Falling in Love with Welty’s Jackson
Words and photos by Stephanie Craig
Jackson is the perfect stop for a literary pilgrimage, one that would not be complete without paying homage to Eudora Welty, one of the city’s most celebrated daughters – and most decorated authors in American history.
Here are ten places to celebrate the life of Eudora Welty on your own self-guided tour of Eudora Welty’s Jackson.
Additional locations are indicated on the Welty Self Driving Tour map.
The Eudora Welty House and Garden
“The house was on a slight hill (my mother never could see the hill) covered with its original forest pines, on a gravel road then a little out from town…We had moved in, and Mother was laying out the garden.” – Eudora Welty
A celebration of Eudora Welty (and her mother Chestina Welty), a tour through the Eudora Welty House is a must for visitors wanting to celebrate her work or get an introduction.
Start or end with the video about Welty’s life that puts into context many of the sites in Jackson.
While touring the house, you can see her room where she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, as well as the majority of her works. Her perennial garden is a must, too, as well as a newly released outdoor audio tour.
Book your tour in advance, and don’t skip the gift shop!
Jitney 14 (now Corner Market)
The local grocery store where Welty shopped for most of her life is as popular among locals as ever. You can see the historical marker out front honoring her, as well as a large portrait mural in the back.
Eudora Welty’s Birth Home
“In Our House on North Congress Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born…we grew up to the striking of clocks…this was good at least for a future fiction writer, being able to learn so penetratingly, and almost first of all, about chronology.” – Eudora Welty
Located on North Congress, this is Welty’s first house in Jackson. Eudora and her brothers were all born here and lived in this house until they moved across town when she was sixteen.
The home is not open to tours, but you can drive by and see the fantastic views from the street and get a feel for Welty’s childhood.
Barack Obama Magnet School
“Davis School was as close as across the street. I could keep up with it from the window beside me, hear the principal ring her bell, see which children were tardy…I was homesick for school.” – Eudora Welty
Renamed Barack Obama Magnet School, the former Jefferson Davis Elementary is where Eudora had her first school years. Located right across the street from her birth home, today it has a beautiful mural of President Obama, which is also worth seeing.
Mississippi State Capitol Building
“‘Through the Capital’ was the way to go to the library. You could glide through it on your bicycle or even coast through on roller skates, though without family permission.” – Eudora Welty
As soon as you turn onto Congress, you’ll notice the dome of the capitol building rising above the street. Here is also a great spot to snap a Jackson Instagram pic since it’s framed beautifully above the trees!
Ole Tavern on George Street
Now a tavern, this was a former grocery store where Welty would shop on errands with her mother as a child. This is another excellent place to take pictures in Jackson while you’re on your self-guided tour.
Eudora Welty’s Grave at Greenwood Cemetery
“Eudora Welty died on July 23, 2001…A storm of brief and terrible violence had swept through that morning and instead of making the weather worse, as summer storms are wont to do, it made things better. It was seventy-five degrees as we made our way to the cemetery after the service, something I doubt had ever happened in Jackson in July before. I doubt it will happen again. Greatness had come through once, which is really all that we could hope for, and the world that had been so justly represented took back the one who loved it best.” – Ann Patchett, Introduction to The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
A stop in Jackson’s first cemetery can be a bit emotional, but it is worth it to see Welty’s lovingly kept grave and other historic graves in the city.
Lamar Life Building
“At every stage of the building, Daddy took his family to see as much as we could climb over, usually on Sunday mornings. At last we could climb by the fire escape to reach the top. We stood on the roof…and viewed all Jackson below.” – Eudora Welty
One of the crowning achievements of Eudora’s father, Christian Welty, the Lamar Life Building was Jackson’s first skyscraper. Today it’s the twelfth tallest building in Jackson.
Opened in 1935, the Mayflower Cafe is a place that Weltyn frequented when she worked downtown. It’s also one of the oldest restaurants in Jackson, so it’s worth a stop in its own right!
If you’re going to spend a weekend in Jackson, you can come here for a lovely dinner and appreciate the historic interiors.
“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.” – Eudora Welty
The perfect way to end your self-guided tour, come and sink into a comfy couch and read one of Welty’s books or find a new Jackson author to fall in love with.
Stephanie Craig is an amateur historian, blogger, podcaster and enthusiastic traveler who spent a long weekend in the City With Soul as a guest of Visit Jackson in the spring of 2021. Find her work at historyfangirl.com.