King Edward Update

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for . . .

As mentioned several times in the last week, one of the prime attractions at this year’s 10 Most Endangered List Unveiling was a chance to peak inside the King Edward Hotel. All of us have been curious about what’s going on inside there, or at least I have, so I made sure to bring along my camera to allow those who couldn’t make it a chance to take a look as well.

We’ve had an ongoing discussion over on the King Edward page (in case you’ve missed it, it’s under the Current Events tab) about the interior work, wishing they had found a way to use real plaster in the grand spaces instead of sheetrock, wondering if it’s better to just insert a modern interior into historic buildings when the interiors are too far gone for real restoration. Hopefully, these photos will extend and inform that discussion–let’s hear your thoughts.

The tours only got into the first floor lobby because the building is still a major construction zone. Ol’ Malvaney is always thinking about the readers, though, and I know ya’ll want to see more than just the 1st floor lobby, so . . . through completely legal means, I assure you, I bring you a few “off the regular tour” photos.

To ensure this post doesn’t take forever to load, I’ve made these pictures pretty small, but if you click on them, you’ll go to the Flickr site where you can see them at a larger size. You can also see more pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/26519181@N06/sets/72157622376347132/

main entrance lobby, 1st floor

main entrance lobby, 1st floor

Main entrance lobby, 1st floor

Main entrance lobby, 1st floor

1st floor, grand staircase--waiting to get marbled

1st floor, grand staircase--waiting to get marbled

main entrance lobby, elevators

main entrance lobby, elevators

1st floor elevator doors and applied detail

1st floor elevator doors and applied detail

main entrance lobby, typical column detail

main entrance lobby, typical column detail

main entrance lobby, fireplace. If memory serves, this was an open area leading to a cafe or something else in the eastern annex.

main entrance lobby, fireplace. If memory serves, this was an open area leading to a cafe or something else in the eastern annex.

2nd floor balcony overlooking main lobby

2nd floor balcony overlooking main lobby

Ballroom--I also seem to remember that the ballroom was larger than this--have they moved a wall back? The lighted ceiling is an attempt to recreate the feel of skylights. I'm not sure it does.

Ballroom--I also seem to remember that the ballroom was larger than this--have they moved a wall back? The lighted ceiling is an attempt to recreate the feel of skylights. I'm not sure it does.

Ballroom, ceiling detail

Ballroom, ceiling detail

really love the exterior lighting scheme--very cool and sophisticated. You might need heavy curtains though, if you don't like light shining in your window all the time.

really love the exterior lighting scheme--very cool and sophisticated.

Overall, I admit I found the grand interior space a bit disappointing. I can’t quite put my finger on the quality that seems to be missing, but a friend of mine turned to me in the middle of the tour and said, “It’s nice . . . but a little plastic” and maybe that’s it. For comparison, look at some photos of the public spaces on Flickr (and try to overlook its terrible condition and see the difference in the plasterwork). Check out these “before” photos and see what you think:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marklyon/269663869/sizes/l/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/statlerhotel/2331980197/sizes/o
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tombarnes20008/2554769847/sizes/l/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tombarnes20008/2555597336/sizes/m

Having said that, though, I still feel the need to reiterate that this project is a very exciting one for both preservationists and Jacksonians. The landmark quality of the King Edward has been restored on the exterior and the building will once again be an anchor for the western end of Capitol Street. Thanks to the owners, developers, and contractor for letting us in, even if we did find some things to critique. :-)



Categories: Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson, Mississippi Landmarks, National Register, Renovation Projects

5 replies

  1. I agree with everything that’s been said; it does look plastic. Is it maybe that we were so in love with it in decay? Perhaps what we all really want is the distressed look? Is it just too new and shiny when what we liked about it was it’s shabbiness? Did any of us while hiking through think about gutting it and starting over or were we just imagining a “new coat of paint?”

    That ballroom does look small. Is it the drop ceiling in the back? Why are the skylights not real?

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    • I think you’ve definitely got a point about being in love with the decay. I know I’m prone to that, and yeah, if I were the owner, a new coat of paint probably would have been as far as I would have gone. Well, maybe I would have cleaned up the pool too, but not much more. :-)

      Looking around at preservationists, I think there are a lot of us who enjoy abandoned or somewhat down-at-the heel places maybe because, counter-intuitively, it seems easier to imagine the previous life, people bustling around in the lobby, coming in from the train, going to grand balls. Often when a place is renovated, especially on the scale of the King Ed, it seems like the history got washed away in the process. On the other hand, if it never gets renovated, it falls down, which is not productive either.

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  2. The skylights were originally covered with stained glass. David Watkins explained to me during a tour of the property last year that it was unlikely that the stained glass could be replicated. I suggested frosted glass instead. It appears that the designers decided to use frosted glass with lighting behind, sort of a fake skylight. Having not seen this in person, it’s hard for me to judge. I prefer what they have done to the idea of fake stained glass- or cheap stained glass at that. Compromises were obviously made in places, but it would appear that the most egregious design decision- picking out the panels in a darker color- is easily reversible. I would have preferred another location for the ramp leading into the restaurant. Its design might have been mitigated in other ways also. This also, fortunately, is reversible at some point in the future. What is most important is that the King will once again be a living, breathing part of downtown Jackson. For this, we must be thankful for David Watkins and HRI. It came closer to implosion than many believe.

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    • I think you’re right that the frosted glass was a better option than trying to do something with stained glass, unless they went with a modern stained glass that would be really cool and fresh and not faux-stuffy, which most replicated stained glass tends to look like.

      But I’ve got to say, I stood in that room for a while, and at least at night, it didn’t read as frosted glass to me. Until you told us they were frosted glass, I thought those panels were larger versions of those plexiglass panels that cover most commercial flourescent lighting fixtures in most office buildings. Maybe it was because the lights were up on full–I assume the lighting will be adjustable so that it will usually be less bright in there.

      I agree with your larger point that bringing the King Ed back to life has been a public service for which we should thank Watkins and his associates–what a huge task, and only 5 years ago none of us thought it would happen.

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  3. I merely suggested that the panels could be made with frosted glass. I fear that they could actually have been made from plexiglass. Let’s hope not….

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