The Hotel Heidelberg was a fixture on Capitol Street for fifty five years. The hotel was opened by Roy and Cecil Heidelberg in 1922 , a modest building of five stories and only 124 rooms. Architect R.W. Naef’s towering addition of 1937 was designed in the “Modern” style of the period we have come to know as Art-Deco. This brought the published number of rooms to 300, though the actual number may have been smaller as at least a couple of them were used as permanent apartments for the Heidelbergs and for the Resident Manager. A state-of-the-art parking garage, known as the “Heidelberg Auto Hotel, ” was built in 1940-41. The rooftop Victory Room opened shortly thereafter, only to be followed by two more rooftop meeting rooms, the Silver and Olympic Rooms.
The Heidelberg Roof was a popular venue for dining and dancing. Jerry Lane’s orchestra played here from November 1943 until 1960. Not as large or well known as its nearest competitors, the famed Blue Room at New Orleans’ Roosevelt or the Skyway Room at the Peabody in Memphis, the Heidelberg Roof still fulfilled a solid role in Jackson’s nightlife. Vocalist Betty Rogers filled the room with her sultry voice and crowds whirled the night away on the parquet dance floor.
The Heidelbergs did not limit their investments to Jackson. They built the Hotel Heidelberg in Baton Rouge in 1927 and also owned the Hotel King across the street. The three hotels were often advertised together. The Heidelberg in Baton Rouge was later sold and was under various names and ownership until its recent restoration as the Hilton Capitol Park. If only Jackson’s Heidelberg could have shared the same fate.
The hotel was not as staid or formal as the Edwards, but it enjoyed undeniable popularity- especially with theater people and the meeting trade. Instead of a grand dining room like that of the Edwards, there was a brisk coffee shop, an informal dining room called the Green Room and (at least at one time) a cafeteria as well. I don’t think it had a bar until much later. Liquor laws in Jackson made bars go into hiding until the sixties, though I doubt there was much of a drought here at any time in its history.
The Heidelberg played a role in the history of Civil Rights as well. A number of important civil rights meetings were held at the Heidelberg. The hotel was integrated seamlessly, along with its neighbors, the King Edward and the Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel. The owners of the Robert E. Lee Hotel nearby did not take this enlightened viewpoint and closed the hotel on the same day.
The 275 rooms varied in size considerably, with the ones in the newer tower addition being preferred over those in the original building below. Most were economically minded twin rooms without a great deal of space. This was typical of hotels of the period.
Though the hotel continued to renovate and reinvent itself through the 1950s and early 60s, it fell out of fashion and closed its doors on November 11, 1974. It was unceremoniously demolished in 1977 . I have memories of a brick-strewn lot with only the parking garage staring balefully down at the lot. This would fall within a couple of years. The ironically named Landmark Building occupies the site today. If anyone has memories or images of the Heidelberg, please post away.