Driving along the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Natchez, I pass a small, weathered-wood casino. With its signs for slot machines and table games, the Magnolia Bluffs Casino hints at the fact that chance plays at least a small part in shaping some of the fortunes of this town.
There’s definitely an element of fate lurking in the story of Oak Hill Inn, the consummately welcoming bed and breakfast run by New Jersey natives Doug Mauro and Donald McGlynn. Lovers of the South, the two took a random vacation (or so they thought) to Natchez in 2004, and it wound up changing their lives forever. During the trip, they fell in love with a mid-nineteenth-century house set on an acre of land in the downtown garden district. A swift purchase and two years of restoration later, the property’s latent grandeur was revived, and the couple’s plans to establish it as their private home cast aside in favor of a burgeoning life in hospitality.
Lady Luck certainly shines on me as I arrive at the inn. After welcoming me to my upstairs suite, Doug announces that it’s time for guests to enjoy a complimentary mint julep and cheese plate, an offer that would be churlish to turn down.
Refreshed, I nose around the downstairs rooms, each lined with antiques the owners collected or inherited over the years. The hallway boasts a striking marble lamp topped by an alabaster globe, and the cozy study has vintage photos of Doug’s aunt, Betty Fisher Stasny, one of the original Ziegfeld Girls. In the living room, a seven-foot sculpture of the archangel St. Michael overlooks a piano and a harp, and the chandeliers shimmer in the oversized mirrors. The original back porch has been subsumed into the interior, perfect for looking out onto the one-acre garden on this chilly evening. I sleep soundly amid the beauty of the 200-year-old embroideries that hang on the walls.
The next morning, my fellow guests and I are beckoned to the main dining room, where we’re served Eggs Sardou with crepes and fresh fruit, all part of Donald’s gourmet breakfast repertoire. Doug engages us in a lively chat while serving the table.
After breakfast, Doug tells me that he and Donald were honored in 2014 with TripAdvisor’s award for Best Bed and Breakfast in the United States—no small achievement for relative newcomers to the business.
Fate, it seems, sometimes smiles on dreamers willing to roll the dice.
409 South Rankin Street, Natchez, Mississippi • 601-446-2500 • historicoakhill.com
While You’re There
This Old House
There’s no shortage of antebellum homes to visit in this part of the world, but one that stands out is Longwood. Also known as Nutt’s Folly, this octagonal Natchez mansion topped by a striking onion-shaped dome is an unfinished wonder. After a year of construction, work on the Oriental-style villa was abandoned in 1861 as the Civil War loomed. The ground floor is fully furnished and offers some idea of the master plan, but the upper levels stand as they did the day the workmen laid down their tools.