Where: Oak Hall Bed and Breakfast; Vicksburg, Mississippi
Why You Should Visit: The furnishings are modern and comfortable while the home maintains its historic charm.
What Makes It Special: The 32 stained-glass windows are stunning.
While I love to stay in historic homes, sometimes the furnishings are a bit too historic. Mattresses made during the Eisenhower administration, delicate teacups perched on doilies and stiffed-back sofas from the Victorian era are not my idea of comfort.
While Oak Hall maintains its historic charm, with 32 gorgeous stained-glass windows, a wide oak-lined foyer and spacious rooms with fireplaces, the beds are super comfortable and there are plenty of outlets for charging devices.
My bathroom even had a stained-glass window and a claw foot tub. Now that’s a historic feature I’m happy to see.
See our related story on things to do in Vicksburg.
Located in a charming neighborhood of Victorian homes, Oak Hall Bed and Breakfast is just a few miles from downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was the perfect spot for us to stay and explore the shops, restaurants and attractions of the area.
Owners Elizabeth and Don Nelson recently opened the 8,000-square-foot home as a bed and breakfast. Prior to moving to Vicksburg, they were living on the East Coast and would stop in Vicksburg on the way to visit family in Texas. After falling in love with the architecture in the area, they bought the home with no particular plans for it.
The home, which is on the National Register of Historic places, had sat empty for years before they purchased it. It was known as Stained Glass Manor and the Fannie Wilson Johnson Home.
Fanny Wilson Johnson was the original owner of the home, which was built in 1910 in the Mission Revival style. She was married to Junius Ward Johnson and they also owned Panther Burn Plantation.
Junius died at the plantation home in 1919, which collapsed on him during a tornado. Fanny sold the plantation for $1 million, making her one wealthy widow.
She shared that wealth, funding YMCAs for white and African Americans, a playground, school, church and library. After her husband’s death, she invited other widows to come live in the home with her and moved to the carriage house in the back.
After her death in 1931 she left an endowment for the home to continue as the Fannie Willis Johnson Protestant and Ladies Home. It closed in 1966.
After the Nelsons purchased the home, they began with renting out the carriage home in the back, before renovating and furnishing the entire house and opening it for guests.
It was not always an easy process. “There are guarantees when you buy an old house that there will be surprises,” Elizabeth said. “Some are good, and some are bad.”
Fortunately, some of the most beautiful features of the room remained intact. The 32 stained-glass windows and beaux arts light fixtures were designed by Louis Millet, who founded the Chicago School of Architecture in 1893 and also worked on the State Capitol Building in Jackson.
“Millet was here to work on the Illinois Monument in the Vicksburg National Military Park. Artists from all over the world came to work on monuments in the park,” Elizbeth said. “Local homeowners reaped the benefit of having these artists available to work on their homes.”
The home is beautiful from the outside and I loved entering through the large front doors into the spacious foyer lined with gorgeous oak walls and floors covered with colorful oriental rooms. The entire home is lined with quarter sawn oak known for its beautiful grain pattern. The light fixtures in the main hall are all original to the home.
The bed and breakfast has six suites, each with a bathroom, mini fridge and coffee maker. My room had two chairs with a small table, a fireplace and three stained-glass windows over the bed.
The bathroom had another stained-glass window and a claw foot tub. I was lucky to have one of the front rooms, which had access to a small balcony shared with the room down the hall.
In addition to the suites, there are several sitting areas. We gathered for drinks one evening in the Gentlemen’s Drawing Room with a Steinburg piano from the 1900s in one corner and large pocket doors.
After dinner one night a few of us gathered in the Lady’s Drawing Room to sip on wine and chat, just like I imagine the widow ladies did decades before. How I would have loved to hear one of their conversations! I imagine they would have been quite scandalized by our appearance – not only were we wearing pants and our hair down, there wasn’t a corset in the room.
Rather than a traditional breakfast, Oak Hall has breakfast boxes prepared by Magnolia Milk Maids delivered to your room in the morning.
Oak Hall is in the Fostoria neighborhood of Vicksburg, surrounded by Victorian homes, just a few miles from downtown Vicksburg.
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