Newspaper Clippings: Walthall Hotel When It Was New

The Walthall Hotel in 2008

I hate to see the Walthall Hotel in downtown Jackson still closed and wonder what lies in its future. The Clarion-Ledger ran an article last week “Let’s make a (hotel) deal” about the building being in receivership:

“It (looks) better than I expected,” said Katz, a court-appointed receiver for the hotel, which has been shut down for nearly two years because of structural damage and financial woes of the property’s owners, St. Louis brothers and businessmen Mike and Steve Roberts. “The main issue is that it’s been without heating or cooling for nearly a year.”

The Roberts brothers bought the hotel in 2008 and started a renovation, but closed in 2010 after “water damage the brothers blamed on poor city infrastructure, claims Jackson officials have denied.”

Back in 1929, when the Walthall opened, its future was bright, as evidenced in this glowing article from the Jackson Daily News. The article particularly brings out the role of a very young A. Hays Town, only three years out of Tulane University. Town came to Jackson in 1926 to work in the office of N.W. Overstreet, where his talent for architectural design quickly made him Overstreet’s top designer.

This is a long article, but I thought it was worth reproducing in full for all its description and naming of companies and designers. Enjoy!

A post card view of the Walthall from the 1940s

Walthall Hotel A Masterpiece of Art, Comfort

Model Building Ready For Formal Opening;

Elaborate Plans Laid

——————————————–

Latest Addition to City’s Skyline Cost More Than Million Dollars; Construction, Financing Mostly Done By Mississippians

——————————————–

Jackson’s new million dollar hotel the Walthall, on central Capitol street, will be formally opened on Tuesday.

Already open for more than a week while finishing touches were being added, the magnificent new structure is now entirely completed and will be thrown open officially Tuesday when A.H.Alvis and his associates will be hosts to all Jackson.

More than $1,000,000 is actually represented in this venture. Something over $800,000 is represented in the building itself , while the remainder is for furnishings, decorations and equipment of this modern and entirely up to date structure.

There are 231 guest rooms in the hotel, each with bath, from the second to the seventh floors. The first floor contains an elaborate, spacious and beautiful lobby, the Walthall Coffee Shop, Gayden’s Drug Store and the hotel barber shop. A banquet hall and private dining room and the Walthall Beauty Shoppe are on the second floor.

Beautiful Furnishings

As evident in the pictures through the rotogravure section in today’s Daily News, the rooms are lavishly and beautifully furnished, as is the hotel throughout. In the furnishing, as in most of the other work, contracts were let locally wherever possible, and the hotel as completed and ready for the formal opening represents almost a 10 per cent Mississippi institution, from financial backing to the decorating.

A trip through the hotel impresses one with the elaborate planning that has been done to make everything as comfortable and pleasing to the eye as is humanely possible. From the rest inviting lounges and chairs of the lobby to the smallest bathroom, everything has been designed with a view to combined beauty and comfort.

Passing into the lobby, one passes through a long, beautiful hallway on one side of which is the coffee shop, on the other the drug store and barber shop. Glittering mirrors sprays streams of light through the white tiled tonsorial parlor; a glance to the other side reveals the semi-modernistic settings of the coffee shop.

Same Lobby Scheme

In the lobby itself, the same scheme is carried out: a long hallway through the center is flanked on either side by beautiful marble columns, beyond which are soft rugs which hold lounges and easy chair. A great fire place lightens the west side of the lobby. At the far end are the offices, the cashier’s cage, the clerk’s desk, the manager’s office, telephone booths and switchboards and other executive desks.

To the left of the rear of the lobby is the beautiful white stairway, winding its way past the writing room to the second floor where are the banquet hall and private dining room.

Walls of the lobby are entirely a Jackson product, being of Exite. This company, incidentally, located to Jackson after being assured this contract. Its officials had decided to locate at Memphis, but with the Walthall job assured and others in prospect, moved here and has established a plant on the I.C. right of way. It has beautiful work in the lobby, a marble substitute block of brown shading, mottled with lighter colors.

Marble Columns

The base of the wainscoting about the lobby is of black and white Pyrenees marble, while the columns are of the same stone, trimmed with golden morocco marble. The former is quarried in Russia, the latter in Morocco.

All work in the lobby was designed by a Jackson youth, A. Hayes [sic] Town, a graduate of Tulane, who is connected with the office of N.W. Overstreet, architect of the building. Every ornament in the lobby was designed especially for the lobby by Mr. Town and all were made to order for this job. Each of the light fixtures, all of scroll work and other metal work on the desks, the little stone and cast figures about the columns, all were designed by Mr. Town and made to contract.

On the second floor, as one reaches the top of the stairway is the elevator stop, and to the right a long hallway leading to the banquet hall and the guest rooms beyond. To the right along the hall is the Walthall Beauty Shoppe, operated by Mrs. Edith Alford, Miss Lillian Doak is assistant manager. The shoppe is tastefully decorated to harmonize with the rest of the building, and is completely equipped with the latest and most modern appliances acceptable to leading beauty parlors.

On the left is the entrance to the banquet hall itself, a spacious room capable of seating several hundred comfortably and scheduled to be much in use for large parties and dinners. It is not so ornately decorated as the lobby, but gold-leaf figures about the top of the columns and plain colored walls make it beautifully attractive. It will also lend itself readily to special decorations for special events, which idea the builders apparently had in mind.

Back of the hall is a private dining room, done in flat tones and with a triple-arched ceiling that is strikingly effective. Gold-leaf figures set off the edge of the arches.

The remainder of the second floor, as are the floors above, is given over to guest rooms, which are the main part of the hotel as is usual. Each room has a private bath, running ice water and ceiling fan and each is tastily and beautifully decorated and furnished.

The bathrooms are interesting. The tile decorations of each floor are in a different color scheme. The trimmings on the second floor are of lavender, the third light blue, the fourth a darker blue, another black, still another green, and son on. The fittings of the bathroom are all of special design, having been made for the new Stevens Hotel in Chicago, the largest hotel in the world. The Walthall management secured the same fixtures from the makers through special arrangements with the owners of the Stevens.

Each room has a heavy door, known as a flush slab red gun door, decorated only by an ebony inlay. This is a thin black stripe inset some six inches from the edge all around, plain enough to be attractive and elaborate enough to attract attention of any who know the worth of real ebony. Special hardware marks these doors, too. Hardware company of Reading, Pa.

Every room door also has an indicator to show whether or not it is locked. Thus, if a guest is in his room, employees can tell by a small indicator under the knob whether the guest is in. There are also locks on the doors of all clothes closets, which are locked by the door keys and cannot be unlocked by maids’ keys. Every door in the building is on a steel frame.

Each ceiling boasts a large fan, and in some of the larger rooms there are two, there being 281 fans in the whole building, which, with the aid of the typhoon ventilating system, tend to keep the air clear and temperature even the year round. The typhoon system, incidentally, is the same as is used in most of the modern theatres for summer ventilation and cooling. Six huge fans operate the system, one in particular as large as a room, being located on the roof.

Rugs and furniture in the rooms are especially fitting and well selected. Both rugs and furniture were bought through local contracts. Rugs were furnished by Rices, local furniture store. Rice’s also furnished many of the rooms, all except the front rooms and corner suites which were furnished by Kennington’s. The latter also furnished the draperies.

All ornamental light fixtures in the building were done by the Bailey Reynolds company of Kansas City who made them to order. They made the fixtures in the coffee shop, dining rooms and banquet hall and the fixtures of the lobby and clerks’ desks.

Work on the hotel building was started last June 4, with efforts at completion on January 1, but because of trouble obtaining materials, it was not delivered until Feb. 20.

A.H. Alvis is president of A.H. Alvis and Company, Int. leasees of the hotel.

All circulating ice water pipes and all other pipes in the building under two inches in size are of brass.

All electric wiring in the hotel was installed by the Keoneman electric company of Jackson.

Nelson and Company of Chicago did all the interior decorating in the hotel. This firm has handled some of the largest and most elaborate decorating jobs in the south and in America. Among their notable contracts in the south has been the Peabody Hotel at Memphis, and the new state capital in Jackson, which they decorated 24 years ago.

Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, March 10, 1929, p. 6

Read more about the later history of the Walthall Hotel from our own Tom Barnes: “Unsheathing the Past . . . The Checkered History of the Walthall Hotel



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Jackson

2 replies

  1. What a great post! Thank you for sharing the article in its entirety. It is full of great descriptions. I wish I could have checked out that Typhoon cooling system in action. Each room having there own ice water supply was thanks to those really cool looking Stevens Hotel sinks with two spigots. Here are two photos of a sink from the Stevens Hotel restored. I guess the sinks would have looked exactly like this?
    Original Sink in Hotel Stevens
    An original sink in the Archive Display at the Hilton Hotel, Chicago

    I wish I could see a rotogravure of an Exite decorated tonsorial parlor. :)

    Like

  2. A vintage postcard view of the PLAZA CAFE which was a couple of doors east of the Wathall Hotel. The Plaza Cafe building is visible in the photo above. The Plaza Cafe building has a very interesting facade. Take a few minutes to go by and look at it sometime. http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y109/cjs555/Mississippi%20Postcards/JacksonMississippiPlazaCafe233ECapitolSt.jpg

    Like

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