March 5, 2014 by kristin
A few years ago, some friends, my hubby and I spent a beautiful September weekend in Mentone, Alabama, a tiny town on a little mountain in North Alabama. It was quiet and quaint and had great antique shops.
The town was established in the 1880s as a health resort, and a Queen Anne style hotel was built to accommodate visitors to the two mineral springs on the grounds. The Mentone Springs Hotel fell into disrepair during the Great Depression and changed hands many times, but for the past few years it has been renovated and operated as a bed and breakfast.
I snapped this quick photo when we visited because I can’t resist a turret and have always been fascinated by old hotels, but we spent more time browsing – and browsing, and browsing – the huge White Elephant antique mall next door.
Then I heard this week that a fire had destroyed the 130-year-old hotel and the White Elephant. These two buildings, these two businesses are the heart of that little town.
I’m always grieved to hear about the loss of any historic building (including the three my hometown of Tuscaloosa recently tore down to make way for parking lots and extended stay hotels), but this is especially tragic. The hotel was one of the three oldest in Alabama, a piece of history literally gone up in smoke.
The photos of the aftermath are devastating to an old house lover – a clawfoot tub not so different from the one at my own Victorian house, charred and perched atop ashes and rubble. I know how much of themselves the owners must have poured into that renovation. How they chose the paint color for each room, the placement of each antique. I’m sorry for them, for the town, and for the state. The Mentone Springs Hotel is a loss for us all.
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