Jackson — The Millsaps Buie House Bed and Breakfast is a lovely, gracious old home, built in 1888, that takes visitors back to another century before the mad pace of the electronic age. The rooms retain the warmth and charm of a beloved family home where guests can slow down and relax in a setting of antiques, high ceilings, polished wood floors, richly draped windows and craftsmanship not mass produced.
Located on North State Street, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Webster Millsaps, the founder of Millsaps College, who served in the Confederate army and rose to the rank of major in 1864.
This B&B has the AAA’s prestigious four-diamond rating, a distinction few inns nationwide have and one of only three in Mississippi. Innkeeper Judy Loper says the inn has had the rating since its first inspection.
“They come anonymously every year for inspections,” she said. “It takes a lot of work to get it and keep it. You can’t let anything slip. It takes lots of little touches. This year we painted the outside and added bathrobes to each room. They didn’t require that, but they liked it.”
Loper, who’s been with the Millsaps Buie House since it opened in 1987, toured B&Bs in Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., Annapolis, Md., and New England on behalf of the Love family, present day owners and descendants of the Millsaps and Buie families. She had worked at other hotels but wanted to see what other B&Bs were like.
“No two are alike. Each has its own personality and you can’t copy,” she said. “Some innkeepers live in their B&Bs, but we have innkeepers on duty 24 hours. We never close.”
The B&B has 11 rooms, all with private baths. A Southern breakfast is served each morning that includes cheese grits casserole, ham or sausage, a specialty egg dish, biscuits, muffins, homemade bread and fresh fruit. For the less hearty, there’s dry cereal and yogurt. Loper has a background in French cooking and many of the recipes used are hers. Although dining is not open to the public, guests may invite someone to have breakfast with them. She says Northern guests are sometimes afraid to eat the grits but usually like them after they try them.
“It’s a great thing to see New Yorkers relax here,” she said. “We have such lovely guests from everywhere and we’re helping to create a positive image of Mississippi. The main thrust for us is to have Southern hospitality. It’s a real entity that does not exist everywhere and the house lends itself graciously to that.”
On the day Loper spoke with the MBJ, she was expecting six guests from Bolivia and was confident the Millsaps Buie House would do Mississippi proud by making a good impression.
“The family (who own the B&B) wants it done right and done first class,” she said, “and we get some very nice comments from the wonderful guests who stay here.”
A guest last month wrote a glowing report for the Tripadvisor Web site, saying, “This charming property has to be the quintessential bed and breakfast. The beautifully decorated historic home seems to become yours for your stay. The staff is accommodating to their guests’ every request and the rooms somehow manage to be both elegant and comfortable.”
Loper says running the B&B is the most wonderful job she’s ever had. Making sure the staff is well trained and motivated is the biggest challenge. “We walk a fine line. We must give attention to guests and not be intrusive,” she said. “Also, it’s critical to have a good housekeeping staff.”
Some of the celebrities who’ve stayed there are Art Linkletter, Jill St. John, Roger Mudd and William F. Buckley Jr.
Loper recalls that Mississippi author John Grisham was a guest at the time his earliest books were becoming popular. He was in Jackson on unfinished legal business but graciously autographed his books for other guests at the B&B. A few years later, the whole inn was rented for two weeks when scenes from the movie version of his book, “The Chamber,” were filmed there.
Loper says the staff tries hard to make every guest’s visit memorable. She feels the personal service and attention are what set the Millsaps Buie House apart as a B&B. On one occasion, a young man wanted to impress his wife with an elegant dinner in their room. He was on a limited budget but Loper and the staff came to his rescue.
“We set up a table for two and I cooked all the food,” she said. “When he gave the signal, I’d run a course in and serve them. Anything they ask, we try to do.”
She says it’s safe to book a room two to four weeks in advance and six to nine months for weddings. They can host weddings and receptions for 150 people but they do not provide food. Meetings for 20 people can be held in the parlor and conference-type meetings for 10 can be set up in the library. The house can also be rented for parties on weekends with parking available in nearby office parking lots.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.
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