Last week I talked about the Bell Tavern in downtown Huntsville which existed for several decades before burning in a major fire. In its place, a “modern” hotel was built in 1858 and called the Huntsville Hotel. Just for the sake of completeness of my research on this topic, I’d like to share a little bit more about the hostelry business in Huntsville in the 1800s.
The Huntsville Hotel is described “the town’s first real hostelry.” Which is a true statement because the word “hostelry” means “an inn or hotel” and the city appears to have only had taverns before the hotel was built. The new hotel elevated the expectations for service and accommodations.
I think if you look at the photos included in the above link you can see the exterior of the building, with four stories with ironwork trim, is both welcoming and speaks of elegance in its architecture and style. The interior image of the main parlor also shows refined furniture and furnishings with the appearance of leather armchairs, a decorated fireplace, and drapes at the windows. The hotel had a doorman to welcome the guests arriving by horse-drawn carriage and coaches.
The Huntsville Hotel was the site of “lavish parties and grand balls” for many years, including during the Civil War. When the area suffered from a Yellow Fever epidemic, many people went to the hotel “seeking refuge during the summer months when the illness was at its peak.” It was also the site of theater and music productions. One sign of its amazing success is the addition of 65 rooms in 1888 which enlarged the hotel to the point of meeting with the City Hall property on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton streets.
Like its predecessor, the Bell Tavern, the Huntsville Hotel burned to the ground. But it took two separate fires to complete the job. The first fire occurred in 1910 and the second “nearly a year later” on November 12, 1911, when “the entire block was destroyed.” A new hotel is under construction as I write this article, due to open in 2020, on the same site. I wish them much better luck!
While I mention that there is a hotel in Huntsville in my series, it’s obviously fictional since history suggests the first hotel wasn’t built until 1858. But that’s fine with me because hotels existed elsewhere so it’s feasible, if not historically accurate, to have a fictional one in my stories.
After all, I am making up stories not to teach a history lesson but to entertain. Happy reading!
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Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.
But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.
When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…