The Dennemora Hotel was built in 1863 during the height of the Civil War. The two-story hotel was located next to the Shelby Iron Works, which had access to a natural spring, made it a popular tourist destination. During the Civil War, the Iron Works supplied the Confederate navy with pig iron for their ironclad vessels. The hotel was a popular weekend destination for the public, but it was also used by the employees of the Iron Works as a boarding house.
The Union Army destroyed the Iron Works in a raid in 1865. The hotel survived only to burn down in 1898. By that time, the Iron Works were reopened and capitalizing on the growing industrial demand. The owners rebuilt the hotel in 1900 on the original brick foundation. The hotel was called the New Dennemora Hotel and was later renamed the Shelby Hotel.
The Shelby Hotel served the community at a time when the iron industry was at its peak. It was the first hotel in the state of Alabama with electricity and internal plumbing. No other hotel in the area had that at that time.
The Shelby Hotel required advanced reservations for accommodations. The hotel has fifteen bedrooms, a dining wing, an office, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. A rear addition was accessible from the back staircase, leading to another wing with thirty rooms where most of the iron workers stayed. The addition was torn down after the Shelby Iron Company closed in 1923.
The “Honeymoon Room” and the “Company Room” upstairs have been used by two governors and their wives. Famous guests of the Shelby Hotel include Teddy Roosevelt and Al Capone. It cost $25.00 a month for a room and three meals a day.
In 1925, the rooms had beds, sinks, and dressers. The rooms were often cold, as fireplaces provided the only heat for some of the rooms. There were wood stoves that heated the new addition, which was built to accommodate more boarders.
The Shelby Hotel is often confused with the nearby Shelby Springs Hotel, which became a Confederate hospital after the seize of Vicksburg. Compared to other nearby hotels, the Shelby Hotel offered a more simplistic getaway. There was no ballroom or string band like you may find at other resorts.
Guests of the Shelby Hotel were treated to spring water, tennis, and games of bridge. Before shutting down in the 1970s, the Shelby Hotel was the oldest operating hotel in Alabama.
Locals tell stories about the hotel being haunted by a former caretaker and her husband; who would walk the hallways and check on guests. The Shelby Hotel remains abandoned with no current plans for renovation.