American past, (c) embodiment of distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or
method of construction, or that are representative of a master's work, and (d) informative
(or likely to be informative) about prehistory or history (National Trust: 1996, 1).
In more recent years, as preservation shifts to quality of life and smart growth
initiatives, the National Register of Historic Places has become more comprehensive
since the passage of the 1966 Historic Preservation Act. Intangible aspects of
preservation, such as culture and sense of place, are now considered. Both of these terms
refer to a distinctive character that is unique and deeply connected to the beliefs and
social entities of a community, and that contributes to the significance of a place.
The National Register's definition of significance also brings to light that a
building has a value within the "broad patterns of history" (National Register: 1966, 1).
Patterns of history, a network of events with a common thread, lend significance to an
object. Significance comes from the sum of a building's history, what happened before
and after its construction, and what happened to buildings with common historical
Historical details must be painstakingly researched. When investigating the
significance of a building, a great deal of history is unwritten, conflicting accounts
surface, and unpopular ideas about buildings can stir mixed emotions in communities,
even diminishing support for a project. These broad patterns of history can occur across
state lines, throughout regions, and extend beyond the job description of a state
preservation officer or special interest group. Professionals within preservation have a
responsibility to cultivate a shared understanding among special interest groups, classes
of people, and across state lines about the layers of significance that a structure can have.
The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology,
engineering and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures
and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials,
workmanship, feeling and association. (Murtagh: 2006, 181)
This definition of significance forms the foundation of this investigation of the Edwards
The historical significance of the built environment far exceeds architectural style.
It extends into social, cultural, and even political histories of a place. For this reason,
contextual information, even about events that may not have taken place inside the four
walls of the structure, can provide meaning to it. Architectural context can explain the
development of a particular movement in building style. A building that has elements
consistent with the patterns of that style can be better understood, even if the contextual
examples are in another region.
Likewise, cultural context can provide insight into architectural characteristics as,
for example, that of the Quakers and their aversion to displays of wealth. This religious
organization produced characteristically modest structures that are better appreciated
within their cultural context. Economic context can be especially helpful when looking at
the development of a site and the structures on it. Fluctuations in period of construction,
particularly within groupings of buildings, can be a reflection of times of economic
hardship or success. Political context in this study, paired with social and historical
context, will be of particular value when explaining the role that the Edwards Hotel
played in Jackson, the State of Mississippi, and the Deep South. Finally, case studies
from Louisiana, Florida and Alabama will provide a regional context that places the
Edwards Hotel in a grouping of equally significant structures.
The Hotel as an American Tradition
Though this study focuses on the first decades of the twentieth century, the role of
the capital city hotels within the political arena is not confined to these dates. At the time
of America's founding, European royalty was characteristically unapproachable. The
humble beginnings of our nation set a standard of approachability within American
government that has only recently been drastically changed for purposes of national
security. The concept of lobbying was born of this approachability. In Washington,
D.C., the Willard Hotel began it all. Nathaniel Hawthorne described it best:
This hotel, in fact, may be much more justly called the center of
Washington and the Union than either the Capitol, the White House, or the
State Department. ... You exchange nods with governors of sovereign
states; you elbow illustrious men, and tread on the toes of generals; you
hear statesmen and orators speaking in their familiar tones. You are
mixed up with office seekers, wire pullers, inventors, artists, poets, prosers
... until identity is lost among them. (Edsall: 2004, 1)
Like America's beginnings, the Willard Hotel was a modest collection of humble
dwellings. The 1816 row house-style guest rooms were given a common facade in 1850.
The business-savvy Henry Willard recognized his Pennsylvania Avenue address as
marketable to a certain clientele. Since 1850, the hotel has serviced the Country's
powerful and their companions. This includes every American president beginning with
As noted to the visitors of the now "meticulously restored" Willard Complex, this
hotel's lobby was the favorite post-Oval Office respite for President Ulysses S. Grant
(Edsall: 2004, 2). Businessmen and "power brokers" began vying for the President's
attention and support on a wide spectrum of issues while he reclined with cigar and
brandy in the hotel lobby. Grant described these men, without realizing the term's future
permanence in the American vocabulary, as "lobbyists" (Edsall: 2004, 2).
Since the nineteenth century, hotels have been observed as a distinctive cultural
element in America. And, though not limited to political significance, the National Trust
for Historic Preservation also recognizes the contribution to American history and culture
that historic hotels make. In 1989, the National Trust, the national, non-profit
organization, established Historic Hotels of America, an organization which identifies
and grants membership to hotels on or eligible for status on the National Register of
Historic Places. The membership is not discriminatory based on size, rates or ownership,
but hotels must have "faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and
ambience" (Historic Hotels: 2005, 1). Based on the success of the program (there are
over two hundred members in forty-one states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico),
supporters of the program say that historic hotels bring significant value to the American
This value is not entirely for the traveler. Popular investment magazines have
begun to note the rising values of these historic hotels, even when compared with the
numerous hyper-marketed modem hotels. Historic hotels had 10 percent higher
occupancy rates than the national average over the last several years. They also reported
rates of $165, more than double the national average (Chapman: 2006, 1). These
statistics suggest that many patrons consider sense of place is worth the often significant
Historical Context: The Deep South
With this general background and history, attention should be turned towards
providing a more detailed context within which to examine the case for the Edwards
Hotel. The contextual information will illustrate the importance of place, not merely
time. The South at the time of the hotels' height of significance, 1890-1940, was
distinctly different than the northern and western United States. Several of the founding
states of the Confederacy, particularly Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and
Louisiana, are often in history and literature referred to as the "Deep South." Socially,
attitudes about race, tensions left from the Civil War and Reconstruction, and strong ties
to religion epitomized living in the Deep South. Economically, industry and oil were
struggling to find their place amongst the agricultural dependency in the region.
Politically, Prohibition and a tug-of-war between the old way of life and the new created
new parties and new party lines. A brief review of each of these aspects of turn of the
century life in the Deep South can paint a clearer picture.
Socially, the South the time of significance of the hotels is dealing with the
consequences of the loss of the Civil War, and the loss of its legal ownership of a human
workforce. In the 1890s, Jim Crow laws were developed beginning segregation laws
throughout the South. While southerner's established these regulations to refrain some
control over the recently freed slaves. In this way, the South is completely backwards
from the Northern social structure. This is due to these struggles to evolve from a time
that is rooted in a caste system with an abundance of free manual labor (Ayers: 1992,
The migration of blacks out of the Jim Crow South is essential to Southern social
structure in the first decades of the twentieth century. There was nothing short of a mass
exodus of blacks from the South to the North to escape the tensions and lynching laws of
the South (Ayers: 1992, 212). This Great Migration of blacks was due in large part to
greater job availability in the urban, more industrial northern locations during and after
the First World War. Because of World War I, the South is forced to come to terms with
a disappearing work force, making a comparatively less progressive part of the country
suddenly desperately interested in newer technologies and industrialization (Ayers: 1992,
216). Technology begins to make its way into the South.
From 1900 to 1949, the South also differed economically from the North. The
Civil War, although decades before, had a direct effect on the following century. The
economics of the South after emancipation shifted from slave-based capital to land-based
capital (Wright: 1996, 7). The new capitalist landowners, used to free labor and for many
decades following emancipation, were willing to pay very little for a workforce. For this
reason, virtually no migration of workers occurred into the emancipated South. The
Southern economy remained totally distinct for nearly eighty years after the Civil War
(Wright: 1996, 7).
Economic dynamics in the South changed again in the 1930s. The New Deal
ushered in forced changes in industrial wages. After this, the once economically
backwards South began to more closely resemble the economic structure of the rest of the
United States. This distinctiveness was gone after the labor and goods demand of World
War II (Wright: 1996, 8). The economic distinctions of the South prior to World War
Two further set the stage for the significance of the early twentieth century luxury hotel.
The hotel is a reflection of the economic progress of the rural South.
Since this study illustrates the political significance of the Edwards Hotel, a
luxury hotel in the Deep South, understanding political context is essential. The two
sides of the southern political coin come down to this: on one side, the view of the South
as compared directly to the entirety of the nation; on the other, the independent
development of each southern state and the political battles therein (Key: 1984, 11).
Unlike the two-party system that dominates the present political arena, power in the
South before the twentieth century rested upon the Democratic Party. Distinctions within
were not more than "transient and amorphous political factions...ill designed to meet the
necessities of self-government" (Key: 1984, 11).
As an answer to this ill-fitting political system, the Populist Party emerged from
the rural farmlands of the Deep South. What began as a series of alliances around the
Deep South was forming into much more. This group, called the Farmers' Alliance,
began convening annually and started taking the form of a political party more than a
union of workers. These Southern farmers knew change was inevitable, but held tightly
to their dissolving way of life in light of industrialization:
They were dismayed by the politics of sectionalism but proud of the
Confederacy. They were distrustful and contemptuous of black politicians
but eager for black votes. They were hopeful about the (Farmers')
Alliance but fearful about abandoning the Democrats. (Ayers: 1992, 249)
This is not to say that Populists wanted a return to their father's time, forsaking
technology and progress. "The Populists, judging from their words and their
backgrounds, wanted a fair shot at making a decent living as it was being defined in the
Gilded Age" (Ayers: 1992, 281). With this desire as a motivating force, the Southern
farmers at turn of the century sought reform through governmental office.
Politicians began seeing opportunities in a "broad, uncoordinated" series of
reforms called Progressivism (Ayers: 1992, 413). Within this series of reforms in the
twentieth century was the increasing control over corporations. As new industries were
established, legislators saw new opportunities but also new threats. Foreign (meaning
Northern) corporations promised wealth and progress to the Deep South. Rural
Southerners looked to their (often equally rural) political leaders to weed out the "bad
apples" within this influx of industry and change.
"Northerners, provincials as they are, regard the South as one large Mississippi"
(Key: 1984, 229). Southerners, eager to separate themselves from this distinction, place
Mississippi in a class all its own. Some Southern states consider Mississippi to be a place
of still despairing civilization, while other states view their political history as the sign of
a backward culture. Both Northern and Southern states tend to regard twentieth century
Mississippi as nothing more than a hotbed of racial intolerance. True, many political
issues in Mississippi history in the twentieth century involve racism and segregation.
However, the political factions in the state reflect its two distinctive regions and the
socio-demographic differences associated with the predominant livelihoods in these
The Delta, a region of fertile soil that stretches out on either side of the
Mississippi River, extends about two counties outward of the riverbank. This area was
controlled by the wealthy, "old money" families of the antebellum period. Still profiting
from cotton, these Mississippi elites used the marginally more ethical system of
sharecropping in place of slavery. In the early parts of the twentieth century, the Delta
produced one million bales of cotton each year, in some years a tenth of the American
crop, and ranked at the top of the cotton-producing regions of the world. "Their common
battle against the River is in itself enough to unite the planters; but like men of property
everywhere they are bound together in the promotion and protection of their own
interest" (Key: 1984, 231). These interests are, in part, embedded in self-preservation.
The best, most fertile soil in the state is in the Delta. These lands were maintained by the
established hierarchy of the old "Delta planter and the Negro," and any influx of new,
roughneck whites was considered a disintegration of the system and a dilution of its
Meeting the eastern edge of the Delta is a less refined, non-pedigreed lineage
living in the "Hills" of Mississippi. These significantly less successful, predominately
white tenant farmers worked the less fertile soils of the rest of the state. The "rednecks"
from the Hills were embittered by the class system that bound them to the land, and the
financial success denied them by the Delta planters, who employed predominately black
tenants. "The 'Hills' are supposed to be the habitat of the redneck, the white tenant
farmer, the lesser white farm-owner...the hardest labor produces only the most miserable
livelihood. The white must eke out a livelihood on the farms of the Hills" (Key: 1984,
Though outnumbering the Delta planters in overall population and farm acreage,
the combined poverty of the Mississippi hills kept these farmers from improving their
situation with consistent political power. Thus the delta region had the benefit of
political power in many elections. The state as a whole was still rural. Only twelve
towns exceeded 10,000 people in 1940, and these towns served as supply points for
surrounding agricultural regions. Legislators from hill counties were often farmers
themselves, though it is difficult to say how many since many self-proclaimed farmers
were actually primarily lawyers who listed themselves as "lawyer and farmer," perhaps to
better appeal to their constituents (Cresswell: 1995, 12).
Neither group, the Delta nor the Hills, had a distinct political faction to identify
with. They both voted Democrat, as did nearly every Southern state at this time.
From campaign to campaign divisions among voters change- a fluid
factionalism. The political life-cycle of a southern Senator may follow an
often-repeated sequence. He manages to get himself elected, perhaps by a
rabble-rousing appeal, and then builds his fences so well with moneyed
interests that no opponent can raise a campaign fund large enough to make
much of a fight against him. Reelection succeeds reelection without
serious contest. (Key: 1984, 247)
Even though these divisions among voters existed, it was usually not enough to replace
the lawmaker in power. In this way, state senators from Mississippi become incumbents,
wielding extensive control over their counties, voting in likeness with one another to
advance their individual or regional power. The Mississippi Legislature become a
powerhouse of representatives from the Delta and the Hills, butting heads and meeting
secretly to strategize for battle on the floor of the Senate or House.
The Delta and the Hills did not differ solely in matters of economics. Wealthy
Delta dwellers were reputably "wet"- against alcohol prohibition in the state. Wealthy,
more gentlemanly elites in this part of the state saw no problem with an activity they
considered social. In the Hills, prohibition gave fuel to a growing Protestantism
movement in the Deep South. Fights over prohibition pulled people into the political
debate who had been generally excluded from politics and fed into the anxieties of the
times (Ayers: 1992, 178). The preachers of the Hills fight the "demon rum" and their
followers vote for prohibition, while the "sinful" Delta votes for liquor. Walter Sillers,
former Speaker of the House and Delta dweller from Rosedale, Mississippi, recalls
traveling to Jackson for sessions by train with legislators from around the state.
"Everybody on the train was bound for the Edwards House and there was lots of wit and
humor exchanged. They used to kid me about being from 'the wicked delta' and in fact
they would go even farther and say I was from the center of iniquity, Rosedale"
(Stroupe: 1960, 2).
The period of significance for the Edwards Hotel parallels a period of significance
in Jackson's history. The period from 1890 to 1940 pushed the capital city and the state
of Mississippi into an industrial era that was already in progress in states in the North.
Agricultural and industrial changes occurred around the state. These statewide events
affected Jackson and can illustrate its progress. Specifically, the significance of this
period is quantified in terms of population, transportation, industry and policy changes.
Jackson's growth in the last decade of the nineteenth century was, in large part, a
result of black in-migration from rural areas. The newcomers increased county
population by 33 percent, bringing the Jackson population in 1890 to approximately
6,400. Of these, over 71 percent were black (United States Census Bureau: 1890). The
citizens of Jackson in the late nineteenth century experienced the development of Jim
Crow. This affected the entirety of the Deep South but by 1890 was paired with a new
state constitution in Mississippi that further disenfranchised blacks. Racial segregation
was upheld strictly in Jackson and affected nearly every aspect of life in the state capital.
These racist attitudes, now legitimized by law, set the tone for social and political
activities during the next half century in Jackson.
City leaders in Jackson took active steps to bring industry into the city during the
last decade of the nineteenth century. In 1895, the Jackson Board of Trade began raising
money from local businessmen and investors to attract new industry (Jaeger, 23). These
marketing programs paired with incentive programs were successful in recruiting
business to Jackson, but freight costs from railroads prevented Jackson from becoming
the regional city that it had envisioned itself as before the turn of the century. Until 1922
regulations that standardized rates, freight costs in Jackson were higher as compared to
considerably more competitive rates of steamboat operations along the Mississippi River,
in towns like Vicksburg, Mississippi (Jaeger, 24). The slow progress was not for lack of
railroads. More than a dozen passenger trains and many freight trains arrived and
departed daily on the rail lines that converged from across the state at the depot
downtown. The city self-proclaimed "Jackson has become a great railroad center"
(1884). An increased number of travelers by rail had a positive effect on the city's hotel
industry, which flourished around the depot. The Edwards Hotel is directly adjacent to
where the station still stands.
figure 3-1. view ot me JacKson rain uepot irom me Lawaras Miotel
(Photograph by Charlene M. Eiffert)
An increase in downtown visitors was more than a result of an increased number
of travelers from around the state. Transportation for citizens of Jackson also improved
with the reorganization of the electric streetcar system in 1890. The company, originally
known as the Jackson City Railway Company, was restructured under the name Edwards
Hotel and City Railroad Company. The President of the streetcar line was also the owner
of the Edwards Hotel (Jaeger, 30). By 1898, another streetcar line was authorized by a
city ordinance allowing Jackson Light, Power and Railroad Company to operate another
system in town. To Jacksonians, streetcar improvements were a sign of prosperity and
progress. "The first evidence of renewed prosperity are shown in the new coats of paint
the cars are taking on" (1884).
The citizens of Jackson looked for signs of progress all around them. With the
turn of the century, grew from 7,816 in 1900 to over 21,000 in 1910 (Jaeger, 37). The in-
migration of blacks from rural communities was balanced by the trends of the Great
Migration, and the population stabilized. In the next ten years, the population grew by
only 1,555 people. Streetcar suburbs to the west and south of town became incorporated
into the city limits, and by 1911 the city had doubled in size (Jaeger, 38).
The new supply of citizens became useful in 1914 as the country became involved
in World War I. Jackson became like most communities, engaged in the war industry
and the ensuing industrial development was met with a ready workforce. By 1920,
Jackson was no longer dependent on an agricultural economy; rather, it developed into an
industrial and transportation-centered city. Once again, these changes were met with
enthusiasm and proclamations of the wonders of progress and human achievement:
Immense factories with smoke from their funnels towering heavenward
attest to the great development in manufacturing activity.. .Five railroads
leading out in several directions are the arteries of trade that swell the bulk
of commerce to immense proportions.. Miles upon miles of siding, spurs,
etc. are being constructed in or near the city for the use of 37
manufacturing plants already in operation and other building... Knockers,
chronic grumblers and leeches have been buried or exported and only a
live citizenship is in charge! (Jackson Board of Trade: 1904, 14)
Socially, this period of twenty years, from 1900 to 1920, saw a transition in
Jackson. The city moved from a system of informal social networks and voluntary
organizations to a system of formal clubs and organizations and professionalized city
departments (Jaeger, 50). The city's elite and the city's services were closely tied. These
groups linked together for the development of green spaces and beautification of Jackson.
As roads and railroads developed around Jackson, the progressive City Beautiful
movement developed nationally (Jaeger, 58). Jackson showed evidence of this
movement with the construction of its new, Beaux-Arts style State Capitol Building in
1903, the installation of sidewalks, the development of the Jackson Zoo in 1913 and
Livingston Park in 1916.
The 1920s in Jackson saw the continuation of progress and industrial
development. In 1922, the Interstate Commerce Commission in Mississippi revised the
freight rates for Jackson, making the transportation of goods to and from the capital more
affordable. In the eight years following the revisions, approximately thirty additional
industries had come into Jackson, either opening new businesses or buying out struggling
ones (Black: 1953, 315).
The downtown streetscape changed drastically in the 1920s in the "leading
wholesale and retail center of Mississippi" (Jaeger, 70). For much of the decade, the
downtown was largely under construction as the city received several new high-rise
buildings into its commercial center. One of which, The Edwards Hotel, changed the
streetscape dramatically when its developers demolished an earlier structure in 1923,
resulting in a transition from a modest structure to twelve-story landmark within a year.
The steel-frame hotel was a sign of progress and technological advancement. Its
Chicago-style architectural composition introduced design elements and ideals not yet
seen in the newly booming urban city. The addition of this hotel to the streetscape of
downtown Jackson meant a new sophistication and legitimacy for citizens. Some felt its
citizens should begin to act accordingly. When a child was injured from a misfired shot
between two quarreling men in downtown Jackson, the daily newspaper spoke out
against such uncivilized, frontiersman-like conduct:
The people of Jackson need a new law. It shall be unlawful for any one to
shoot at another... and miss him between the hours of 7am and 12pm. The
clinching argument against the practice is that Jackson can't afford to be
behind the times and this habit is out of vogue in front of leading New
York hotels. It just isn't being done in up-to-date towns. (1920, 2)
The city also saw the construction of the Lamar Life building, completed in 1925.
The Gothic Revival style building included a clock tower and terra cotta gargoyles and
stood ten stories on the city's center avenue, Capitol Street. The Lampton Building,
another ten-story structure, opened in 1928 and provided the city with office space for its
expanding industry. Finally, the eighteen-story Merchants Bank building and the
nineteen-story Standard Life Tower were both completed in 1929.
Figure 5-2. Steel frame of the Edwards Hotel, 1923
(Photograph in Mississippi State Historic Preservation Office, Edwards Hotel site file)
During the 1930s, population increased 22%, from 42,282 in 1930 to 62,107 in
1940. Much of this population growth was a result of in-migration by failed farmers
trying to survive the Depression years (Wilson and Ferris: 1989, 717). Farmers with
cotton surpluses, unable to sell their product, would come to the Edwards Hotel and sell
to those who could buy "as much as they could buy and just hold it off of the market"
(McPhail: 1976, 49). The bales of cotton would sit stacked five to ten at a time outside of
the Edwards Hotel's drugstore, remembers the barber who used to work in the hotel
(McPhail: 1976: 50).
While the rest of the country was suffering disastrous effects of the stock market
crash, the discovery of natural gas in Mississippi gave Jackson the economic push it
needed to survive the 1930s. The 1939 discovery of oil in Hinds County, Jackson's own,
furthered the economic growth of the city and state. Local offices for oil companies were
established in Jackson, some in the Edwards Hotel.
Industries were attracted to Jackson by the convenience of transportation, general
location and labor supply. The oil discovery provided local materials yielding reduced
rates in fuel. These reduced rates, paired with the ease of rail line transportation and in-
migration of rural workers made Jackson in the 1930s "the central place to purchase, sell,
and ship livestock, produce, and other agricultural products from the still very rural state
of Mississippi." (Jaeger, 96).
With the end of the 1930s came the end of an era in Jackson's history.
Streetcar lines were removed and replaced with a bus system. New Deal legislation
changed labor laws and melted the Deep South economy and labor force into conformity
with the rest of the nation. World War II broke out, removing men from industries
around the city and state and ending the building boom around downtown. Jackson's
growth and struggles during this period, from 1890 to 1940, are unique to any other time
in Mississippi history. The significance of the Edwards Hotel is built upon this
foundation of history- social, economic and political. After a discussion of the hotel's
past, the significance of the Edwards Hotel will be supplemented through a comparative
study of regional hotels with similar roles. This analysis will provide insight into the role
of downtown capital city hotels within the South.
THE EDWARDS HOTEL
A building's significance is, in part, defined by the history of its site. This
building is no exception. Predating the existing vacant structure was another hotel. This
site has housed lodging establishments since 1861: three structures in total. The first, the
Confederate House, was built by Major R.O. Edwards in 1861. Destroyed by Union
troops in a fire in May of 1863, the site sat vacant through the end of the Civil War.
Construction was underway in 1867 for the Edwards House, owned by the same R.O.
Edwards. The name Edwards has since been associated with every structure on the site.
The earlier hotel remained in operation until 1923, when it was demolished to be replaced
with a larger, more modern version.
The new Edwards Hotel made news since the day it opened its doors. Hailed as
the "Most Modem in the Country" in the headlines days before its grand opening,
statewide media gushed over the lobby that, upon entering, leaves one "almost appalled
and smothered with the magnitude of its beauty" (New Edwards Hotel: 1923, 1). Every
compliment available was given to the amenities available to both guest and employee of
the Edwards Hotel. One article gushes:
The New Edwards is a thing of beauty and it will be a joy to the traveling
public...each room is equipped with the most comfortable beds...most
attractive views...most up-to-date appliances...the complete electrically
operated bakery prepared to supply the most modem pastries.., a complete
ice cream plant and ice cream storage with the most modem freezers...the
main lobby is not only electrically lighted but is provided with art glass
overhead for day lighting...the main dining room is by far the most
beautiful room of its kind. (New Edwards Hotel: 1923, 1)
The Edwards Hotel offered more to Jackson than aesthetics and modern
amenities, especially when viewed in light of social and economic conditions in the Deep
South at this time. The historical context of the hotel's role in the socio-political history
of Jackson previously discussed lends a fuller understanding of this historic property.
Also important is the role the hotel played in Jackson's development. A hopeful
sentiment in Jackson accompanied the hotel's construction and opening. This hotel could
easily belong in New York, Chicago, or some other major American metropolis. No one
seems to believe it possible that "so much elegance, with such splendid taste could be
possible in a hotel in a city the size of Jackson" (New Edwards Hotel: 1923, 1). For the
owners of the new establishment, the Edwards Hotel contributed to the dream of the
citizens that Jackson would be one of the leading cities in the South. In the rural,
agriculturally-driven Deep South, this hotel was equated with progress. It earned the
small capital city legitimacy at a time when the South was struggling to socially justify
itself, socially, politically and economically.
In 1927, the Edwards Hotel welcomed Charles Lindbergh, who was "elaborately
and enthusiastically received" as part of a plan to help spur Jackson's citizens to follow
through with their ideas of building an airport (Jaeger, 80). The visit and the related
fanfare truly inspires the citizens- the day after Lindbergh's visit, the city approved a
special bond issue for the purpose of acquiring land. Within one year, the airport was
constructed and dedicated. Representative Walter Sillers remembered Lindbergh's visit
to the hotel well- he was "decked out in a full dress suit" and spent leisure time in the
hotel's civic club (Overby: 1967, 6). Citizens recall Lindbergh's visit to the Edwards
Hotel, not just Jackson, and attribute this visit to the progress of transportation in
The site of the Edwards Hotel has a legacy of political significance. In 1876, the
Edwards House was already being advertised as a place for senators and representatives
to take up residence while in Jackson, Mississippi for legislative sessions (Edwards
Hotel: 1976, 7). Captain H.C. Myers, Secretary of State of Mississippi, stayed in the
Edwards House in 1878. Walter Sillers Sr., Mississippi legislator and father of
Mississippi Speaker of the House Walter Sillers Jr., would stay at the Edwards House
when he was in Jackson beginning in 1886. In 1900, stationary for the hotel reads
"Commercial and Political Headquarters for the State". From 1908 to 1909, while the
Governor's Mansion underwent remodeling, Governor Edmond F. Noel made the
Edwards Hotel his official residence.
The Edwards Hotel continued to house political happenings significant to
Jackson's history well into the next decade. Before the 17th Amendment was passed in
1913, United States Senators were elected by the state legislature. In 1910, the
legislature sat to elect a United States Senator, and the distinguishing battle between the
"Delta" and the "Hills" became clearer than ever.
The careers of LeRoy Percy and Theodore Bilbo personify, even caricature, the
chasm between the Delta and the Hills (Key: 1984, 238). With the impending 1910
election, the great Delta blueblood LeRoy Percy saw no one currently volunteering to run
that he deemed satisfactory. As his son described it, "confident that no Delta man and no
gentleman could possibly be elected, Father consented" to enter the race. The other four
candidates slated to challenge the Hills candidate, James K. Vardaman, dropped from the
candidates list and threw their support behind the Delta planter (Key: 1984, 238).
What followed was what is referred to as the "secret caucus," which, according to
Speaker of the House Walter Sillers resulted in LeRoy Percy defeating James K.
Vardaman. Speaker Sillers, famous ringleader of the Edwards Hotel caucuses and Delta
man himself, deemed it the "greatest historical events around the Edwards Hotel"
(Stroupe: 1960, 2). The decision was actually made in these caucuses, what Sillers
described as "a gathering of leaders who discuss an issue and work out their differences
so they know how to meet opposition on the House floor when the real test comes"
(Stroupe: 1960, 2).
As predicted, the decisions and loyalties determined at the Edwards Hotel stood
firm against opposition. Two months after the election, Theodore Bilbo, a lieutenant of
the defeated Vardaman, stood before the legislature waving currency he alleged he
accepted as a bribe to vote for Percy. The stronghold in the House was unrelenting, the
charge proven untrue, and the representative from the Hills of Mississippi was saved by
only one vote from expulsion by his fellow legislators (Key: 1984, 239). The always
dignified and currently victorious Delta legislators, proud of the maintained results of
their secret caucus labors at the Edwards Hotel, settled for a heavy censure of Bilbo:
Resolved, in view of the unexplained inconsistencies and inherent
improbabilities in the testimony of Senator Bilbo, his established bad
character and lack of credibility, that the Senate of Mississippi does
hereby condemn his entire bribery charge. Resolved further... the Senate
pronounces Bilbo as unfit to sit with honest, upright men in a respectable
legislative body, and he is hereby asked to resign. (Key: 1984, 239)
Later, using his persecution as a stepping stone in his political career, Bilbo went on to
rally the people of his Hills roots. He won the governorship in 1915, again in 1927, and
United States Senate seats in 1934 and 1940. The condemnation of Bilbo is expunged
from all records in the Senate.
The event is vividly remembered by participating members of the Edwards Hotel
secret caucus. Also remembered are the altercations resulting in the Edwards Hotel
lobby. Guests recall seeing legislators and delegations "mad as a wet hen with Bilbo here
in the lobby. They would be shaking their fingers in his face and giving him down the
river" (Overby: 1967, 6). Bilbo was apparently unshaken. "Old Bilbo would just sit
there and puff on his cigar... he would say just a few words and they'd all smile and hug
him." Hotel residents remember not-so-happy endings to confrontations. "There were
even some brawls in the lobby. With politicians there, there were some violent words
and actions" (Nagle: 1984, 1).
The Edwards Hotel continued to serve a political purpose. Eventually, the hotel
became dependant on its legislative clientele during the otherwise slow winter months.
When the original Edwards Hotel was demolished in 1923, it was imperative that the new
hotel be open before the first day of the new legislative session. Agreements were made
with the railroad company, Illinois Central, whose tracks ran alongside the site. In order
to transport such a massive amount of material, a total of 975 freight cars averaging four
cars of material a day were unloaded at the site (New Jackson Miss.: 1924, 37). The
construction and completion of the new Edwards Hotel took a total of ten and a half
months, giving this "Million Dollar Hotel" the nickname "Hotel Quickly Built."
The nicknames should have mentioned the role that lobbying played in the
political events at the Edwards Hotel. Nearly all legislators stayed at the luxury hotel
during legislative sessions, unlike the legislators of more recent times who stay in
apartments or second homes around the city (Cossar: 1973, 3). This proximity, paired
with adjacent offices of oil and transportation companies, offered an ideal location for
lobbyists to mix with politicians who were in legislative session.
With the discoveries of oil being made around the state in the first half of the
twentieth century, stakes were high for the oil industry. These industrial tycoons found
themselves up against the Populist Party's concern for the rural farmer, under whose land
oil was being found. Legislators from these counties tended to support a greater profit
sharing between the oil companies and the landowner, and these legislators nearly always
voted together. During sessions of the legislature, some of the people in the oil and gas
industry, in return for "friendly treatment of legislation," paid the hotel bill and tabs for
legislators (Minor: 1974, 2).
As mentioned, legislators voted as a result of activities at the Edwards Hotel. The
1916-1944 member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and eventual Speaker of
the House Walter Sillers took up residence in the hotel during sessions. From his corner
suite 601, he would hold private caucuses in the evenings with eighty-two members of
the House banded together. Said one legislator of the time, "we met and mapped out our
strategy as to how we were going to meet the various problems, and we all stuck
together" (Junkin: 1975, 14). Former legislator John Junkin spoke of the power this
group had when they organized: "Legislator Thompson McClellan would get up and
he'd say 'Anybody here now that don't believe in going along with what we're going to
do, now is the time to leave'" (Junkin: 1975, 14). Examples such as these have led many
to comment that more laws were passed at the Edwards Hotel than on the floor of the
Senate. Sillers himself has asserted that "Everything that happened in politics, at the
State Capitol and around the legislature basically began at the Edwards House" (Stroupe:
1960, 2). Says one newspaper heading, there are three houses of the legislature: "The
Upper House, the Lower House and the Edwards House" (Stroupe: 1960, 2).
Social Side of Politics
The Edwards Hotel's political significance included legislators mixing business
with pleasure. Politicians and the statewide elite came together on November 1st, 1909 at
the original Edwards House. The citizens of Jackson, Mississippi hosted a banquet in
honor of President William Howard Taft. Formal meetings and events such as this were
not as frequent as they are for legislative groups now; not as many public commitments
dominated a legislator's schedule Minor: 1974, 2). Groups of friends from within the
Senate and House would convene for long, leisurely breakfasts in the Edwards Hotel.
One of the more popular breakfast clubs included the "Big Four" in the legislature in the
1930s: Walter Sillers, Tom Bailey, Joe George, and L.T. Kennedy (Junkin: 1975, 1).
Sillers himself remembers more members. "I remember we all used to eat breakfast
together. There were Senator Roberts of Bolivar County, Oscar Blesdoe, Tom Bailey,
Lawrence T. Kennedy... and many more" (Stroupe: 1960, 2).
Wyatt Sharp came to Jackson from the Delta in 1926 as a trombone player for the
Edwards Hotel's lunch and evening band, entertaining legislators and lobbyists. He
explains that the hotel was where Jackson people went to dine, and where "the lobbying
was done for the legislature" (Nagle: 1984, 1). According to legislator George P. Cossar,
who entered politics in 1932, the social life usually revolved around the hotel rooms of
the Edwards Hotel. "They entertained practically every night...it was all centered around
the hotel" (Cossar: 1973, 8). The social scene at the hotel made partygoers out of even
straight-laced legislators. "It's funny... fellows that wouldn't drink, come (sic) up here
and drink after they'd be elected. I never saw so much whiskey in my life" (McPhail:
1976, 16). Walter Sillers describes his fellow politicians as a "funny lot," particularly
with their words and their contradicting actions at the Edwards Hotel. "They'd cuss each
other out in the paper then go upstairs and drink together" (Overby: 1967, 6).
Politics and Prohibition
With the turn of the century came a new focus on alcohol and its contribution to
the problems in American society. Mississippi made alcohol illegal in 1907, years before
the federal prohibition law was passed in 1919. In the Edwards Hotel, however, it seems
few took notice. Hotel employees would later note that Prohibition wasn't in effect at the
Edwards Hotel. Legislators would too: "Lots of water has run through those hotel
lobbies in all those years- and often it was more than water that was flowing" (Stroupe:
1960, 2). During the three-month sessions of the legislature, whiskey would be stacked
thirty cases high in the lobby.
Lawmakers developed the habit of using alcohol to their advantage when
discussing upcoming legislation. One such personage was Walter Sillers, longest serving
legislator in Mississippi and Speaker of the House. Eventually serving over 44 years,
Sillers was regarded as the "patriarch of all politicians" at the hotel. After moving into
the Edwards Hotel when elected in 1916, he had the reputation of handing out a drink or
two to the "little fellows" to prepare them for a vote. When a Sillers-supported bill came
up, "They'd be ready to vote! And they'd pass the law!" (McPhail: 1976, 29).
Walter Sillers also made good friends with the barber at the Edwards Hotel, Allen
McPhail. In 1943, Sillers met McPhail at the Hotel's drugstore and ten chair barber shop
for a haircut and a drink. There, Sillers confided in McPhail that he was considering
running for Governor (McPhail: 1976, 24). Sillers' decision not to run was based on the
hot-button issue of Prohibition around the State. A month after their drugstore drink,
Sillers told McPhail, "I'm for whiskey being legalized. I don't like this way they're
doing it a bit. I'm wet, and I've talked to people and they said, you know, that it
wouldn't do any good to run" (McPhail: 1976, 31).
In the later years of Prohibition, greater care was taken to protect the goods from
being confiscated or broadcast to pro-Prohibition hotel guests. In the 1930s, the Hotel
kept a whiskey room, and a "Negro" named Gales Foster, the night porter, kept the key
(Butler: 1976, 19). The room was located on the west end of the main floor, midway
among the twenty sample rooms, in a closet. Legislators coming in for the beginning of a
session would bring along their supply of liquor, and staff at the Edwards Hotel would
assist them in unloading it (Abney: 1975, 3). Guests could request a glass from the
dining room, but were encouraged to drink in their rooms. This practice became so
popular, that objections were being made by other hotel guests because "they got so open
with it- everybody knew what was going on" (Butler: 1976,19). To maintain
appearances, the hotel began insisting that guests ignoring Prohibition laws ask for cups
The presented evidence suggests that the Edwards Hotel played an important
role in the social and political development of Jackson, Mississippi. This idea lends
further significance to the structure. In the following chapters, facts about similar hotels
in capital cities around the Deep South will be investigated. These case studies provide a
means of discovering similarities and differences in capital city hotels, and investigating
regional patterns of Southern urban development.
CASE STUDY A: THE HEIDELBERG HOTEL
Beyond the specific histories of the Edwards Hotel and its predecessor and its role
in the city of Jackson and Mississippi, the Edwards Hotel reflects a broader significance.
It is part of a regional tradition found in similar structures in other parts of the Deep
South. Connected by a shared historic context, these structures are located in Louisiana,
Alabama and Florida and form a network of significant structures with a shared history
and role in state politics. By examining the history of these other politically-centered
hotels in the Deep South, the Edwards Hotel reaches its fullest potential in its
contributions to the broad patterns of Southern and American history.
The most effective illustration for comparison to the Edwards Hotel comes from
perhaps the most predictable resource for political fascination in the Deep South:
Louisiana, and its Heidelberg Hotel. Like the site of the Edwards Hotel, the Heidelberg's
riverfront address once held a mansion-hotel. Built in 1825, the Bonnecaze similarly
hosted dignitaries and political celebrities and developed a reputation for accommodating
them. Most famously, the structure was frequented by the twelfth President of the United
States, Zachary Taylor, who stayed in Baton Rouge in 1845 (Reed, 1). More fortunate
than the original Edwards House, this structure survived the Civil War. In 1927, just four
years after the Edwards Hotel was built on the razed surface of its predecessor, the old
mansion was razed to make room for the luxury hotel, the Heidelberg.
Figure 7-1. The Heidelberg Hotel in 1928
(Photograph from Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office site file)
The Heidelberg Hotel was, like the Edwards Hotel, the rural state's first "Million
Dollar Hotel" (Reed: 1977, 1). The rent its very first year in operation was a sky-high
five dollars a night. Like the Edwards Hotel, the Heidelberg Hotel had in-house
amenities: a private drugstore, a beauty salon and modem dining facilities. Its proximity
to the railroad station and the state capital earned it the in-state reputation as a social and
political mecca almost immediately.
Baton Rouge in the 1920s and 1930s was under the rule (a word carefully chosen
for its imperial overtones) of Huey P. Long, a man both famous and infamous in the state
and region. Much like Mississippi's Governor Theodore Bilbo, Long was a product of
the rural, impoverished Louisiana heartland. He won his political power by being a
governor of the common people, harshly answering critics and coercing his opponents
using whatever tactics necessary. Like Bilbo, Long was directly associated with the
luxury hotel in his capital city. Telling his wife he simply was not meant for normal
family life, Long took up residence in Baton Rouge's Heidelberg Hotel, in spite of the
newly built Governor's Mansion (White: 2006, 115). He had a notorious obsession with
monitoring and furthering his power in the state, and the Heidelberg Hotel was the
primary location for chaperoning of peers and opponents. From there he lived his public
life, received guests and press, and wrote extensively, including his autobiography
Everyman a King ( Figure 7-2) (Reed: 1982, 6).
Figure 7-2. Huey Long received press and associates in the Heidelberg Hotel, where he
lived a public life. Seen here, Long at work in his pajamas at the Heidelberg.
(Photo courtesy of Louisiana Department of Archives and History)
Most memorably, the Heidelberg Hotel was the site of the state capitol, if only for
a brief time. In 1930, Governor Huey Long won a seat in the United States Senate.
Having broken with his lieutenant governor, Paul Cyr, soon after their gubernatorial
election, Long waited nearly two years to take his oath of office in the Senate to prevent
Cyr from taking over the governorship (Williams: 1970, 212). After the 1932
gubernatorial elections secured the victory of Alvin 0. King, Long's "hand-picked
successor," Huey Long traveled to Washington to take his oath of office, with
instructions for King in Baton Rouge to immediately be sworn in (Reed, 1977, 3).
Before this could happen, Cyr "impetuously declared that Long had vacated the
office by his election to the Senate and announced that he would set up his 'seat of
government' in the Heidelberg, from which he would govern as the State's chief
executive" (Reed: 1977, 3). The Heidelberg was Cyr's second choice to the Capitol
itself, but he was barricaded by guards from entering the building. On January 3, 1932,
Cyr issued a formal proclamation listing Long's misconduct, recounting the events he felt
earned him governorship and announcing
I do now proclaim that the seat of executive government of Louisiana is
now established, pending the present insurrection, at Room 443,
Heidelberg Hotel, in the city of Baton Rouge, where I will maintain my
executive office as governor. Either myself or Leon Gray, my secretary,
the secretary to the governor, will be found there at all times. (Cyr: 1932,
The Heidelberg did not stay the seat of power in Louisiana for too long; for, upon hearing
this news, Huey Long called the manager of the hotel and had the self-proclaimed
governor evicted from the hotel.
More of Huey Long's enemies took up residence in the Heidelberg Hotel. Oil
discoveries were creating big business in Louisiana, as was happening across the South at
the time. Just as in Jackson, Mississippi, the oil industry expected legislative assistance
to further its success. President of the Louisiana division of Standard Oil, Daniel Weller,
paid $25,000 for an apartment on the top floor of the Heidelberg Hotel. Weller paid a
lobbyist known only as "Jim" who was to be responsible for the courting of the
legislators. Unfortunately for Weller and Standard Oil, Jim was a Long loyalist and
maintained full disclosure with him throughout the legislative sessions (Reed: 1977, 3).
He had the unsuspecting Weller reserve the entire tenth floor of the Heidelberg Hotel for
Standard Oil, and was able to steal time between floors to keep Long "fully aware of
what was going on" (White: 2006, 199).
These are just a sampling of the political happenings at the Heidelberg Hotel.
Huey Long's son, Senator Russell Long, recognizes the contribution the hotel made to
Prior to the days of legislative reform, committees held caucuses, political
deals were finalized, and compromises on important pieces of legislation
were hammered out in the privacy and comfort of the Heidelberg.
Oftentimes, the vote on the floor of the Louisiana Senate and House
merely confirmed a decision made earlier in an informal meeting in the
Hunt Room bar (in the Heidelberg Hotel). (Reed: 1977, 4)
The Heidelberg, deserving of independent focus and research, serves here to illustrate the
distinct role that the downtown capital city hotel played in Deep South politics during this
time. As supplementary evidence of the role these structures have played, it lends
significance across state lines to the Edwards Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.
CASE STUDY B: THE CHEROKEE HOTEL
The Cherokee Hotel is cited in picture and text alongside the greater commercial
buildings and homes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Tallahassee (Figure 8-
1). Described as the "Pride of Tallahassee," the hotel was the temporary residence of
legislators and the choice of other elite visitors to the state's capital (Dunn: 1974, 140).
The hotel's dates of highest use, the early 1920s through 1940, are consistent with the
Edwards House and the Heidelberg Hotel. Also consistent are the descriptions in local
newspaper articles detailing every exciting step in the process to the opening of this
progressive, modern, luxury hotel. Tallahassee's Daily Democrat detailed the days
leading up to the opening, sharing with its readers the modem kitchen equipment and
"everything else of the latest and improved type" that was being placed in the four-story
structure ("Opening Date for the Cherokee", 1924). The morning after its opening, the
paper asserted "The Cherokee hotel became a West Florida institution last night" ("Hotel
Cherokee Opens", 1924).
This instant landmark status is consistent with the previous case studies,
particularly the Edwards Hotel. Consistencies also exist with relation to attention given
to modem facilities and amenities. Attention given such luxuries assisted in separating
hotels like the Cherokee Hotel from its more moderately-priced counterparts. Also
separating it from other institutions was the attention given by statewide industrial and
Figure 8-1: The Cherokee Hotel
(Photograph courtesy of Florida Department of Archives and History)
William Lee Popham, described as a "poet, author, promoter and developer," had
ties to the Cherokee Hotel. The pioneering "Oyster King" and developer of St. George's
Island had an influence in Florida that was immediate and that resonates through the end
of the twentieth century (Rogers: 1998, 266). A candidate, though unsuccessful, for
Florida's House of Representative in 1922, Popham became Mayor of Apalachicola in
1923, with the opposition receiving only two votes. Charged with fraud in 1923, the
local stir created by his trial prompted Popham's lawyer to petition for a change of venue.
All involved personages in the trial moved into the Cherokee Hotel in Tallahassee, where
they stayed until his conviction. Before being sent from the Cherokee Hotel to a federal
prison in Atlanta, Popham was considered the lead candidate for the governor's race in
Florida (Rogers: 1998, 289).
The Cherokee Hotel also had a politically significant role in the 1926 Senatorial
race in Florida. The election and its primaries are referred to as having more possibilities
for the state of Florida than most any other election (Flynt: 1963, 142). Jerry Carter,
called "Mr. Democrat," accepted the nomination to run, stating that the state needed to be
represented by a "vigorous man of progressive ideas" (Flynt: 1963, 145). In what can be
interpreted as a reflection of his progressive nature, Carter formally announced his
campaign headquarters would be the Cherokee Hotel.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 came just fifteen years too late for
the Cherokee Hotel in Tallahassee, Florida. This hotel, once located in the heart of
downtown, was demolished in 1951. Since its demolition predates site files and National
Register nominations, State Archives and Historic Preservation offices come up empty
handed when asked about this piece of Florida's state history. When placed within the
context of this study, the hotel belongs to a network of politically significant hotels in the
first parts of the twentieth century Deep South. Its loss seems suddenly tragic.
Evidence for significance, though initially seeming minimal, comes greatly from
its context within the fabric of the pre-World War II political Deep South. Based on
patterns of history during this time and within this region, significance can be assured.
Equally assured, Tallahassee and the Deep South alike are remiss for the loss of such an
CASE STUDY C: THE JEFFERSON DAVIS HOTEL
Alabama is Mississippi's rural neighbor and rival for the most frequent target of
Southern stereotypes. Often called the "twin states" because of geographical similarities,
the two states share much more than state lines and coastal access. Alabama shares
Mississippi's rural history, agricultural beginnings and nineteenth century Populist
sentiments. Moreover, Alabama supplements (and is supplemented by) the Edwards
Hotel and its regional significance. Alabama's capital city Montgomery boasts
possession of a fitting addition to this study- the Jefferson Davis Hotel.
Like the Edwards Hotel, the Jefferson Davis opened in the 1920s. Hopeful
sentiments in Montgomery replicate those in Jackson, Mississippi at the arrival of the
Edwards Hotel. As in Jackson, the new hotel was the state's first million-dollar hotel,
with final construction costs averaging over 1.2 million dollars (Neeley: 1979, 2).
Citizens and local journalists marveled at the "most up-to-date" engineering and
amenities, and with due cause (Figure 9-1). Just as in the Edwards Hotel, guests had an
available coffee shop, barbershop, cafe and more without needing to leave hotel property.
Entertainment was also provided by the colorful interactions in the lobby of the
hotel, with the politicians who frequented the Jefferson Davis. As soon as its two-year
construction was completed in 1929, it became the "most popular place for legislators" in
Montgomery during Alabama legislative sessions (Neeley: 1979, 3). Governor George
C. Wallace and attorney General Bill Baxley held events at the Jefferson Davis Hotel.
These two politicians served their official elected terms after the period of significance
applied to the study of the Edwards Hotel, which may indicate an extended period of
significance in this particular case study.
-.. _, j ---___-----
Figure 9-1: The Jefferson Davis Hotel
(Photograph from National Register Nomination form)
In examining the Edwards Hotel informal by these supplementary case studies,
important patterns emerge. Research on these structures yields results that, when
combined, form a collection of capital city hotels that reflect a high level of historical
significance. During this study's selected time frame, from 1890 to 1940, the Edwards
Hotel has associations with broader regional concepts distinctive to the South. The hotel
and its case studies also reinforce a need for greater cooperation among history and
The Edwards Hotel, as in its supplementary case studies, is a location for the
interaction of industry and politics. In some cases, industry representatives make these
hotels their offices, indicators of profitable possibilities for the future, industrialized
South. At the Edwards Hotel, Standard Oil Company paid for hotel rooms for legislators
of more rural backgrounds and modest means. They also paid restaurant and bar tabs,
and provided women for the legislators. The president of Louisiana's division of
Standard Oil also had an apartment in Baton Rouge's Heidelberg Hotel and at one time
occupied an entire floor of the hotel. Florida's Cherokee Hotel housed politician and
oyster industrialist William Lee Popham as well as all related parties for his trial, due to
the local stir it caused. Perhaps this relocation served dual purpose: to secure "face time"
with other state politicians before Popham's impending gubernatorial election.
Unofficial Creation of Legislation
Patterns appear within the research suggesting that these hotels provided a
location drafting, discussing and finalizing legislation. As seen in the Edwards Hotel,
legislators admit to creating and informally voting on legislation from the suites of the
hotel. Caucuses held in the Edwards Hotel among well-organized legislative alliances
decided what legislation would be supported in the following days' sessions. Extensive
review of the Baton Rouge case study shows consistencies with this pattern of events.
Chapter Nine reviews Russell Long's evidentiary statement that decisions on the Senate
floor merely confirmed decisions made at the Heidelberg. Evidence is less explicit for
the Cherokee and Jefferson Davis hotels. However, legislative residency within these
spaces during the time of characteristically unreformed political activity and more casual
methods of lawmaking warrants further investigation.
An unexpected result of this study is the pattern of "urban justification" that
accompanies the opening of each of the hotels. Urban justification used as a term herein
refers to the transformation in the eyes of the citizens. The cities, with dirt roads and
agricultural dependencies, now had a point of pride and, most importantly, a sign of
progress. This is not to imply that Jacksonians looked to the Edwards for assistance with
urbanization, rather that it acted as an indicator of the oncoming transformation to a
legitimate urban environment. The Edwards Hotel is of steel-frame construction, a
revolutionary concept that hailed from Chicago, reflecting modem architectural
technology and thought. The same type of construction were used for the Heidelberg and
Jefferson Davis Hotels. The facilities and mechanical systems in the Edwards are the
most modem for its time and were announced in statewide publications as they were for
the Heidelberg, Cherokee and Jefferson Davis. The words "Million-Dollar Hotel" are
used time and again.
The luxury hotel during the first decades of the 20th century played an important
role in defining the Deep South at a time where politicians and citizens felt like rural
colonists in their own, quickly industrializing nation. Newspaper stories insisted that the
Edwards Hotel was hardly believable in a city and state of agricultural means. The
Edwards Hotel gives its small capital city prestige and legitimacy. It serves as a source
of pride and proof of a civilized society in a part of the country whose social structure
was not easily understood by outsiders.
Gilded Age Ideals
Generally accepted dates for America's Gilded Age place its final years
somewhere near the beginning of the twentieth century. Research cited in the historical
context chapter of this study, and in subsequent chapters that discuss industry and social
attitudes, suggests Gilded Age ideals reach full fruition in the Deep South during the time
periods of the hotels' construction (approximately 1920-1930). While the Gilded Age
begins around the time of Reconstruction in northern urban areas (accepted dates for the
Gilded Age, a term popularized by Mark Twain, are 1865 to 1901), there is a delay in
progress in the South due to the extensive financial and social costs of unsuccessful
warfare and geographical distance.
In spite of this delay, characteristics of the Gilded Age are apparent in the capital
cities of the Deep South. The influx of railroad construction in the United States is not
reflected in the South until the late 1880s. The influx of rural Americans into urban
environments during the American Gilded Age is also notable in the South, though years
after the accepted dates for the period. True, shifts towards Jackson begin taking place in
the black population in the immediate decades following emancipation, but this migration
increases dramatically, by approximately 170 percent between 1900 and 1910.
Urbanization after the end of the First World War shows signs of a decreased dependency
on agriculture and a substantial interest in railroad transportation and industry in Jackson.
These trends accompany a significant jump in population and, moreover, resemble
Gilded Age developments that had long since occurred in northern states.
This shift to an industrial focus means appears in the period surrounding the
Edwards Hotel's construction. After the 1920s, Southern urban areas saw significant
interest from a prominent corporation that emerged during the Gilded Age, John D.
Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. There was similar interest from Standard Oil in
Louisiana, as seen with the floors they occupied in the Heidelberg Hotel for proximity to
The Edwards Hotel during its period of significance stood as a center for political
and social activity in Jackson, in a particularly progressive time in the city's history. It
was the location of business meetings among industrialists, and, for the citizens,
legitimized Jackson. The hotel celebrated the achievement of a growing urban area and
celebrated excessive luxury. The innovative steel-frame construction, seen in Jackson for
the first time in large scale, was a sign that progress and prosperity was on the horizon.
The construction of the hotel affected the actions of those around it, as though it
somehow silently demanded more polished behavior. In these ways, the Edwards Hotel
stood as a physical representation of the development of Gilded Age ideals in the Deep
South. This concept also applies to the Heidelberg, Cherokee and Jefferson Davis Hotels.
Preservation and History
There are larger implications of this study that can contribute to the overall
understanding of the present preservation movement. The Edwards Hotel and buildings
like it are of greater value to our national history than originally considered. There had
not yet been a complete realization of the contextual and thematic issues common among
these prominent Southern hotels during this period.
This lack of acknowledgement is an error shared by historians, preservationists
and interest groups alike. Historians can be accused of a disassociation with buildings
and their value, perceiving them as work for architects and historic preservationists.
Preservation is often misunderstood, confused with the "bricks and mortar" preservation
rather than encompassing broader concepts such as cultural landscapes.
Preservationists, in a desperate effort for local or National Register listing, sift
through facts and building materials until enough evidence is found for a successful
nomination. Perhaps for lack of funding or because of specific types of funding,
activities following National Register listing focus on maintenance of the resource and
education of the public. While these ideals are worth pursuing, a commitment to
furthering an understanding of how the resource contributes regionally should also be a
priority. While many can agree that this concept is worthy of appropriate action, regional
patterns of history fall outside of the already congested job description of State Historic
Preservation Officers. With loaded schedules and limited funding, State Historic
Preservation Officers begin to resemble members of a legislative body- their first loyalty
is to their constituents. Unfortunately, this can result in a lack of attention to significant
preservation issues that extend beyond state lines.
The greatest contribution to the preservation movement can also be to its
detriment. Special interest groups initiated the historic preservation movement, and their
concerns about protecting the past began the house museum and historic battlefield
designations. Unfortunately, special interest groups are generally homogeneous in the
composition of their members. Because of this, the special interest group, an overall
asset to the preservation and American community, tends to produce an inherently flawed
product. The Edwards Hotel, for example, is undoubtedly a location that prostitutes
frequented. There is little likelihood that a potential benefactor to the interpretation of
the site as a source of pride for Mississippi would wish to include information about
prostitution and the social elite. The issue of handling unpopular or unflattering history is
controversial, and the risk of losing relevant facts about historical events is real.
When any of these groups act independently or pursue self-interests, even
innocently, history becomes a segmental series of stories instead of a comprehensive and
interrelated one. Selecting what perspective is best for a site, these groups categorize
"good" history and "bad" history- a dangerous concept. Further, built history and
American history are likewise not two distinct concepts- or rather they should not be.
Perhaps the greatest observation to be made from the study of the Edwards Hotel's
significance is that historic preservation can benefit from regional patterns in history- an
idea that stretches beyond bricks and mortar and ties patterns and themes together that are
more than similarities in building materials and ornamentation. There is an
unquestionable, invaluable dependence upon history within the preservation movement.
Too often preservationists forget that everything pertaining to humanity's
development is grist for the historian's mill- that however important and
distinct architectural history may be; it overlaps with social, economic,
urban, intellectual, and other forms of mainstream history. Conversely,
historians forget too frequently that places in the built environment and
cultural landscape are documents that merit attention from scholars in
fields far beyond architectural history. In short, preservationists and
mainstream historians can learn from one another to a greater extent than
is presently the case. (Striner: 1998, 137)
As preservation expands to include new concepts, such as vernacular architecture,
sense of place and intangible culture, history is at risk of being simplified and categorized
to make room for new and popular preservation priorities. The preservation movement
must maintain a commitment to the most thorough methods of examining significance
possible. This ensures structures such as the Edwards Hotel, and others like it, can
contribute more fully to the present.
Additionally, these hotels were a place for politicians to meet and make decisions.
The ethical issues surrounding this type of policy-making are questionable at best, but
they must be viewed in light of their illustration of a period in history. This "back room"
approach to lawmaking was certainly not new, nor is it now completely a memory; but,
its location in the early twentieth century luxury hotel brings it to light in a new way that
relates it to the built environment.
Buildings can lend and receive significance for one another. This is a valuable
concept to be taken from this study. Within Florida, the historic preservation offices have
little information about the Cherokee Hotel. While attempting thorough research of the
former structure, virtually no information was available to contribute to the study.
Anything more significant than the few sentences available in dusty old guidebooks of
the city was considered lost information. Now with the similarities in times of
construction, periods of significance, and commonality of social climate, the Edwards
Hotel and the others studied here provide thematic material to build a case for the
Cherokee Hotel. Further, for purposes of this study, the significance of the Edwards
House in the Deep South can be more fully realized given the common and distinctive
characteristics associated with it. Supplemented by one another, these hotels achieve a
depth of significance otherwise unachievable.
Recommendations for Future Research
The luxury hotel's role in the Deep South has been established as significant for
more than architectural value. By the end of the 1930s, the Edwards Hotel had a political
subculture within the city of Jackson. Outside of the political arena, the citizens of
Jackson saw their community legitimized by the construction and success of the
structure. Similarities in case studies evaluated herein reinforce this idea as a trend
across the region. Further study into the similarities between the meaning that these
structures gave to their urban environments and the ideals of the Gilded Age and
Progressive Area may reveal a later influence of these Ages in the southern region of the
The Edwards Hotel saw its demise due in part to the migration of legislators to
other hotels during desegregation. Politicians who would otherwise welcome blacks into
their homes found themselves moving out of the Edwards during desegregation because
of social pressures and the necessity of maintaining an appropriate public image (Abney:
1975). "There was just one or two [politicians] that moved out and started the run and
the rest of them had to go. That's politics" (Abney: 1975, 2). Further study is needed to
identify the connections between desegregation and the public and private buildings that
were affected by it. This information can be beneficial to both historians and
preservationists by providing information about the way whites and blacks interacted
with their built environments during such a pivotal time in American history.
This study focuses on a rural capital city within the Deep South. During the
period of significance, Jackson and the case study cities were transitioning from
agricultural centers to more urban and industrial environments. Having identified the
powerful role that the luxury hotel played, further study on more urban capital cities
would be a beneficial contribution to the body of knowledge on this subject. Luxury
hotels in larger capital cities such as Atlanta were potentially received much differently.
Information within a larger scope would aid in the understanding of the perception of the
built environment during this time in Southern history.
The Edwards Hotel, with the supplementary evidence provided by the Heidelberg,
The Cherokee and the Jefferson Davis Hotels shows regional patterns of significance
within a certain time and social era. Regional patterns of history are not a new concept,
but the association of these patterns with the built environment is underdeveloped.
Further research should be done to understand the value of regional preservation efforts.
The history and historic preservation professions can benefit immensely from the
production of a model for best educating the public on networks of structures across
regions of the country. If these structures are primarily urban (that is that they are not
closely associated with a valuable parcel in the natural environment), new developments
in understanding cultural landscapes may leave these structures behind. Future study
investigating opportunities within the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the
National Register of Historic Places, and the role of State Historic Preservation Officers
may find ways to efficiently link regions together for the increased sharing of resources.
TIMELINE FOR THE EDWARDS HOTEL
1861: Construction of the Confederate House by Major R.O. Edwards.
1863: Civil War, General Sherman's forces burn and destroy the hotel.
1867: Major Edwards begins rebuilding.
1868: Edwards dies, property is completed, named Edwards House.
1900: Property is acquired by the Enochs Brothers.
1908-1909: Edwards House is official residence of Governor Edmond Noel.
1919: Enochs Brothers dissolves, hotel passes to Edwards Hotel Company.
1923: Old wood frame hotel is demolished, steel-frame constructed Edwards Hotel is
erected and opened.
1946: Hotel is reacquired by Enochs family.
1956: Dumas Miller buys the hotel property for one million dollars, renames it the King
Edward Hotel, and begins renovations and removal of many character-defining features.
1967: The King Edward Hotel closes.
1967: Standard Life Insurance Company buys the hotel. Hotel is placed on National
1981: Hotel is sold to M.M. Laurence and D. Morley of Virginia for $500,000.
1991: The Jackson City Council names the hotel a city landmark.
1992: William C. Windham and John S. Turner Jr. of Bossier City, LA propose a six
million to seven-million dollar project to convert the building into apartments for the
elderly. The Jackson Realty Company proposes renovating the hotel as office space.
1995: Xanadu Limited of Detroit proposes to turn the hotel into a casino.
1997: Renovating the hotel is included in a multi-million dollar Capitol Complex
proposal to legislators.
1999: The Mississippi Telecommunications Conference and Training Center
Commission votes 5-3 on January 19 to negotiate a contract with The Alexander
Company of Madison, Wisconsin to develop the hotel into a conference center.
2000: The Telecommunications Conference and Training Center Commission abandons
plans to convert the hotel.
2001: City Council approves moving forward with legal action, including possible
2004: The city acquires the vacant structure, beginning the process of either renovation or
2005: The Jackson Redevelopment Authority approves a development package for the
hotel, allowing HRI Incorporated of New Orleans, New Orleans Saints player Deuce
McAllister, Matt Bataille of Mandeville, LA and Jackson Attorney David Watkins to do
interior structural testing. The deal includes a 2 million dollar interest-free loan from the
Mississippi Development Authority.
June 15, 2006: Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, impatient with the redevelopment's
progress, meets with billionaire investor from Texas, Gene Phillips although the project is
under contract. The Mayor states that he will proceed with Phillips plan, which uses no
public funds, if the currently contracted group does not begin work by August.
REVIEW OF HOTEL PATTERNS
Table B-1. Review of Hotel Patterns.
Edwards Hotel Heidelberg Cherokee Hotel Jefferson
Hotel Davis Hotel
Date of 1923 1927 Circa 1920 1929
Legislative Yes Yes Yes Yes
done in front
of hotels in
LIST OF REFERENCES
(1884, Sept 3). The Clarion.
(1920, July 16). The Clarion-Ledger.
(1923, Feb 14). An Opening Date for Cherokee Hotel Will Soon Be Made Public. The
(1923, Mar 1).Cherokee Hotel Will Probably Open Next Week. The Daily Democrat.
(1923, Mar 9).Hotel Cherokee Opens in Blaze of Social Splendor. The Daily Democrat.
(1923, Dec. 28). The New Edwards Hotel to Be Opened Saturday; Most Modem in
Country. The Clarion-Ledger.
(1924, June). New Jackson, Miss. Hotel Quickly Built. Illinois Central Magazine, p.37.
Abney, R. The Edwards Hotel, Jackson, Mississippi. Oral History Program, Retrieved
Feb 12, 2006 (1975, Aug 19).
Ayers, E. (1992). The Promise of the New SoNu/t Life After Reconstruction. New York:
Oxford University Press.
Black, W. (1953) Industrial Development in Jackson. The Story of Jackson: A History of
the Capital of Mississippi 1821-1951. Jackson, Mississippi: J. F. Hyer Publishing
Butler, D. (1976, Feb 10). Edwards Hotel in Jackson Mississippi. Oral History Program,
Retrieved Mar 20, 2006.
Chapman, P. (2006, Feb 26). Heritage Value Boosts Older Hotels. National Real Estate
Investor, Retrieved Mar 2, 2006.
Cossar, G. (1973, Aug 16). Mr. Cossar's Career as a Legislator in the State of Mississippi.
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University Press of Mississippi.
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MD), pp. E7.
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Green, H. (1988). The Social Construction of Historical Significance. Preservation of
What, For Whom? Ithaca, N.Y.: The National Council for Preservation Education.
Groth, P. (1994). Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United
States. Berkelely: University of California Press.
Hayner, N. (1928). Hotel Life and Personality. The American Journal of Sociology. 33(5),
Jackson Board of Trade. (1904). Jackson, The Capital of Mississippi.
Jaeger Company. From Frontier Capital to Modern City: A History of Jackson,
Mississippi's Built Environment, 1865-1950. Gainesville, Georgia: The Jaeger Company.
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Key, V. (1984). S.,itlhei n Politics in State and Nation. Knoxville: University of
King, D. (1957) The First-Class Hotel and the Age of the Common Man. The Journal of
. ,niheiIn Histroy. 23(2), 173-188.
Lynch, A. (2005, Aug 3). Grand Hotel: Does the King Edward Have a Glorious Future?
Jackson Free Press, p. 17.
Lyon, E. and R. Cloues. (1998) The Cultural and Historical Mosaic and the Concept of
Significance. Preservation of what, for whom? Ithaca, NY: The National Councial for
Mayer, G. (2001, Mar 12).Future Bleak for King Edward. The Clarion-Ledger, p. 6B.
Minor, W. (1974, Jul 22). Politics and the Edwards House. Oral History Program,
Retrieved Feb 12, 2006 .
McPhail, A. (1976). Edwards Hotel and Politics. Oral History Program, Retrieved March
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Nagle, M. (1984, Apr 3). King Edward: Memories Life the Pall. The Clarion-Ledger, p.
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State Times. p.2D
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Charlene Eiffert, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Albert David Eiffert, is a sixth-
generation New Orleanian. In 2001, Charlene graduated from St. Mary's Dominican
High School and began the Bachelor of Science program at Mississippi State University
in interior design. Her love of art and foreign cultures led her to two minors, in art and
Spanish. In 2003, Charlene spent a summer in Andalusia, Spain studying the history,
architecture, language and culture of the country. Her degree was conferred in 2005,
upon completion of a design internship at Historic Restoration, Incorporated in New
Orleans, Louisiana, where she worked primarily on adaptive use projects and compatible
design for a Hope VI project in the Lower Garden District. Her four years of study in
Mississippi coupled with Historic Restoration, Incorporated's role in the King Edward
redevelopment initiatives are the source of her interest in the history of the structure.
In August of 2005, Charlene began her graduate studies in Historic Preservation
at the University of Florida in the College of Design, Construction and Planning. She
traveled across the country to Portland, Oregon and to Chicago, Illinois for a series of
Preservation conferences. She worked through Christmas and Spring Break seasons in
the Gulf Coast region, documenting historic structures damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
With a team of her peers, she documented and disassembled a damaged residence known
as the Hecker Cottage, slated for demolition, and placed into storage the original structure
with the intentions of finding an alternate site for its interpretation. These experiences
afforded her the opportunity to share what she learned with the Historic Gainesville
Commission at their annual Champagne Update in January of 2006.
Upon completion of her summer spent with the Preservation Institute: Nantucket
program, Charlene will seek employment opportunities in the architectural and adaptive
use aspects of historic preservation. Charlene enjoys expanding her modest architectural
library and learning about foreign culture and dance. Her interests include early
twentieth-century architecture, particularly the Chicago School and Art Noveau,
photography and New Orleans history and culture.