The Faulkner turns to back pages of family, downtown history


As you might imagine, a great-nephew of William Faulkner has a story or two.

Thomas W. “Buddy” Faulkner bought the five-story building at 518 Capitol St. in 1993 out of foreclosure.

“I love old buildings, so it was a no-brainer,” said Faulkner, an architect who now lives in Chattanooga, but is a former resident of Jackson. He mothballed it for a few years, “then the apartment market took off” in downtown as part of an ongoing renaissance of the area.

So apartments it was to be.

Then it wasn’t.

Jane Alexander, executive director of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, and restaurateur Jeff Good came to him with a development proposal. The foundation now has $55 million in endowments, according to Alexander.

That meeting  led to a change in plans.

The new idea was for two floors to be office space and the other three for events.

And the building, which was designed by Carl von Seutter and erected in 1903, “was going to be the 518 Building.”

But no.

“Everybody was saying: ‘Oh, you’re going to call it The Faulkner.’” Including his daughter, Sarah, a wedding planner who lives in Denver.

And an ad agency came up with a logo featuring a quill pen. But no, said Faulkner.

Faulkner, born in Oxford, is a sixth-generation native of the Magnolia State and a graduate of Ole Miss. Other than his world-famous forebear, the family includes notables such as “the Old Colonel,” William Clark Falkner, who influenced his famous-to-be descendant. Falkner, a lawyer and founder of a shortline railroad, also was a writer. His “White Rose of Memphis” was a best seller.

“There’s a lot more people in my family than just William,” Faulkner said. Still, he has to concede that it was “the most recognizable [respectable] name in the state.”

And family photos along one wall include the Nobel laureate, who added the “u” to his last name, and other Faulkners (and a Falkner).

“I decided that if we were going to do it we were going to exceed everyone’s expectations. And we did.”

In doing so, he made a list of things that people might complain about, and eliminate them.

One: a small or slow elevator.

The Otis Gen2 elevator holds 21 adults and can go from top to bottom or the reverse in 11 seconds, he said.

It also has an energy recovery system, meaning it generates power on the way down, which is then sold back to Entergy in a net-metering arrangement.

Every restroom has its own air conditioner, he points out.

Al Lawson, a classmate of Faulkner’s at the Mississippi State School of Architecture, designed the interiors. McIntosh Construction of Brandon was the general contractor.

The rooftop is a sleek space with see-through barriers along the edge to enhance the view of the Old Capitol a block away on State Street and the cityscape looking west.

Relief from the summer heat comes when that evening sun goes down.

And it is the “top of the bridal cake,” which includes the bridal “parlor” on the fourth floor and other wedding related functions on the fifth floor.

The ground floor can seat 100 for a dinner and also serve as a setting for a smaller wedding reception.

The room was being set up on Tuesday for the annual meeting of the Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area annual “house party” in the evening of the first day of The Faulkner.