Lost Mississippi: Jacksonian Highway Hotel/Lefleurs Restaurant

The Jacksonian, image adapted from an original courtesy of the Mississippi State University Digital Archive Collection, colorization and cropping TB

The Jacksonian Highway Hotel. New Hwy. 51 North–Phone EM 6-8474 or TWX-JN 484–Jackson, Mississippi–Swimming Pool–Children’s Playground–Television in all rooms–Completely Air Conditioned–Member: AAA and Master Hosts–Lefleur’s, a Duncan Hines Restaurant, in connection. Anscochrome by Frank Noone.

Jacksonian Master Hosts Inn. Interstate 55 North (U.S. Highway 51), Jackson, Mississippi. Phone (601) 366-8474. Enter on Frontage Road at Briarwood or Northside Interchange. LaFleur’s Restaurant * Color TV * Meeting Rooms * Direct-dial Phones * Swimming Pool/Playground * Near Shopping Centers * “Closest to Bennett Reservoir”

The Jacksonian Highway Hotel was built at 4800 Highway 51 North (later Interstate 55 North), in an area only just beginning to blossom with commercial development. Construction was begun in April 1955. George Wilkinson and his partners at Crestline Development (later known as the Athens Investment Company) set out to build something more than just another motel. Indeed, the Jacksonian was conceived as a “highway hotel” which offered the luxury and service of a traditional hotel with the convenience of parking at one’s door.  This was also not simply the product of an anonymous builder, but sprang off the drawing boards of one of Jackson’s most prestigious architectural firms, the offices of N.W. Overstreet. The buildings were built by Wise Construction, a local company and the furnishings and fittings were, as much as possible, locally sourced as well.  All told, the cost for a 90 room hotel and restaurant was $700,000, an especially impressive sum when one considers that Dumas Milner paid $1,000,000 to renovate the King Edward and its 400 rooms in 1954-55.

Overstreet’s layout on the 7 1/2 acre plot provided maximum privacy and quiet for overnight guests.  The rooms were also unusually spacious for the era and featured vaulted ceilings along with the latest in modern comforts like late model Zenith televisions in each room.  The hotel opened to a packed house on August 5, 1956.   It was soon accepted into the Master Hosts organization, a distinction which meant considerably more in its time.  The Broadwater and the Longfellow House on the Coast were members, as well as the Bentley in Alexandria.

There was, however, another significant reason for local interest in the new hotel, for it housed the restaurant LeFleur’s, a local institution which had lately been located on President Street in downtown Jackson (the building still stands, by the way), a coup of some note.  The specialties of the house were Creole cooking and they always managed to hire the best of local talent to run the place.  I recall dining there on a number of occasions.  What I don’t exactly recall are the politically incorrect and frankly horrible murals depicting smiling black workers picking cotton while their white counterparts lounged on the verandah at the mansion. (1)  These murals must surely have been gone by the time I was visiting the restaurant and I have been unable to find pictures of them. In any event, the place played to a packed house on most nights until nearly the end of its long existence.   The guest book was signed by everyone from Elvis and the Colonel to Bob Hope, Cher and Greg Allman.  Roy Rogers and Trigger signed the guest book as well.  I don’t know what they did with Trigger while Rogers enjoyed his dinner.   For years, Le Fleur’s was the place to see and be seen in Jackson.

Trout meuniere, spoon bread and West Indies salad may never have gone out of style, but the Jacksonian was fading at its edges by the time it closed in 1984.  Le Fleur’s closed its doors as well and the property was promptly redeveloped by 1985. Today at least the names live on in Lefleur’s Gallery and Jacksonian Plaza, the road that runs beside the I-55 Kroger.

(1) Karl Fleming, Son of the Rough South, 2005.

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See also Going Inside: LeFleur’s Restaurant, Jackson



Categories: Architectural Research, Hotels, Jackson

19 replies

  1. When those signs went up advertising the motel and restaurant, I thought Jackson had become elite among the elitists. Eating at LeFleur’s was a treat for my young husband and me. Thankfully, you have post cards to record the site.

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  2. The first postcard shows the Jacksonian sign with out the magnificent arrow seen in the second postcard. Was the first image taken during construction or was the arrow added at a later date?

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  3. I assume that the arrow was added a short time later. The first image was taken just after the hotel opened. If you look closely at the second image, you will note the extension of the original support. Perhaps the arrow had been ordered and arrived in a different form than had been originally intended. Good observation!

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  4. For many years, my dad and I ate breakfast at LeFleur’s every saturday. There was a very regular crowd and a steady stream of visiting politicians. I first met John Stennis and Sonny Montgomery at LeFleur’s.

    I took a date to Lefleur’s about three months before they closed. The murals were still there and the fish smelled so bad we had to return it.

    Earlier on though, the hotel served as a refuge for many families made homeless by the Easter flood who lived there while their homes were rebuilt.

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  5. Taking the signs into account, would this be Googie?

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  6. If not precisely, very close to Googie in spirit!

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  7. I was married to George Wilkinson ( the son) and we are still good friends—he has the stained glass window from the Garden Room at Lefleur’s of Louis LeFleur in the house we built out at Lake Caroline. He would get a kick out of this sight because he has many stories about those days–he managed the restaurant after his dad & their family actually lived at the Jacksonian for a while . It was a great place —-“Trout Almondine” was the best!

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  8. My mom worked at the hotel as a book keeper and she would take us to work and we would swim all day. I had my birthday parties at the restaurant.

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  9. Their Trout Amandine was spectacular! I have search all over for any as good, or a recipe, with no luck. Wonder if George still has, and would share the recipe. I would be thrilled.

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  10. Where on President Street was the restaurant first located?

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  11. My wife and I ate a number of meals here, the best being in 1977 after Ole Miss defeated Notre Dame at Memorial Stadium. The Irish won the National Championship at the end of the season with the Ole Miss loss being the only blemish on their record. The Rebels otherwise did not have a good season, but Reader’s Digest declared them the national champs as a result of them having defeated the Irish!

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    • I remember the game well, though did not attend. I also remember as a boy of 9 or 10 eating wild plumbs (circa 1952) just about where the Jacksonian was built. The only semblance of an interstate at that time was the ROW that had just begun to be cut.

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  12. This is really great reading !! I am very proud to say I worked for George & Kent Wilkinson !! The finest people !! And Bobby Ginn !! He was a ‘THE CHEF’ !! Checked in Bob Hope while the night clerk at Jacksonian !! Mrs. Olsen oh so sweet !!

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  13. My father Warren white (whitey)played in the house band called all that jazz or a touch of class with woody coats he used to take me to the hotel and we would stay all weekend and swim I would go listen to the band I saw famous people and some infamous as well it was a memory that I will cherish forever

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