Bringing the Pinehurst Name Back to Downtown Laurel

Before the opportunity of purchasing Arthur’s became a reality I had been researching places to rent to display my artwork. I never had a clue that we would have a chance at owning a building. So when purchasing the building was literally dropped in our laps, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me and finding a name was top priority.

While in the throws of working on the purchase of the Arthur’s building in downtown Laurel, Mississippi instead of continuing the search for rental property, it changed to researching the history of Laurel and the history of art in Mississippi. I was searching for possible information that would lead me to a meaningful name for the Arthur’s building.

After several hours of research, I found it. In paralegal school, we called it the “smoking gun” which meant the evidence needed to prove a person’s guilt or innocence without a shadow of doubt. In this case, my “smoking gun” was a small obscure room in the Pinehurst Hotel.

The Founding of the Historic Pinehurst

In 1893, Laurel MS opened it’s first lumber mill. Laurel was no stranger to the latest technology in the land. With the large amount of growth in population the lumber mill as well as the railways brought to Laurel it was no surprise that 21 years later, 1914 to be exact, The Pinehurst Hotel was born. It was strategically placed up the street from the train depot so that guests would have easy access to the best lodging in town.

Pinehurst Hotel Laurel MS

The Pinehurst bustled with transients on a daily basis and quickly became the center of entertainment for the entire city of Laurel. The Pinehurst was very importantly, one of the first air-conditioned hotels in the sweltering south. In addition, the hotel included the Arabian Theater which housed plays, movies and special events.

Most transients remember the Pinehurst for it’s cool air-conditioned rooms, it’s fine dining, it’s entertainment, or it being a gathering place for the who’s who among locals. Not many remember a certain special place that goes unrecognized. In fact, most articles never mention this particular room being in the Pinehurst.

An Artist’s Colony Hidden Within Laurel’s Grandest Hotel

In 1948, the Mississippi Art Colony was organized at the Allisons Wells Hotel in Way, Mississsippi. It flourished there for 15 years. The owners of the Hotel, John and Hosford Fontaine ran the Art Colony until the Hotel was destroyed by fire.

In 1963, the main members of the Colony found a new home and re-organized at Stafford Springs, close to Heidelberg, Ms. At that time, the Colony did something very few art groups had managed to succeed at. The group was managed and directed by the artists themselves.

In 1970, the Mississippi Art Colony asked the Pinehurst Hotel in Laurel MS if the hotel had a place for the Colony to meet on a regular basis. The Pinehurst provided a studio in a basement space formally referred to as the rathskeller. The word rathskeller referred to the basement or hidden beer tavern or in some cases a speak easy. The Colony notes in their history section of their website they had several drop-ins from the alley demanding beer. The Colony also expresses how hospitable the city of Laurel was to the artists; inviting them to events, parties, hosting shows at the Lauren Rogers Museum.

Laurel’s Artists Get A New Home, With An Old Familiar Name

All of this history led me to the only appropriate name for the Gallery which is the Pinehurst Rathskeller Gallery. This name is in appreciation to those who welcomed the art colony with love and hospitality as well as the longest artist run art colony in the nation, which led to recognition by the Smithsonian Musuem for this monumental achievement.

Soon, Laurel’s (and Mississippi’s) artists will have a home once again, right here in Downtown Laurel. Construction is underway, and I can’t wait to share this beautiful space with all who will call her home.

Click here to follow us on Facebook for updates and to become a part of Laurel’s artists’ community!

Brand by Ethan Manning, Strategy by Own Your Hill

Growing Up With Grit: Out of Chaos, Art


After making the transition to Greenville, Mississippi, our Italian family thrived. They still went through very hard times. White people didn’t like Italians. There was a case in New Orleans where five Italian men were framed and hanged for no reason other than their heritage.

My family is no stranger to racism or slavery (which came in a pretty package called sharecropper). Doing research on my heritage, I found an article in the Delta Democrat Times about Italian immigrants. The author highlighted the fact that she was shocked at how thrifty Italians were (eluding to Americans thinking Italians were dumb).

The other two main obstacles were the great flood of 1927 and the outbreak of yellow fever. Our family somehow survived both.

When I was born, things for Italians had changed in Mississippi. We were a large part of our community. We had a thriving Catholic Church and private school. Our family was so large that at any given event there were at least 40 people there and they were ALL blood relatives.

On Sundays after church there was always a spaghetti supper at our house. I helped make the meatballs. It seemed like we cooked that spaghetti all day. And we did. The sauce cooked for hours and then at the last hour, the meatballs were added. I don’t know how we did it but there was always enough pasta for the entire family.

On holidays, we would gather at our parent’s house about two weeks before the actual holiday to make tortellini. We made the dough and the meat filling and in the end, had about 1000 tortellini to be frozen and saved for the upcoming holiday. Those are some of the best memories of my life: not the toys I got from Santa, or finding the golden egg, or getting candy from the Easter bunny, it was the togetherness. No one lived out of town. Everyone lived right there in Greenville where one of the biggest events of the year was the Catholic Parish fair. EVERYONE was at the fair and of course, there was spaghetti served for anyone who had a ticket for a plate.

I never knew anything different than what went on in that little town.

I was a happy child but, as anyone knows with a large family, there will come traumatic times; and there were.

One of the largest tragedies in particular was my oldest sister, Joyce’s death. I was five years old at the time. On February 12, 1978, Joyce turned twenty-one. That same day, she lost control of her car and was found dead the next morning. I answered the door for the poor man who was sent to tell my parents. After that, everything changed. Everything.

Our family business went under a few years after Joyce’s death due to a franchise named Auto Zone coming to town. Auto Zone bought large quantities of parts, which enabled them to sell at much lower prices. My father’s auto parts business just could not compete. Most of my siblings were grown and married by this time. My closest sister in age, Cathy, was in high school. Cathy and I were the ones who really felt the brunt of our father’s business going under. We moved out of our home that was full of all of those amazing family gathering memories. My mother and father both ended up working for factories in town. And somewhere in all of this chaos, my love for art began.

The first piece of artwork I can remember well was a finger painting. I LOVED finger painting. Mom was gone away from the house and I remember trying to find something wonderful I could paint on to give my mom when she got back home. Low and behold in my mother’s cedar chest there was a perfect gold and white checked box.

The inside was covered in brown paper- perfect for a finger painting. To me, the inside of this box was just calling for a painting. It even had it’s own frame having sides and all.

So in my best finger painting mojo, I decided to paint a big red flower and I think maybe some green grass and of course the yellow sun…who could forget the sun?! I was proud. My creation was perfect.

I couldn’t wait to give my mother this gift when she got home. I waited for it to dry with anticipation. As soon as my mother arrived, I gave her what I thought was the “Picasso” of finger paintings. Much to my surprise when she saw it, she got a strange look on her face and I knew it wasn’t the look of pleasure.

To this day, my mother still has that “oh so perfect box for a finger painting”. She tucks it away in her cedar chest and inside this box is my oldest sister, yes, the one who passed away, Joyce’s wedding album. Today, we both laugh at what I thought was the perfect gift; and in a way, in my way, it was.

Growing Up With Grit: The Beginning

I grew up in what is known as the Mississippi Delta. My hometown was Greenville; a small town that was a throughway for tow boats because it sits on the very edge of the mighty Mississippi River. The towboat industry was big revenue for the town as well as Comet Rice, Vlasic, and hundreds of cotton, soy and cattle farmers.

My father and mother met when they were around five and seven years old. They lived across the street from each other. They married when my mother was fifteen. In all, seven children were born from about the time my mother was 17 until she was 38 years old. I was the baby. We were born and raised Catholic and went to Catholic school.

I like to think I was born with a little more grit in my veins than most kids. You see, my mother’s family was Italian. Her grandparents came straight from Italy in 1895 and 1896. They came in the steerage section of a passenger ship after being recruited by some well-known plantation owners and politicians. Caterina and Pietro Dallriva were told that if they moved to America, they would work the cotton fields in exchange for a house and land that would be all theirs. What they didn’t know was that they were in debt $2000.00 for the tickets to America as soon as they set foot on the ship.

Caterina, Pietro and their children ended up on a plantation called Sunnyside. It was located in Sunnyside, Arkansas now known as Chicot County. Sunnyside was conveniently located at the edge of the Mississippi River as well. The entire family picked cotton every day. Some days they picked so much cotton that their fingers bled. They lived in shotgun shacks along side other Italian and African American families who also worked the plantation. The living conditions were well below poverty level and about as unsanitary as a place can get.

It didn’t take long for Pietro to figure out that they would never own the land or the house they lived in. So, the Dallriva’s along with 30 or so other families came up with a plan. Some how all of these families found a way to cross the mighty Mississippi River in the middle of the night to escape the plantation. That is how Greenville, Mississippi gained such a large Italian, Catholic population; and that was the beginning of my grit.