Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 148;
Hotel History: Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa (1852), Mobile, Alabama*
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
The hotel is now known as the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel. It was built in 1908 and replaced an earlier hotel that opened in 1852 and burned down in 1905. It was built by James Battle and his two half-nephews on the site of Andrew Jackson's military headquarters during the war of 1812. The first Battle House had famous guests such as Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis, Millard Fillmore, Winfield Scott and Stephen A. Douglas on the night that he lost the presidency to Abraham Lincoln. After the 1905 fire, the owners hired architect Frank M. Andrews who designed a new structure built of steel and concrete which opened in 1908.
President Woodrow Wilson was a guest in 1913 where he made his infamous statement that "the U.S. would never again wage another war of aggression". The hotel was owned and operated by the Sheraton Corporation until it was closed in 1974.
In 2003, the Retirement Systems of Alabama began restoration of the hotel along with the construction of an adjoining skyscraper, the RSA Battle House Tower. Both buildings opened in May 11, 2007 with a gala celebration attended by 600 guests.
Wikipedia described the renovated hotel as follows:
The eight-story building is steel frame with marble and brick facings. The hotel lobby features a domed skylight, dating back to 1908. The ceiling and walls are finished with elaborate plasterwork and are also painted using the trompe-l'oeil technique. The walls are painted with portraits of Louis XIV of France, George III of the United Kingdom, Ferdinand V of Castile and George Washington.
The Trellis Room, Mobile's only Four-Diamond restaurant, specializes in Northern Italian cuisine and features a full-view kitchen so patrons can watch the chefs prepare their meals. The Trellis Room ceiling contains a Tiffany glass skylight. The Crystal Ballroom is now used for social events such as parties, honorary dinners, weddings, meetings, and Mardi Gras balls.
In praise of Mobile's Mardi Gras history, a giant Moon Pie drops at midnight to ring in the New Year. Moon Pies are thrown from Mardi Gras floats each year and the giant confection replica is across the street from the Battle House.
In 2009, the Battle House was named "One of the Top 500 Hotels in the World" by Travel + Leisure. The Spa at the Battle House opened that same year.
*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."
Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting bookstore.authorhouse.com.