Selma’s monumental St. James Hotel reopened for business on January 26th

St. James Hotel
The historic St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama. Photo via Jim Pack for The Bama Buzz

As of Tuesday, January 26th, the historic, 184-year-old St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama is once again open for business. This weekend, The Bama Buzz took a trip to Selma to visit the famous hotel and get the full experience. Here’s what we learned.

The Only Remaining Pre-Civil War Riverfront Hotel

Old Photo Of The St. James Hotel
The St. James Hotel in the mid 1900s. Photo via Haunted Travels USA

Since 1837, the St. James Hotel has stood overlooking the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama. Located in Selma’s beautiful downtown historic district, the St. James Hotel is the only surviving riverfront Antebellum hotel in the Southeast.

Over the years, the St. James Hotel has served several purposes: a hotel, a tire re-capping station and even the headquarters for Union Forces during the Battle of Selma in 1865. While much of downtown Selma was destroyed during the Civil War, the St. James Hotel survived largely due to the work of Benjamin Sterling Turner, an enslaved man who managed the hotel. After the war, Benjamin Turner went on to become Alabama’s first African-American Representative elected to Congress.

Photo Of The Edmund Pettus Bridge In Selma, Alabama
The St. James Hotel offers an unbeatable view of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Photo via The Bama Buzz.

Despite the hotel’s rich history, the years have been less than forgiving on the 184-year-old building. After decades of neglect, a committee of locals—including Selma native, Birmingham-Southern College graduate and college basketball and baseball coach Larry Striplin—worked for three years raising funds to renovate the St. James Hotel. In 1997, their work paid off with a grand reopening of the hotel. However, by 2017 the hotel was once again boarded up, and it seemed as though there was no turning back.

A New Lease on Life

In 2018, the St. James Hotel was purchased by Birmingham-based Rhaglan Hospitality, a Hilton brand. Over the past two years, Rhaglan Hospitality has spent upwards of $5M renovating and modernizing the hotel.

Last week, Rhaglan Hospitality’s hard work paid off. On Tuesday, January 26th, the St. James Hotel re-opened for business.

“Having worked on this project for several years now, we are so excited to have reopened the St. James Hotel as part of Hilton Hotel’s Tapestry Collection. As a new member of the Selma community, we are proud that we can provide job creation and help build careers for its citizens. For the hotel itself, we worked hard to integrate some contemporary design elements with the antiques and art work that were part of the property when we acquired it, so we hope guests will be delighted with the finished product.”

Kelly Rushin, a partner in the St. James Hotel

In addition to the St. James Hotel, Rhaglan Hospitality is putting the finishing touches on the upcoming Kelly Hotel in Birmingham.

Plan a weekend getaway at the St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama

St. James Hotel
An aerial photo of the St. James Hotel in Selma. Photo via Jim Pack for The Bama Buzz

With the re-opening of the historic St. James Hotel, there’s never been a better time to visit Selma, Alabama. In Selma, you can visit beautiful and historic sites, dine at delicious restaurants, learn about Civil Rights history and so much more.

“Selma is a short drive from Birmingham and with so much to see and do here, it is a great weekend getaway. Every first Saturday of the month is the Selma Art Walk—so it’s a fun time to check out the art in the area and have lunch at our restaurant, Sterling. A beautiful brick courtyard and fountain are at the center of the hotel. The rooms on the back of the property, many of which have balconies, all boast incredible views of the Alabama River and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We can’t wait to welcome our Birmingham friends to Selma. Follow us @stjameshilton for details and updates!”

Kelly Rushin, a partner in the St. James Hotel

Have you been to Selma? What is your favorite part? Tag us @thebamabuzz to let us know!

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.

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