Shelby Hotel

The Shelby HotelThe Dennemora Hotel, built in 1863, during the height of the Civil War was a two-story hotel located next to the Shelby Iron Works. The site was a popular tourist destination due to the access to a natural spring. 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 the employees of the Iron Works also used it as a boarding house.

Shelby Hotel
The downstairs hallway and main staircase inside of the Shelby Hotel.

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 reopened and were quickly capitalizing on the growing industrial demand. The owners rebuilt the hotel in 1900 on the original brick foundation. The new hotel was called the New Dennemora Hotel and later renamed the Shelby Hotel.

Shelby Hotel

Shelby Hotel
The abandoned Shelby Hotel was once a meeting place for locals who would congregate and share stories.

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 hotel’s proximity to the Shelby Iron Works was the key to having running water since the foundry needed a constant water source to operate. The hotel’s builders seized the opportunity to tie the hotel into the foundry’s water source.

Shelby Hotel
The main staircase

As the town of Shelby grew, 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 ironworkers would stay. After the Shelby Iron Company closed in 1923, the rear wing was demolished.

Shelby HotelThe Honeymoon Room and the Company Room upstairs have been used by two governors and their wives. The Honeymoon Room was specially decorated to make a newlywed’s first night together special. Famous guests of the Shelby Hotel include President Theodore Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, and Al Capone. Rooms were priced at $25.00 a month and included three meals a day. The meals were considered top-notch and locals would often come to the Shelby Hotel to gather, gossip, and dine.

Shelby HotelIn 1925, the rooms in the Shelby Hotel had beds, sinks, and dressers. The rooms were often cold, as fireplaces provided the only heat. There were wood stoves that heated the new addition, which was built to accommodate more guests.

Shelby Hotel
Fireplaces were the only heat source for many of the rooms.

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 other resorts. In its heyday, the hotel held social functions, bridal showers, even weddings. Locals would often bring items to the hotel to sell to travelers.

Shelby Hotel
The hotel’s furnishings never changed nor was the interior ever altered.

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. In a 1976 article in the Shelby News-Monitor the last proprietor and owner, Mr. Bernard Rummel, recalled proudly how decades earlier the former President Roosevelt did not arrive at the hotel in a fancy car, but instead on foot. It is presumed Roosevelt arrived in Shelby by train and walked to the hotel. The Rummels operated the Shelby Hotel from 1956 until its closing. They were regarded as kind, hospitable caretakers who extended their values to everyone they met. The town of Shelby went bust during their ownership and many of the rooms would often remain vacant. However, that never deterred the couple from providing a wonderful stay to those that visited. The Rummels provided meals for guests just as they were provided decades earlier. They used cookery that was made from iron milled next door around the time of the Civil War.

Shelby Hotel

Shelby Hotel

Shelby Hotel
The rear staircase inside of the hotel.

There are rumors that the old hotel is haunted by its former caretakers who walk the hallways and check in on guests. Some of the local citizens recently tried to acquire the property from the current owners but were unsuccessful. Sadly, on the night of Sunday, May 26, 2019, the old Shelby Hotel burned to the ground. The flames were visible for miles. The Shelby Volunteer Fire Department said the structure was a total loss. Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire but suspect arson is to blame.

Shelby Hotel
Upstairs hallway
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37 Replies to “Shelby Hotel”

  1. I think they should restore the old hotel, as it was back in its glory days. And open it back up as a hotel, again. And yes, I would stay.
    I believe that people would come from afar to stay and see what it would have been like to have lived in that erea.

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  2. I went in the hotel as a teenager, I am now 75 years old….go figure. Old Man Rommel ( my mother’s words) lived there taking care of his wife. It is a shame it can’t be restored…….

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  3. They looked into opening it up as a bed snd breakfast but the water would not perk on the land without costing a fortune. We looked into buying the old place and making a home there but owners would not respond to calls. We were told that they inherited the property. I lived in shelby in my childhood and played in the hotel when it was still open. It was a beautiful place with major charm. I wanted to own it so much

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  4. Some of your facts are wrong. I am the great granddaughter of the owners and grew up at the hotel after my aunt and uncle took it over for great grandfather. The hotel burned that’s what happened to the addition to the hotel when restored after fire they didn’t put the L-shape back on. And also facts are wrong about people that stayed there. Its nice that it’s being shown and other people can see the beauty in her as I always have. I have the desk that sat in the office of the hotel and we have all of my aunt’s journals of her day to day life at the hotel. They are amazing to read.

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  5. I visited the hotel as a junior in High School. Grew up in Calera. Best friend did a paper on the hotel and the ole man living there. He was a storyteller. My friend gave his paper and my photography to the Columbiana library if my memory serves me. One story; as we were being shown and introduced to the hotel, we enter the dining room where I noticed the oak ladder back chairs. Someone had sawed off the right hand post of every one. He told us a slave while serving a guest from the right side of the chair caught his flowing white sleeve on the post. The results were so memorable… someone snuck in and cut them all off. The name Rommel sounds right, I think 🤔

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  6. My grandparents lived less than a block from there when I was young ( 70’s). I remember Vernon Rommel, a true gentleman who loved to tell stories. Mr Robert Brasher ( principal and teacher at Shelby Elementary) took us there on a field trip once. My Cousins’s and I would often sneak in and play during the summer. I was always terrified because my older kin would tell me it was haunted, although I never saw any sign of it. So much history in the Shelby Hotel and the “Ore Mines”. A part of my childhood that will never be forgotten. I do hope someone will take on the restoration project before it’s too late.

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  7. I’m sad to report that on the evening of May 26, 2019, the historical Shelby Hotel burned to the ground. It was a complete loss. It is such a sad thing, as I to remember how much I enjoyed driving by it over the years and loved looking at it and imagining what it would have been like to stay there during it’s hay day.

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  8. I’ve always wanted to buy this grand old place! My mother and father liv on Lay Lake just a short drive from this and every time we visited we would go by and make sure it was still there. I’m so saddened to hear that it burned down! It’s such a shame!!!

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing! I love looking at your pictures and posts! So much history that most do not know about.

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  10. Your photos of the Shelby Hotel are awesome and your research is facinating. Have you shared this information wit the Shelby Ironworks Historical Society? This would be very important since, sadly, the hotel burned to the ground this Memorial Day weekend. It breaks my heart when an important part of history is destroyed. Things of the past can never be replaced, but now remain only memories preserved by people like you. Thank you!

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  11. I have some black and whites of the hotel. If anyone is interested to see them please contact me on”f”. Chari Hughey Britnell

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  12. as a young man I worked at the Shelby many days, helping rommell bonnet with lots of chores like cutting grass and collecting honey fron many of the hives he had,we would process the honey in the small building next to the hotel, that at one time was the Shelby post office. mrs elder his wife would make lunch for us and made sure we came in for it to take a break from the high heat we were working in during the day,she was a great cook.i lived about one mile from the hotel.i will never forget as even a younger fellow walking to green pates grocery and convient stoor up in downtown Shelby. lots of good memories here.

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