Community rallies after destruction of historic hotel - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Community rallies after destruction of historic hotel

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It is yet unknown what plans may be for the lot where the Mentone Springs Hotel stood just days ago. It is yet unknown what plans may be for the lot where the Mentone Springs Hotel stood just days ago.

A community mourning the loss of a 130-year-old hotel and landmark continued the process of moving on past the shock and devastation Monday.

The Mentone Springs Hotel was razed by fire Saturday night, along with the neighboring White Elephant Antique Store. It is unclear when the building was last inspected; most counties do not have fire marshals and the state only inspects when a request or complaint has been made, with the exception of schools, daycares and jails. No such requests were made for an inspection for the hotel, according to records that go back to 2003.

The loss of the building to the community cannot be underestimated, but in the words of a community member, "We are resilient and we will overcome this."

While much of the weekend tourist traffic left the area, a few stuck around Monday to take pictures of the once-magnificent Mentone Springs Hotel, now reduced to rubble and ash. Fire officials believe an electrical fault is the cause of the blaze that consumed the building.

Jeff Becker moved to Mentone from California three months ago. He said he's disappointed in the loss of such a hotel after being her such a short period of time. Becker was at the nearby Wildflower Cafe when he heard someone shout about the fire. Becker could already see a portion of the hotel engulfed when he got to the scene, and watched as the flames quickly spread.

"I've never seen anything burn so fast and so hot," he said. "I was completely across the street and it was still very warm, catching telephone poles on fire just from the heat."

Becker said what was particularly disturbing was the sight of all the sad faces joining him in watching the hotel burn to the ground. He said he knows the community will pull together in the aftermath.

"It appealed to a whole broad base of people that were there for any particular reason. If they were in Mentone, you couldn't hardly go without visiting the Mentone Springs Hotel," said John Dersham with the DeKalb County Tourism Office.

Ray Padgett, also with the tourism office, said the hotel was a direct tie to the history of Mentone, but he thinks business in the community will be fine because of the many other reasons people come to the area, including weekend getaways, summer camps, and festivals held year-round.

The nearly 40-room hotel was converted in the 1990s to a ten-bedroom bed-and-breakfast. It is not yet known what will become of the property once the remains of the hotel have been cleared away.

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