Planning a Visit:
- Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the historic neighborhood around the St. James Hotel. The hotel itself has been repaired. However the surrounding Water Avenue Historical District was severely damaged, some buildings were completely destroyed. At the time of our visit almost all of the surrounding buildings were empty, badly damaged, and abandoned. (See photos in the virtual tour and the photo out-takes as well.) Unfortunately the local business community just doesn't have the resources to rebuild and restore the area without outside grants. This has made it very difficult for the area to get back on it's feet. All of this is my way of saying to be prepared for the sad condition of the area, but don't panic over it. See it for what it is, a display of the awesome power of a hurricane. The good news, as of 2011, is that the area has gotten some recent grants and restoration is getting started.
- The hotel's restaurant, The Troupe Dining Room, as well as the Drinking Room are now open. They were closed for renovation during our visit. I have been assured they both have excellent food. We did sneak in and take pictures of both, see the virtual tour.
- If you want a taste of the local flavor walk two blocks over to Selma Street and have breakfast or lunch at the Downtowner Restaurant. This is where the locals meet for breakfast, discussing local politics, and whatever. It was a real treat sitting in the corner and eavesdropping on the conversations! I think the mayor may have been in the next booth over. He knew everyone who walked through the door and greeted them each by name (except us, the Yankee tourists!) The food's great too! Just don't expect anything fancy, this is a down-home style place. Enjoy!
- The Restaurant on Grumbles Alley (yes, that's its name), about a block down Water Avenue from the hotel, has great food in a casual setting, and is also located in a restored historic building dating from the 1800's. It's a great alternative if you want something less elegant than the Troupe Dining Room. We ate there and highly recommend it. Be sure to check out the old iron security door they found when remodeling the building, as well as the historic photos on the walls.
- Selma Alabama is a bit off the freeway and major travel routes. However the rich history of this area makes it well worth a side trip. There are over 1200 historic structures in Selma, including Antebellum and Victorian homes. Selma was a pivotal location for the civil rights movement in the 1960's, so there is a lot of history here, both recent and from the 1800s. Museums include the Sturdivant Hall Museum, the Old Depot Museum (3 blocks down the street from the St. James Hotel), and the National Voting Rights Museum.
- The nearest major airport is in Birmingham, Alabama.
Rates and Reservations:
The Saint James Hotel
1200 Water Avenue
Selma, Alabama 36701
Reservations phone (334) 872-3234
The St. James does not have a website, for online reservations you'll need to go through one of the 3rd party travel sites.
Additional Research Sources:
- Historic Hotels of America
- Handout on hotel history from the hotel front desk.
- The St James Hotel - Real Haunted Houses
- Unforgettable Happenings in Alabama
- Encyclopedia of Alabama - Selma