It was the "centerpiece of Mentone": historic landmark goes up in flames
The small Alabama town of Mentone is trying to process the big loss of a local landmark. The historical Mentone Springs Hotel, built in 1884, went up in flames over the weekend. The people of Mentone still can not believe it happened.
"This was the centerpiece of Mentone," says Jim Hewitt.
Late Saturday night, fire ripped through the Mentone Springs Hotel and the White Elephant Antiques store. People came from all around watching the 130-year old building burn to the ground. Eight guests were staying at the hotel, but managed to get out okay.
"We got told to evacuate the Moonlight Bistro, come out, and it had just started. And 30 minutes later it was gone," says Misty Langston.
Langston works at a restaurant across the street. She says it is a devastating blow to the community.
"It's sad. A lot of history in there, you know? A lot of memories for people."
And not just memories for locals but for people all over. Jim Hewitt made the almost-hour drive from Rome, Georgia to see for himself.
"I love old architecture and I really hate to see the burning of this building. I never did get a chance to go in it. But I've been driving up through here several years taking pictures of the area," says Hewitt.
Built in 1884, the hotel was on the National Register of Historical Places and is one of the oldest hotels in the state of Alabama. It was also listed in the New York Times best selling book, '1000 Places to Visit Before You Die.'
"I want to cry. I really do. I want to cry. It was a such a gorgeous place," says Miriam Mills.
Mills says she could see the glow of the fire from 5 miles away. She can not imagine what the owners are going through. They posted to the hotel's Facebook page: "We are heartsick and sad...Thank God no one was hurt."
"I'm sure it's like losing a child. I mean, really. It's been here so long," says Mills.
Investigators believe the fire may have started in an electrical box. No word yet on the dollar amount lost, but people say it does not matter because the hotel was priceless.