Coral Room at The Vicksburg hosts yoga class

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Right before the Great Depression crippled the United States economy in 1929, the 200-room, 11-story Hotel Vicksburg was built in the heart of downtown. 

At the time of its construction, the hotel was the largest building between New Orleans and Memphis and boasted some of the finest amenities — like water fountains, elevators and ceiling fans — that were virtually impossible to come across in Mississippi during the 1920s.

In 1948, the hotel’s Coral Room was the site where future president Dwight D. Eisenhower was pressured into announcing his run for the Oval Office.

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The Coral Room, named because of the pink coral decoration that crawls across the top of the room’s walls, was also the site of some of Vicksburg’s grandest balls and parties due to its spacious, elegant quarters.

Where President Eisenhower stood 67 years ago, men and women who live in what is now renovated apartments devotedly haul mats into the room for yoga class.

What might have been deemed unconventional in the historic building 100 years ago is now one of the premier ways to stay healthy and exercise, yoga instructor Fawn Francis said.

“It’s perfect. It’s one of those exercises that you can do when you’re young all the way to when you’re older, and it helps with everything,” Francis said. “It teaches you how to relax, de-stress. It teaches you how to control your emotions, control your feelings, how to use your body.”

Francis teaches the class of around 20 the finer points of yoga, from the actual stretches to the mental cleanse at the end of each session that keeps her students coming back for more.

“It’s really about focusing and learning to move in the air around you and breathe while you’re doing that, which is very important” Francis said. “It’s mind, body and spirit.”

Since The Vicksburg was transformed from a vacant building into a plush apartment complex, events like the current beginner’s yoga class have helped bring a part of the building’s spirit back to Vicksburg.

“We get calls all the time from people who had their honeymoon here or they had some special event here, and they’ll just regale us with stories,” co-owner Beth McFarland said. “It really means a lot to the people of Vicksburg.”

The Coral Room was renovated last December and now hosts events like it once did during the old hotel’s inception.

McFarland talked to Francis last year and both agreed that a yoga class would be great for the building.

And as for President Eisenhower?

“It’s 2015,” McFarland said. “He might have been doing yoga now too.”