NEW ALBANY — A new short-stay inn in downtown New Albany pays homage to the Southern writer who was born on the site — Nobel laureate William Faulkner.
The Union County Historical Society and Heritage Museum purchased the four-bedroom manse on Cleveland Street from the Presbyterians in 2019.
“We thought it was important to preserve it,” said Jill Smith, director of the museum. “We have the Faulkner garden and the Faulkner library. Now, we have the site where he was born.”
Faulkner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, was born in a house on the site in September 1897. Not long afterward, the Faulkner family moved to Ripley, and eventually settled in Oxford.
In 1953, Faulkner’s birthplace was torn down to make way for the Presbyterians to build a manse. It served that purpose for several years, but had sat empty for a while when the historical society purchased it three years ago.
“We didn’t know for sure what we were going to do with it at first, but we knew it needed to be income-producing,” said Lynn Madden, committee chairman for the restoration of the house.
Work on the house stalled because of the pandemic, but in January 2021, volunteers began the process of turning the manse into The Faulkner Birthsite Inn. All the hardwood floors were refinished, and the walls got a new coat of paint. A small back porch was reconfigured into a laundry room.
“Believe it or not, we didn’t buy one stick of furniture for this house,” Madden said. “We have a whole list of donors. It just all came together. Everything we were offered fit.”
Steve Bennett, who works at the museum and serves as the innkeeper, said a woman was at a workshop at the museum when the talk turned to the inn, which is just a few steps from the museum.
“She named off all this furniture she had, and we made arrangements to see it,” Bennett said. “She ended up donating a sofa, two matching chairs, a side table, an oil painting and a four-poster bed.”
Another family donated all the furniture in the dining room, including the table, chairs and a china cabinet filled with cut glass, along with furniture for a bedroom. One family offered a bed and bedroom chair, while another donated a dresser, chest and bedside tables. The Historic Northside District Garden Club purchased a vintage bedroom suite and donated it.
Even the lamps, artwork and accessories in the house came from the generosity of the community, along with the dishes and coffee pot in the kitchen.
“We bought upscale sheets and towels, and that’s about it,” Madden said.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to get the rooms arranged and decorated in time for an open house at Christmas to show off the new inn.
“Bethany Dalton was instrumental in getting everything together,” Smith said. “Bethany and Lynn and Steve and Betsey Hamilton did so much. You can’t go wrong when you’ve got them volunteering.”
The Faulkner Birthsite Inn is a short-stay inn, not a bed-and-breakfast.
“We won’t serve breakfast until we do,” Bennett joked.
There are four bedrooms in the two-story inn — each equipped with Wi-Fi and smart TVs — along with two baths, a parlor, dining room, kitchen, game room/library, and laundry room. Prices range from $133 for one room to $362 for the whole house, which sleeps eight.
The intent, down the road, is for the museum to host workshops with a weekend of events, Madden said.
“For instance, eight ladies could come for a pottery workshop and stay at the inn,” Bennett said. “It’s ideal for guests coming to town for family reunions, holidays, festivals, football weekends.”
The museum is in the process of purchasing bikes for guests to use if they want to ride the Tanglefoot Trail, and plans are in the works for a patio with a seating area, and fresh landscaping around the home.
“We’re still adding some cultural things to the inn,” Smith said, “We’re in the process of naming the rooms. They’ll either be named after Mississippi writers, or something Faulkner-related.”