MENTONE, Ala. — Since 130 years of history went up in flames in March, only memories and blackened stone stand testament to the former glory of the Mentone Springs Hotel, the "Grand Old Lady" of East Alabama.
The hotel had greeted visitors ascending Lookout Mountain to Mentone since 1884. It was home to countless guests and hosted hundreds of weddings, prom dinners, parties and teas, holiday pageants and honeymoon nights. Generations of people spent shady afternoons on its grand front porch. Right up to the end.
Since the fire five months ago, the people of Mentone have soothed their wounds and watched spring flow into summer on the hotel grounds. Butterflies oblivious to the loss of history flit from bloom to bloom among surviving landscaped plants around the scorched rock foundation and the wildflowers attempting to reclaim the land.
Ray Padgett and his wife, Sandra, owned the Grand Old Lady from 1980 to 1991 and now own an art gallery, antique store and coffee shop called Kamana, just down the street. They are credited with doing the most extensive restorative work on the hotel, though many of its owners did what they could to maintain its grandeur.