Historic Hotels in the South
Updated: Jul 15
The Battle House | Mobile, AL | Est. 1852
Features: 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 ceiling contains a Tiffany glass skylight.
Here are a few of the main pevents on the historic timeline laid out by historichotels.org:
1852: James Battle and his two brothers—John and Samuel Battle—opened the first iteration of the present business as the “Battle House Hotel.” Their building was a magnificent four-story brick structure that featured a two-level gallery of cast iron. The site was already famous, as it once housed the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. Two other hotels occupied the space prior to the Battle House Hotel: the Franklin Hotel and the Waverly Hotel.
1905: Having stood as a local icon for the better part of six decades, the Battle House Hotel was nearly destroyed by an accident on-site. Nevertheless, the proprietors determined to reopen the business and commissioned architect Frank M. Andrews to redesign the whole structure out of fireproof steel and concrete. Construction on the hotel began in earnest a year later.
1913: President Woodrow Wilson traveled to the hotel shortly after his inauguration, attending a “Presidential Breakfast” held in his honor by members of the Southern Commercial Congress. Upon leaving for the neighboring Lyric Theater, he famously repudiated the Monroe Doctrine by proclaiming: “The United States will never again seek one added foot of territory by conquest.”
Other famous Guests included Senator Henry Clay, General Winfield Scott, and U.S. President Millard Fillmore. Senator and presidential candidate Stephan A. Douglas even stayed inside the building on the night of Election Day in 1860. (Douglas would lose the four-way contest to Abraham Lincoln, who many now regard as one of the best presidents in American history.)
The Admiral Hotel | Mobile, Alabama | Est.1940
When it opened as the “Admiral Semmes Hotel” in 1940, the building displayed some of the finest Art Deco architecture in the area. Furthermore, the hotel was the first business of its kind in Mobile to provide air-conditioning and a telephone in every guestroom. It was also one of three hotels within city limits and featured a cocktail lounge, coffee shop, drug store, and even a “National Airlines Office.” The luxurious amenities inside the Admiral Semmes Hotel inspired travelers to visit from all across the country, including some of the greatest historical figures in the nation’s history. Among the numerous celebrities and dignitaries to stay at the hotel over the years included, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, and Jimmy Stewart.
The Art Deco architectural style of the Depression-era is still fully apparent from the outside of the hotel. Upon entering the hotel's lobby, however, guests encounter a contrastingly different impression, with marble floors, mirrored walls, original Art Deco elevator doors, and an oval-shaped balcony area topped with a chandelier.
Hotel Monteleone | New Orleans| Est.1886
1886: Antonio Monteleone debuted his wonderful boutique hotel in the heart of historic New Orleans. A cobbler from Sicily, Monteleone had saved up enough money to finance his purchase of the Commercial Hotel located at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets. The magnificent building featured a spectacular blend of Beaux-Arts architecture.
1908: Monteleone began a massive overhaul of the Commercial Hotel. He had already worked on the building some five years prior, but the construction was much smaller by comparison—Monteleone had only added 30 guestrooms. The second round of renovations proved far more expansive, as it added some 300 accommodations onto the structure. It was also during this time that Monteleone renamed the hotel, “Hotel Monteleone.”
1913: Frank Monteleone assumed control over the business when the death of his father, Antonio. Frank would then oversee the addition of another 200 luxurious guestrooms throughout the Roaring Twenties.
1929: William Faulkner honeymooned at the Hotel Monteleone with his wife, Estelle. During his long stay, Faulkner wrote one of his most celebrated novels—The Sound and the Fury. It has since been regarded by experts as the 6th best English language novels of the 20th century.
1999: The Friends of the Library Association designate Hotel Monteleone as one of its official literary landmarks, due to its historical involvement with many prominent southern authors. Hotel Monteleone became one of just three hotels to bear such a distinction, the other two being The Plaza and the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.