From slavery and the Civil War to commerce and industry, Mississippi has played a prominent role in the evolution of the United States. Meeting planners who want to tap into the state’s past should consider hosting events at these wide-ranging historic venues: antebellum and Victorian-era homes, a former cotton mill and an old courthouse that played host to some of America’s most well-known politicians.
White House Hotel
The White House Hotel began its life as a private beachfront home in the 1890s. The story is that the White family was tired of their relatives dropping in on them for extended stays every summer without offering to pay for anything. Southern hospitality demands that the hosts do everything for their guests. Cora White, the wife of Circuit Court Judge Walter White, decided to circumvent their freeloading relatives by opening up their home as a boarding house. Business was so good that the Whites bought the Victorian house next door. In 1910, the homes were joined to create a lobby, a dining room and a ballroom. Today, the hotel is joined with seven historic homes as one establishment.
Meeting planners that want great views of the Gulf of Mexico should consider this historic property. The ballroom alone can hold 100 people. If the terrace is included, the property can host banquets for up to 150 people. For outdoor events, groups of 250 people can assemble on the lawn, with tents to keep them out of the sun. Dance floors, stages and bars can be added, depending on the type of event. The White House Hotel is famous for its weddings, banquets and receptions. Cora’s Restaurant, an on-site establishment that specializes in Southern coastal cuisine, handles all the catering for events held at the property.
After sitting vacant for 30 years, the property was restored to its former glory and reopened in 2014 as a boutique hotel with 76 guest rooms and modern interior decor.
Dunleith Historic Inn
The Dunleith Historic Inn, a quaint antebellum mansion, was built in 1856. Set on 40 acres in the historic district of Natchez, the estate, which is now a bed-and-breakfast, includes an original 1790s carriage house, a dairy barn, a poultry house, a greenhouse and a three-story brick dependency. The current mansion, built in the Greek Revival style with 26 brick and stucco columns, replaced the original home that burned down in 1855. A National Historic Landmark, the home was turned into a bed-and-breakfast in 1976.
Dunleith has 22 guest rooms on-site, and its current owners, who bought it in November 2019, have completed a $1.5 million renovation. The original stables and carriage house were converted into the Castle Restaurant in 2000. A balcony was added to the restaurant as part of the recent renovation project, giving it an additional 44 seats, and 24 seats were added downstairs by the pub and pool. Also added were a beautiful outdoor space with Adirondack chairs and a firepit. In the main house, renovations included plaster work on the columns, a new roof and mechanical improvements.
Dunleith is about a two-minute drive to Natchez’ main street. Meeting planners who want to tap into the site’s history can host dinners for up to 125 people in the restaurant or receptions for up to 500 people on the grounds. The first floor of the main house can accommodate up to 50 people at round tables or 75 people theater style.
The current owner of the historic Belmont Plantation, which was built along the Mississippi River in 1857, purchased the property at auction in 2016. The previous owners, who used the property as their main residence, had tried to sell the home but were unable to do so. It eventually went up for auction. The new owners spent a year and a half bringing the property up to code and restoring it to its original elegance. Now a bed-and-breakfast with rooms for 26 people, the property also has four large parlors that can be used for meeting rooms or events.
The property is a good choice for retreats, since guests can stay on-site. Along with the dining room and other indoor spaces, the large porch and balcony can host events of up to 150 people, 300 to 400 people if the groups use the outdoor space.
Belmont is outside the Greenville city limits and doesn’t have modern conveniences like television sets. The goal of the property is for guests to take advantage of the solitude and mingle with the other guests staying there. Meeting groups at Belmont can bring their own food and alcohol. Groups are also welcome to tour the mansion and grounds and learn about the history of Belmont, its prior inhabitants and how the current owner is related to one of the previous saviors of Belmont Plantation, former Mississippi Gov. Dennis Murphree.
Mill Conference Center at MSU
A former cotton mill built in 1902 to support Mississippi State University’s (MSU’s) textiles program was recently converted into a large conference center with office space. Many attempts were made to turn the building and its 13-acre site into an event space over the years, but it wasn’t until the university put out a request for proposals in 2012 that a developer was chosen for the site.
“We assembled a team that had experience with historical renovation, hotel and office space, and constructed on the 13-acre site a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, a 450-car parking garage and did a significant renovation of the mill itself,” said Mark Castleberry, principal and owner of Castle Properties. The 103,000-square-foot mill is divided into office space and a conference center.
The ballroom seats 1,000 people, and the building has nine additional breakout spaces. The Mill sits on a hill with a large green space in front of it that also can be rented out for events. The Courtyard by Marriott has 105 rooms, and the developers built two additional hotels within walking distance of the property: the Hampton Inn and Comfort Suites.
The Mill has a great relationship with MSU and hosts many university events there. The developers leased the mill from MSU for 55 years, but Castle Properties owns the land where the hotel was built and several nearby parcels.
Old Court House Museum
The Old Court House Museum was built between 1858 and 1860 and was used as Warren County’s courthouse until 1939 when a new Art Deco building was constructed across the street. The museum is full of exhibits and artifacts dedicated to Vicksburg and Warren County. The building also contains a research library where people can come to do research and genealogy.
The building served as the headquarters for reconstruction in Vicksburg after the Civil War. Vicksburg was a model for the rest of the nation at that time. Many famous people walked the halls of the courthouse during its heyday, including Gen. Ulysses S. Grant before he became president of the United States. He addressed troops on the lawn outside the building. Jefferson Davis launched his political career there, and Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington and William McKinley all made appearances.
Rather than demolishing the building when the new courthouse was built, the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society preserved it as a museum. The original Victorian-era courtroom upstairs is large enough to host groups of up to 150 people in the gallery area. The area between the judge’s podium and the audience is suitable for small banquets and dancing with its beautiful hardwood floors. The building has hosted weddings, an annual Christmas ball, receptions and corporate meetings. Smaller groups of about 20 people can rent space in the library.