News / USA

Unique Hotel in Mississippi Consists of Old Shacks

A room at the Shack Up Inn
A room at the Shack Up Inn

If you check into "The Shack Up Inn", don't expect a night of opulence.  Hotel guests stay in 1 or 2 bedroom shacks, which are houses that once belonged to poor black farm workers. This distinctive hotel is in rural Mississippi, a southern U.S. state.  But it's not listed in any phone book.  The hotel has no advertising or marketing budget. Nor does it try to attract the kind of American guest who may be offended by the transformation of a piece of poor black history into a profitable business.

Welcome to the 1940's.  Spend a night at Mississippi's Shack-up Inn.  

Unique.  Peculiar.  Beyond rustic.  And never plush.  

Co-owner Bill Talbot sets the folksy tone in the hotel lobby.

Talbott's Shack Up Inn is 10 shacks on the grounds of a former plantation.  Each looks like it's in disrepair, but that's just what the owners intended.

And, it's making them money.

"As you can look around and see - we are what we are," said co-owner guy Malvezzi  This year we're on track to have over 12,000 people stay with us."

Malvezzi and Talbot are geniuses at making something out of nothing.  Every this, every that (every object here and there) - is secondhand.   

"Shack mentality is wonderful," said Talbot. "If it ain't right, who cares? If the 90 degree angle is a few degrees off, it doesn't matter."

But the shacks reflect the history of America's south. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Mississippi's freed slaves continued to live and work on cotton plantations.  The sharecroppers, as they were called, didn't own land.  They were paid a portion of the profits for the cotton they picked.

The sharecropppers led a hard life - hard work for little pay - living in shacks.

These homes were so small they were often called shotgun shacks.  Meaning, if you fired a shot through the front door, and the middle door was open, it could go all the way through and exit out the back, without even hitting anything.

Indoor plumbing and electricity have been added to the shacks.

The owners say they are teaching history by opening the shacks to guests. But some people say the owners are profiting from the suffering of those who once lived here.

"Let's just lump those people into the ones that need to stay away," said Malvezzi.

But people's reactions are not so predictable.

"Im definitely impressed," said Gretchen Bell.

Gretchen Bell grew up in America's south, where her relatives were once slaves.  

"That's John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King," she said.

Bell says she's learning her story here.

"It's an opportunity to share with people their past," said Gretchen Bell. "To show them where we've come from. So, even though there were struggles during that time, we were able to overcome those struggles and make progress. Life is about making progress, not standing still."

The decor is what stood still, as if the black farm workers who lived here just stepped out for a walk.  
Also left behind are their ancient African traditions, like glass bottle trees.  

The Shack-Up Inn.  Willingly trapped in the 1940's.  Not a bad place to spend the night.....or the morning.


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

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