Written by Garland Patterson
Photos by Christian Horan
Nestled among Oxford’s lively square and stately historic homes, The Graduate has become a cornerstone of the town’s personality. Since opening its doors at the corner of North Lamar Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue in September 2015, Oxford’s first boutique hotel has brought whimsy and collegiate charm to one of the Southeast’s most hospitable college towns.
The Graduate brand seeks to establish its presence in the most dynamic of college towns, seeking out locations rich in history and culture with strong community ties — Athens, Georgia, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Tempe, Arizona, to name a few. Seeking to improve on original buildings as opposed to building from the ground up, the Graduate stands on the original site of the historic Holiday Inn. General Manager Mike Hoover attributes the decision to open the flagship hotel in Oxford to the historic spirit of the Square, as well as a need for a hotel to create an emotional tie to the community. Its innate appreciation for not only the city of Oxford, but the state of Mississippi can be seen throughout the hotel’s aesthetic and its friendly and attentive staff.
Oxford’s refined elegance and rich history is prominently present in the hotel’s design. Guests are welcomed by pink wire-brushed, oak-stained floors, sweeping views of the Square, and ample seating that invites patrons to curl up with a good book and a strong cup of coffee.
“When developing Graduate Oxford, our goal was to pay tribute to all of the qualities that make Oxford unique, such as our deep literary traditions, collegiate youthfulness and sense of community,” said Hoover. Tables host checkerboards and vintage copies of The Ole Miss, the university yearbook, while black and white photographs of beauty queens and famed alumni hang on printed walls.
True to the Graduate brand, the lobby and guest rooms are uniquely tailored to the town’s heritage, featuring hand-picked accents found at local flea markets and antique-stores. The lobby also plays host to the work of local artists like Charlie Buckley, whose abstract interpretation of a game day in the Grove hangs in a prominent position. If guests are lucky, they may even be able to find their tent in Buckley’s work. Memorable décor seeps into the guest rooms, named for university greats like quarterback Charlie Conerly and writer Willie Morris. Rich navy walls are accented by red and blue gingham and silhouette prints of Olivia and Archie Manning.
Hoover attributes Oxford’s warm embrace of the hotel to amenities like The Graduate’s two restaurants, often calling it the “living room” of the community. The same attention to detail present in the rooms can be seen in Cabin 82 and The Coop. Inspired by the Neshoba County Fair, Cabin 82 serves comfort classics like chicken biscuits and burgers alongside an expansive coffee and breakfast menu. The Coop, on the other hand, blends seamlessly into Oxford’s nightlife, offering delta tamales and specialty cocktails like the Porch Swing made with local Cathead Vodka. Step onto the terrace and patrons are greeted with one of the best downtown views in Oxford, which has become popular among tourists and locals alike.
A distinct air of nostalgia floats through the halls here, whether it be the excited chatter of old roommates catching up over cocktails or a family setting out for the Grove in their best red and blue. Expectations are higher than ever as the Oxford community and its many visitors look forward to the fall. Most notably, fall ushers in a highly anticipated football season. “We are so excited to host our guests for the upcoming football season,” said Hoover. “ We have already sold out for most of the home games as we have many return guests that truly enjoy our amenities, location and access to our rooftop bar, the Coop.”