October 19, 2020

Mississippi’s most iconic mansion ‘opening soon’ better than ever after bankruptcy sale

The sign in front of Dunleith mansion has been turned over from “Temporarily Closed” to “Opening Soon,” Dunleith’s general manager John Holyoak said Wednesday.

The J Collection, a New Orleans-based hotel group that owns some 15 hotels, including several in New Orleans and Nottoway Plantation Bed and Breakfast in White Castle, Louisiana, purchased Dunleith last November after the historic mansion bed and breakfast had been sold earlier last year as part of the previous owner’s bankruptcy.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Natchez, Holyoak told members that the mansion’s opening date is uncertain at this point based on the work that needs to be done.

Holyoak, who worked as the general manager of Dunleith under the previous owners, said the new owners did not want to just come in, dust things off and reopen.

“It is a big job to do it right,” Holyoak said. “What I’m excited about is they don’t want to . . . say, ‘Use what we’ve got, get it cleaned up and let’s open the doors.’ All the chairs from the Castle (Restaurant) are gone. They are being re-upholstered, cleaned and refinished. There’s a lot of work going on. We’ve got new barstools. It is going to be nice.”

Holyoak said construction workers are coming in next week to make repairs, screen the floor and to work on infrastructure improvements and upgrades.

“There are a lot of logistics going on right now to get Internet, fiber optics up and running and all the little things that in this day and age is important to a hotel,” Holyoak said.

Holyoak said he estimates Dunleith will initially hire 60 people, including many people who previously worked at Dunleith.

“You will see some quick changes,” Holyoak said. “We’re looking at a walking trail on the property, horseshoe pits. We are trying to make the property as active as possible.”

The Castle Restaurant and pub will continue to operate.

“Some of it will be new, some of it refinished and rebuilt,” Holyoak said. “We are in pursuit of an executive chef, which the owners feel, and I also feel, is very important because . . . everybody wants to know who is cooking. They are looking hard for the right person to come to the property and make it as a signature property for weddings and the restaurant, which is exciting for me. The good thing is we will restore a lot of employees. There is a grand total of four of us now.”

Holyoak said the new owners want to make Dunleith an event venue as well.

“They want to do things at Dunleith,” Holyoak said. “They want to bring in acts. They want to have events and do a lot of different things to try to attract people not only to Natchez but also to Dunleith.”

Holyoak said he is happy one of the three owners, Mike Blattner, is local.

“It is great to have local folks on the ground and there is one other partner so there are actually three partners to Dunleith,” Holyoak said. “I anticipate that the owners are going to be very involved in the community, and I think you will see them being involved in a lot of day-to-day activities that are going on here in Natchez and want to give to different organizations and do a lot of things to help out.”