Natchez Eola Hotel turns 80 years old

Published 1:56 am Sunday, July 1, 2007

Nearly a century after its doors first opened, the Eola still stands as one of Natchez’s most treasured landmarks. Throughout most of its existence, the hotel has served as a beacon of downtown stability, Eola Manager Ron Brumfield said.

The Eola has operated as a hotel under the same name since opening in 1927.

The Natchez Investment Corp. built the hotel as a colonial adaptation of the Georgian Period, Natchez Historic Foundation Director of Education Mimi Miller said.

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It was named Eola after the daughter of the board of director’s president, Miller added.

Just two years after opening, the stock market crash of 1929 hit and soon the owners were forced to sell, Miller said. Instead of seeing the hotel close, a group of Natchez citizens founded the Natchez Eola Hotel Corporation and bought the building.

The president of that corporation, Clarence Eyrich Sr., and his family operated and eventually owned the hotel until 1978, Miller said.

“Beginning in 1932, the Eola entered a period of prosperity because of the pilgrimages,” Miller said. Aside from an eight-year period when the hotel was closed, it has continued to enjoy the prosperity brought by tourism.

“It closed in 1974 and was covered in plywood for years,” Miller said. “It was the biggest monument to the decline of downtown Natchez.” The Eola, just like Natchez, eventually recovered and now stands as a proud symbol of the city’s vibrant downtown.

“Getting the hotel open was one of the main things that saved downtown Natchez,” Miller said. “When it reopened in 1982, all of a sudden there was a reason for people to come again.”

Current owner Bob Dean restored the 131-room hotel back to its original elegance after purchasing it in 1998, JoAnn Brumfield said.

“We are constantly doing renovation work,” Dean said. “I do this (restoration work) because I’m saving it for the next generation. You can’t have the future without the past, and there’s a great deal of appreciation for that out there. This work is a labor of love.”

“The Eola is the heart of downtown Natchez,” JoAnn Brumfield said. “Without the Eola, this little town would be like any other. It is a part of Natchez history … everyone should come down to celebrate its heritage.”