Mayor makes Eola announcement during State of City address

Published 8:06 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson’s first State of the City Address on Friday was not just about celebrating the developments that have happened in Natchez in the past year, but also alluding to one big development that is now in progress — the Eola Hotel.

A new developer, who has not yet been named, may soon take on the project of restoring the historic Eola as a hotel once again.

“The ink is dry,” Gibson said of the hotel at the finale of his speech. “Details will be announced very soon.”

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Many of the approximately 100 people listening to the mayor’s speech from the bandstand on the Natchez bluff on Friday knew exactly what project he was alluding to with this statement before it was spelled out with poster cards.

“E-O-L-A,” they cheered as each card bearing the letters were held up by city employees.

Gibson said the potential development of the Eola Hotel was made possible by the donation of the Fry Building on the corner of Pearl and Franklin streets to the City of Natchez by the Walter Davis and Fry families to make way for a parking garage in the vicinity of the hotel.

The hotel was built in 1927 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

In the early 1930s, when Natchez started the pilgrimage tours of antebellum homes, it was a prosperous luxury hotel well-occupied by tourists.

Robert Lubin, a Virginia attorney who purchased the property in 2014, began the first phases of renovating the building back into a 70 to 80-room hotel before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and no activity has occurred there since.

In addition to the development of the hotel, Gibson also spoke of other projects that are currently under way, such as the rebirth of the historic Prentiss Club after it was badly damaged in a 2018 fire and expansion of Smoot’s Grocery Blues Lounge by Tate Taylor and John Norris.

Also under way is a $2 million project to refurbish the city’s six parks with new playground equipment, picnic tables and amenities.

Gibson said the city also has reason to celebrate with record numbers showing economic growth, including 70 new businesses opening in the past year, 600 new jobs created and more than 250 building permits made for approximately $40 million worth of investments in properties city-wide.

“The Natchez renewal is happening and it’s happening now,” Gibson said. “… We have reason to celebrate. Things that we thought were impossible are becoming possible.”

Gibson thanked the Board of Aldermen and other city personnel and stakeholders for the progress Natchez has witnessed despite a global pandemic.

“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so many here. I’m only one person and it takes a community,” he said.