By GINNA PARSONS, Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) — A new short-lived hostel in downtown New Albany pays homage to the Southern writer born on the site – Nobel laureate William Faulkner.
The Union County Historical Society and Heritage Museum purchased the four-bedroom parsonage on Cleveland Street from Presbyterians in 2019.
“We thought it was important to preserve it,” said Jill Smith, director of the museum. “We have the Faulkner Garden and the Faulkner Library. Now we have the site where he was born.
Faulkner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, was born in a house on the site in September 1897. Soon after, the Faulkner family moved to Ripley and eventually settled in Oxford.
In 1953 Faulkner’s birthplace was demolished to allow Presbyterians to build a parsonage. It served this purpose for several years, but had stood empty for some time when the historical society bought it three years ago.
“At first we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it, but we knew it had to generate revenue,” said Lynn Madden, chair of the House Restoration Committee.
Work on the house was halted due to the pandemic, but in January 2021 volunteers began the process of transforming the rectory into The Faulkner Birthsite Inn. All hardwood floors have been refinished and the walls have been given a fresh coat of paint. A small back porch has been reconfigured into a laundry room.
“Believe it or not, we didn’t buy a single piece of furniture for this house,” Madden said. “We have a whole list of donors. Everything fell into place. Everything we were offered matched.
Steve Bennett, who works at the museum and is the innkeeper, said a woman was attending a workshop at the museum when the conversation turned to the inn, which is a short walk from the museum.
“She named all this furniture she had and we made arrangements to see it,” Bennett said. “She ended up donating a sofa, two matching chairs, a side table, an oil painting and a four-poster bed.”
Another family donated all the furniture for the dining room, including the table, chairs and a dresser filled with cut glass, as well as furniture for a bedroom. One family donated a bed and bedroom chair, while another donated a chest of drawers, chest of drawers and bedside tables. The Historic Northside District Garden Club purchased a vintage bedroom and donated it.
Even the lamps, works of art and accessories in the house are the fruit of the generosity of the community, as well as the dishes and the coffee maker in the kitchen.
“We bought premium linens and towels, and that was about it,” Madden said.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to organize and decorate the rooms in time for an open house at Christmas to show off the new hostel.
“Bethany Dalton helped set it all up,” Smith said. “Bethany and Lynn and Steve and Betsey Hamilton have done so much. You can’t go wrong when you get them to volunteer.
The Faulkner Birthsite Inn is a short-stay inn, not a bed-and-breakfast.
“We won’t serve breakfast until we do,” Bennett joked.
There are four bedrooms in the two-story hostel – each equipped with Wi-Fi and smart TVs – as well as two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, games room/ library and a laundry room. Prices range from $133 for one bedroom to $362 for the whole house, which sleeps eight people.
The intention, down the road, is for the museum to host workshops with a weekend of events, Madden said.
“For example, eight ladies could come for a pottery workshop and stay at the inn,” Bennett said. “It is ideal for guests coming to town for family reunions, vacations, festivals, football weekends.”
The museum is in the process of purchasing bikes for guests to use if they want to ride the Tanglefoot Trail, and plans are underway for a patio with seating area and fresh landscaping around the house.
“We are still adding cultural elements to the inn,” Smith said, “We are in the process of naming the rooms. They will either be named after Mississippi writers or have a Faulkner-related name.
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