Southern Agenda

Small-Town Revival

The once-booming Delta cotton crossroads of Wilson became a ghost town after the Depression hit and business after business shuttered. But in 2010, the entrepreneur Gaylon Lawrence Jr. had preservation in mind when he set to work on a makeover. The town, forty-five minutes north of Memphis, has since opened a slew of shops, the Wilson Cafe, and the Delta Academy school. This past spring, along came the sixteen-room Louis Hotel on the town square. Behind the front desk, which is made of compressed cotton encased in glass, hangs a Renaissance-style portrait of the hotel’s namesake, a Wilson resident’s late gregarious French bull-dog. “Louis was the town’s concierge, so he had to be front and center greeting people again,” says interior designer Jennifer Kleen of FODA Design, which led the project. A cozy bourbon bar awaits downstairs, and a rooftop terrace rises above. “I wanted to put people out in Wilson’s sky,” Kleen says. “The sunsets over the fields feel like they stretch on forever.”