Before and After: Motel Jo-Anna, Vicksburg

Back a few weeks ago, the Urban Decay blog ran a post about the Johanna Motel in Vicksburg, which when kodachromeguy photographed it in 2004 had seen better days. The building was torn down only a few years later, so it’s lucky that it was captured on film, but the weird stairstep pattern of the building sparked a memory that sent me rummaging through my postcard collection, and here is what I found from the motel’s golden age. It’s a far cry from the somewhat sad metal-clad gable-roofed structure shown in Urban Decay’s photos.

Motel Jo-Anna. One of Vicksburg’s most modern tourist accommodation motels, Jo-Anna is surrounded by beds of mint which have survived generations of trampling. It is reputed to be the place of origin of the Mint Julep, noted Southern drink of old. Mrs. Minnie Mayer Lewis, Owner and Operator. R. 4, Box 10, Vicksburg, Miss. Phone 9143.

It’s such a distinctive building that I knew I had seen it somewhere even before I found the postcard, and eventually I tracked it down to a 1952 publication called Builders of Mississippi. You might remember that I first mentioned this archival treasure last June in the post about J.R. Flint and the Hays Town house in south Jackson.

Builders of Mississippi was put together by some of the larger post-WWII building companies to advertise their work and also maybe scratch the backs of the architects they worked with, since each picture is accompanied by the architect’s name. The architect named for the Jo-Anna (as it was originally spelled), is the mysterious N.D. Galo, presumably of Vicksburg, whose only other building I know of, The Glass Kitchen restaurant, is also shown in Builders of Mississippi.

As for W.T. Walker Company, the builder of the Jo-Anna, we do know that he built the Constitution Fire Station (#6) in 1952 (just across the street from the new and old courthouses in Vicksburg) and, in the same neighborhood, the old Department of Public Welfare office in 1955.

That Builders of Mississippi publication contains many such nuggets, and maybe at some point I can get a good enough copy to scan and make available in a similar way to our Mississippi Architect series (the image above comes from a photocopy of the publication in the collection of MDAH). Unfortunately, while the title page indicates this was intended to be an annual publication, it seems like they never got around to another one.


Here’s the information from the title page of Builders of Mississippi:


STARR CONSTRUCTION COMPANY . . . . . . . . . . . . . Greenville, Miss.

L.B. PRIESTER & SON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Meridian, Miss.

W.T. WALKER COMPANY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vicksburg, Miss.

DYE & MULLINS, INC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Columbia, Miss.

In the First Annual Edition of “Builders of Mississippi” the firms above have been selected as having done an outstanding job in their respective areas.

The buildings shown in this volume are some of the representative works constructed by each of these firms.

These companies are qualified by their past performances to build in all categories, Institutional, Industrial, Commercial and Residential Construction. They have dispatched their work with honesty, efficiency and economy. There best reference is the buildings they have built and the people for whom they have built.

Published by Building Trade Publications
100 Stevens Avenue, Mount Vernon, New York


Thanks to kodachomeguy and Urban Decay for bringing this building back to life and for sending me off on this rabbit trail!

Categories: Hotels, Lost Mississippi, Vicksburg

7 replies

  1. Very interesting, indeed! Thanks for unearthing the history of the Jo-Anna. The two small houses on the hillside above the Jo-Anna disappeared long ago. The hill and the foundation where the motel once stood is reverting to jungle. By the way, I also have photographs of the Glass Kitchen, but it closed before I had a chance to eat there.


  2. Wow the artistic work on the hotels environment for the postcard is so far off from reality. We’ve all seen images stylized before but this has to be one of the more drastic.

    Is this the location?

    It was really jammed up against the cemetery.


  3. I noticed that too–the postcard and the real photographs here and on Urban Decay show two different realities. Chalk it up to a lesson in marketing I guess. I also have my doubts about it being the place where the Mint Julep was born . . .


  4. Mint Julep not born there! –Or at Kentucky Derby!


  5. Jo-Anna’s was owned by my great grandmother Minnie! I have no memories of this place but have been told stories by relatives and my mother who was a waitress there.


  6. My parents owned that establishment for a number of years I the late 60’s & early 70’s. Great food!


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