Battle House Hotel
Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa The Battle House Hotel, officially the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa, is a historic hotel in Mobile, Mobile County, that it is owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) with a Marriott International franchise and managed by Point Clear Holdings, Inc (PCH). It is affiliated with the Magnolia Grove golf complex on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail). The site has hosted a hotel since the 1820s. The present-day hotel was constructed in 1908 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1976.
The Battle House Hotel is located as 26 North Royal Street on the southeast corner of North Royal and St. Francis Streets, reportedly on the site of Andrew Jackson’s headquarters for a time during the War of 1812. After he defeated the Red Stick faction of Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814, Jackson moved on to Mobile, arriving in August and returning in December, fearing the British might attack Mobile before attacking New Orleans.
Several other hotels preceded the Battle House at its location. The first was the Franklin House, which was originally built in the then-state capital Cahaba, Dallas County, and later moved by flatboats to Mobile in 1825 to avoid the frequent flooding that plagued Cahaba. Another lodging, the Alabama Hotel, was constructed next door, but both were destroyed by fire in 1829. A larger inn, the Waverly, soon replaced those two building but was also destroyed by fire in 1850.
Construction for the original Battle House Hotel began in 1850 under brothers James, John, and Samuel Battle and resulted in a four-story brick building with a two-story gallery of cast iron. It opened in 1852. This hotel became known as Mobile’s “living room” and hosted elegant functions, debutante balls, and Mardi Gras parties. Among its notable visitors during its early decades were Jefferson Davis, Millard Fillmore, Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, Ulysses S. Grant, and Raphael Semmes. Later prominent guests included Pres. Woodrow Wilson, who outlined his approach to relations with Latin American at the Southern Commercial Congress held in Mobile in October 1913.
Battle House Hotel, 1901 In 1900, the Battle House Hotel was rebuilt as a seven-story steel-framed brick structure with accented corners. In 1905, a fire destroyed the hotel, and all that remained was a mass of bricks and mortar and twisted iron rods, with only the front wall still standing. Soon after, a group of prominent Mobilians raised $1.3 million to rebuild the hotel in the Georgian Revival style popular in the early twentieth century. In 1908, the current Battle House Hotel was opened on the site of the old building. It was built out of steel and concrete and had a roof garden and a domed glass skylight in the lobby; air conditioning was added in 1949. At the time of its nomination to the NRHP in 1976, state historians noted the hotel had three distinct external sections, with different windows, colors, and textures for the first and second floors, the third through sixth floors, and the seventh floor, all of which remain evident.
The current hotel has been owned by several firms. Sheraton hotels bought it in 1958. As Mobile expanded to the west, downtown Mobile waned and occupancy went down, prompting Sheraton to shutter the hotel in 1974, and in 1978, furnishings were sold off. The roof sustained damage from Hurricane Frederic in 1979, resulting in substantial water destruction over the following years. By 1980, the abandoned hotel was the only building still standing on the city block.
Battle House Hotel, 2005 In 2001, RSA CEO David G. Bronner proposed building an 800-foot-tall office tower that would be Alabama’s tallest structure. This tower would be connected to the existing Battle House Hotel, which would be totally refurbished to its original state. In 2002, the city of Mobile approved the deal and agreed to contribute $15 million in incentives. Between 2002 and 2007, including one year of lost time due to hurricanes, the hotel was restored. A parking garage with a spa, tennis court, and swimming pool on top were added with a skywalk connecting to the hotel.
Contractors for RSA estimated that the hotel development could save some $9 million by demolishing the existing hotel and building a replica. However, RSA decided that the building’s history warranted restoration. The original drawings of the hotel were inadequate, so 200 supplemental drawings were required for the renovation. The existing structure had 250 rooms, but the restored property would have 112 rooms plus 126 new rooms in the adjoining tower. Workers gutted existing guest rooms and expanded the small bathrooms, thereby reducing the number of rooms. Workers removed asbestos and stabilized the support system to meet modern building code. They also restored about 40 percent of the original plaster but had to carefully re-craft the rest. In addition, craftsmen replicated sections of the original moldings.
RSA Buildings in Mobile Architects and contractors concentrated on strengthening the domed skylights in the three-story main lobby and grand staircase. Most of the stained-glass decorative elements were taken apart, cleaned, and reassembled. Only a few glass tiles needed to be replicated. The columns and intricate moldings of the Crystal Ballroom received detailed treatment. The second-floor arches that overlook the main lobby were reworked to maintain the interesting acoustical feature that enables a person speaking at one end to be heard by someone speaking 35 feet away at the other end. Several parlors on the second floor were preserved with their original fireplaces, mirrors, and hardwood floors, including several with the floorboards laid in a herringbone pattern. The Trellis Room restaurant and the Crystal Ballroom were restored to their original condition, and two eateries—the Royal Street Lounge and Joe Cain Restaurant—were added, as was the 10,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom. The second-floor 1,800-square-foot viewing balcony overlooking Royal Street was restored. RSA’s Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa opened in 2007. In late 2012, disability accessibility issues were identified and addressed in subsequent years.
This hotel joined RSA’s other hotel in downtown Mobile, the Riverview Renaissance, to provide upscale lodging for visitors to Magnolia Grove golf course. It is the seventh hotel affiliated with RSA’s golf trail. This AAA Four Diamond property was named one of National Geographic Traveler‘s “Top Places to Stay in North America” and a “Favorite” by Coastal Living. It was also named “One of the Top 500 Hotels in the World” by Travel and Leisure and “Number 2 in Alabama” by U.S. News and World Report. Historic Hotels of America awarded it the nation’s “Best Historic Hotel” in 2020 for the midsize category.
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———. Coastal Alabama Economic History. Pennsauken, N.J.: BookBaby, 2018.
———. Alabama’s Public Pension Fund Growth and Economic Expansion since 1973. Pennsauken, N.J.: BookBaby, 2019.