MENTONE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Mentone Springs Hotel was a main focus in Mentone, and it was what tourists first saw when they looked at information for the small town. Now town and county leaders are going to have to re-brand the town that once was based around it.
Yellow caution tape surrounds the area where the Mentone Springs Hotel and White Elephant Antiques used to stand. Both historic buildings burned down on Saturday. Officials say the cause of the fire was electrical issues.
The loss of the buildings hit the town hard. The hotel was built in 1884, and was centered directly in the downtown area. “The problem is, that was the brand for Mentone,” DeKalb County Tourist Association President John Dersham says, “When people think of Mentone, Alabama, they think of the Mentone Springs Hotel.”
Dersham says the town’s branding to bring tourists to the area was based on the hotel. Now that it’s no longer a part of the town, officials have to re-brand the area.
However, with the many different entities the town has to offer Dersham says that won’t be hard. “We have so much in the way of leisure and tourism, and relaxation, the hiking, and all the things people like to do at the state and national parks,” Dersham says.
Mentone’s image is forever changed, but Dersham says with so much to do in the area, the tourists will continue to come even though an icon is gone. The town though, will boast different sights and activities. “We have so much community support, and so many effective leaders and people that are really able to make sure that we can move past this and do well,” Dersham says.
Full clean-up of the site hasn’t started yet. The buildings are owned privately by out-of-town owners. Mayor Rob Hammond says they have told him they are interested in historic preservation, but it’s still early yet to know what might be done with the property.
Hammond says if the plans come to build on that site again, the town council hopes the image of Mentone stays preserved. “We would like to see something go back in there in keeping with historic Mentone. That’s basically what we would like to see in there,” Hammond says.
Dersham says the town of Mentone was branded with the hotel as the focus point, set in a small mountain village. Mentone has always been a place geared as a getaway, so Dersham says combining that village feel while adhering to the vacation mindset would benefit the town. “In my opinion something like a lodge, a hotel, 30, 40 rooms,” Dersham says, “That sort of has the look and feel with the big balcony on the front, and a wood structure again, or maybe some brick.”
Hammond says it is in the early stages, so there’s no official word as to what the owners of the site might want to do with it once it’s cleared.