Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hough Home

228 North Congress Street today
Hough Home

Address: 228 North Congress Street, Jackson, Mississippi, USA

Opened: Between 1917 and 1920; became women only with death of Dr. Joseph W. Hough on December 11, 1920.

Closed: Sold on March 1, 1985 to the Magnolia Federal Bank

The Hough Home (sometimes referred to as the Joseph W. Hough Home - Business Woman's Home or the Business Women's Home) was said to be the last of the old-fashioned, ladies-only boarding houses in the State of Mississippi. According to the 1920 Census, Dr. Hough, a 92-year-old widower, was still living at this address--with twenty-five women. But by the time he passed away at the end of the year, it was strictly for the ladies until 1985.

From the Waycross Journal-Herald, May 4, 1985:

The closing of the historical Hough Home in Mississippi's capital ends the days of women-only boarding houses that offered rooms, meals and sets of rules for parlour courting.

"The Hough House was the last of an era because there's nothing else like it around. I don't know of another boarding house for women. The younger girls now are more independent and all want to share together--they're more adventuresome," said Elaine Porter, 38, who has lived at the Hough House for four years.

The downtown Jackson structure was built between 1912 to 1915 and purchased by Dr. Joseph W. Hough in 1917. Hough donated the two-story colonial revival wood-frame house to a charitable organization.

"It was Dr. Hough's specific request that the house be used for the benefit of the women in the business community," according to Jackson Landmarks, a historical guide compiled by the Junior League of Jackson.

The eight-member Hough Home of Board of Directors sold the house to Magnolia Federal Bank on March 1.

"It was getting too expensive to run. It wasn't serving its purpose. The girls didn't work downtown, they worked all over the city and there wasn't adequate parking," said Hough Home Board President Sallie Crim.

The money from the sale will go into a scholarship fund for students at local colleges.

Single women boarding in the Hough Home were usually Mississippians fresh out of high school or college with jobs in state government, banks and insurance agencies.

Hostess Janie Gamble said they discovered the boarding house through word of mouth.

"It was never advertised. That way you never have as many undesirables applying. I tried and did keep it decent, where a mother would be glad for her daughter to stay there," Ms. Gamble said.

Curfews went out of style with bell-bottom jeans in the 70s, she said, but most tenants still returned home early on weeknights and "not too late" on Friday and Saturday nights.

It was downstairs-only for male visitors, who were restricted to the den and living room. The women could have men up to their bedrooms for moving purposes only, and that was strictly with the permission of the hostess.

The Hough Home was the last of the Jackson women's boarding homes that ran according to the old school of courting, where couples stayed at elbows-length until marriage, Ms. Gamble said.

"I don't know where the girls are supposed to go to meet a young man. They used to go to church...I always told them you don't meet nice young men in bars," she said.

For Belinda Gurley, who lived in the Hough Home for seven years, the house was sometimes an answer to sensitive dating situations. "In this day and time, I'm pretty liberal. But if you went out with somebody and when they took you home, there wasn't a problem," she said.

"I suppose if the Hough Home hadn't closed, I would have stayed there until I was married or an old maid," laughed Miss Gurley, who moved in with a former "Houghee" at a downtown Jackson apartment complex.

Ms. Gamble, 71, known as "Granny" to former Hough residents, said many of her tenants came to Hough Home from small Mississippi towns in hopes of meeting "responsible young bachelors. But it doesn't always work out like that."

"I'd tell them, 'Well honey, you've got to learn to stand on your own two feet and you know you really do,'" she said. She worked as a beautician before accepting the job as Hough Home hostess in May 1972.

For $135 a month, tenants received three meals each weekday and a semi-private furnished room. With room for 46 women, the Hough Home was sometimes close to empty and at other times had a waiting list.

"I miss all of the girls. They were sweet to me; they were just precious to me and almost always they respected me. Always I was Granny; that's what they all called me," Ms. Gamble said.

"I just wish that I had started taking notes. Some of them were really hilarious; some of them you could have spanked for it."

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