Tina Fortenberry wasn’t expecting to find a home away from home when she stepped into the Fairview Inn in 2012. She had grown up five blocks away in the historic Belhaven neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi, and had just moved back from Los Angeles when a friend took her to the inn’s Library Lounge for a drink. “I walked into the room and was spellbound,” she says.
She found herself in a cozy, dark-paneled hideaway lined with books about Mississippi. Photos of Magnolia State writers such as William Faulkner and John Grisham decorated the walls, as well as a shot of Eudora Welty, who once lived just around the corner. Fortenberry loved the way her conversations with the other lounge guests flowed, whether they were neighbors from down the block or visitors from New Zealand.
Soon she started dropping by nearly every evening, settling down on the patio with a chilled glass of vodka, club soda, and muddled cucumber. During the winter, you’ll find her inside by the fireplace. “I don’t want people to think I sit around and drink all the time, because I don’t,” she laughs. “But I’ve never had a relationship with a place like I do with the Library Lounge.”
She’s not alone. Unlike many lodges, the Fairview Inn doesn’t feel separated from its community. It’s not the type of place reserved for travelers, shut off from locals. Instead, it has developed a devoted following in the state capital, regularly winning “Best of Jackson” awards for its food and drink. Its elegant Sunday brunch is a post-church favorite.
“We’re kind of like the Cheers of Belhaven,” says Peter Sharp, who bought the eighteen-room Colonial Revival property with his wife, Tamar, in 2006. First built as a private home in 1908, it became a bed and breakfast in 1993.
Over the years, word about the inn has spread. Recent guests include celebrities Mick Jagger and Renée Zellweger. Fortenberry remembers one afternoon when she looked up and saw Matthew McConaughey checking in.
But even those without an Oscar feel right at home. During my visit, I settled into the spacious Leopard Rose Suite, which has a working fireplace and a separate sunroom overlooking the garden. I never made it to the spa, but I did treat myself to the guest pantry, with its freshly baked oatmeal-raisin cookies, bundt cakes, and honor bar with beer and wine.
Breakfasts range from fruit and yogurt to indulgences like a Mississippi Benedict—poached eggs served on fried grit cakes. Dinner may be ordered in the white-tablecloth 1908 Provisions restaurant or in the Library Lounge. The menu emphasizes locally sourced ingredients, with everything from Gulf Coast oysters to grass-fed beef raised twenty miles away.
But to Fortenberry, the best thing the inn serves is a feeling. “The atmosphere is calming, intelligent, and inspiring,” she says. “To me, it’s a wonderful reflection of Mississippi.”
734 Fairview Street, Jackson, Mississippi • (601) 948-3429 • fairviewinn.com
While You’re There
Some of the most searing moments of the civil rights movement happened in Mississippi. Visitors can explore many of them in the stunning $90 million Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum complex. Exhibits include a film narrated by Mississippi-born Oprah Winfrey and interactive displays on topics like the murder of Emmett Till and the violent integration of Ole Miss. But all is not dark. At the museum’s center, a towering light sculpture pulsates to a chorus of gospel and freedom songs.
This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Southbound.