Disclaimer: I just pulled out my soapbox. Platform: All great cities have great hotels.
Over the almost three years we’ve been here, I’ve been part of casual conversations with BhamArchitect and others about the lack of quality (read: luxury/boutique/charming) hotel options in downtown Birmingham. Anybody else notice the deficit?
It’s a shame, really, since travelers come to the Magic City for all kinds of world-class attractions and performances, though overnight accommodations may very well be the least favorable memory of their visit.
While glorious in their history and mildly such in their current outer appearance, both The Tutweiler and The Redmont hotels bear few signs of “luxury” for our much-welcomed travelers. At an earlier time, yes – I’m certain Birmingham provided indulgent experiences at more than a few downtown towers, but the well is all but dry now as we close in on 2013, almost 100 years after construction began on The (original) Tutwiler. (Here’s The Tutwiler today.)
There are a few other mentionables, such as Hotel Highland at Five Points South(“the city’s premiere luxury boutique hotel”) and Cobb Lane B&B (Southside’s ”ideal place to find comfort and relaxation”), but to be completely honest, I’m hard-pressed when recommending unique overnight accommodations to incoming visitors and tourists.
Notably, there’s also the old Cabana Hotel (first named Thomas Jefferson Tower and currently the focus of one helluva’ restoration effort). But it’s hasn’t seen foot traffic in, well, since that particular street in Birmingham was packed with pedestrians… it’s been a while.
There are more opportunities like that all over the city…
What would be my ideal Biminingham hotel, you ask? Oh, just a totally new and high-end renovation of The Redmont, complete with (open-air) corner cafe/bar (accessible and attractive to locals working close by and in need of a good coffee/happy hour spot). The rooftop bar, with its magnificent view, would be designed to become the type of unique meeting space that people send postcards from… Turndown service would include chocolate, the walls would feature beautiful photographs from all over Jones Valley (and its past), the doorman would be in full regalia, the original features would be glistening and glowing…
But, nobody’s asking me. And I haven’t the deep pockets to make that type of magic happen.
Well, folks, here’s today’s “FridayPhoto”, depicting the remarkable lobby area within the historic Redmont Hotel. Marble floors and art deco distinctions offer a glimpse in to Birmingham’s past. (If your eyes can avoid the drab drapes and ill-fitting seating scattered about, you’ll really enjoy the hotel’s elegant bones and features.)
Recently I was asked to recommend a few hotels for a group of writers coming in to explore and research Birmingham for an upcoming feature in a regional culinary magazine. After I’d exhausted myself with a list of every amazing restaurant/bar/museum/attraction/hole-in-the-wall, I stumbled… *Where* in Birmingham could they stay? What would be a compelling and representative experience of the historic and culturally-rich Birmingham I know and love?
I made the usual recommendations (all listed above, with the addition of aLoft in Homewood and Ross Bridge) and crossed my fingers that tastes would be satisfied. And how did their trip go, you wonder?
And I quote: “Birmingham is so much cooler than we expected. Everybody’s so nice and the food is *ah-ma-zing*. The hotel was a total disappointment. Are you *sure* there are no boutique hotels or inns?”
I suppose what I’m trying to say is this - A stately hotel is a missing part of Birmingham’s impending comeback. She needs a place to house all those culture-thirsty travelers, the ones who want the real story, the ones who are willing to find peaceful (800-count Egyptian cotton) rest in the belly of Jones Valley. She deserves an homage to her past, a vivid picture of the Magic once permeating her rooms and hallways. Why? Because ALL great cities have great hotels.
And if we DID build it, and they DID come, I would show up, too, for a night out on the town, every now and then, just for the sake of choosing the perfect hat to match that marble staircase.