MENTONE, Ala. (WHNT) More than two months since the Mentone Springs Hotel burned to the ground visitors from all over are flocking to the town to enjoy one of its biggest annual festivals.
At the end of February the Mentone Springs Hotel loomed over the town just as it had done for more than a century.
It was built in 1884, and was Alabama’s last wooden Victorian hotel.
“For days the smoke was rising,” Former owner Sandra Padgett says.
She and her husband Ray owned the hotel years ago. “She. I thought of the hotel as a person,” Padgett says with a laugh.
Now they own a coffee shop and art gallery in the heart of downtown, right up the road from where Padgett calls the ‘Grand Old Lady’ once stood tall.
Saturday is a busy day for their business.
It’s the day visitors from all over the area come to the town for the annual Rhododendron Festival.
Padgett has been through quite a few of them.
“I was president for the very first one and that was 32, 33 years ago,” Padgett says.
The festival that focuses on the arts showcases that same artistic theme that is prevalent in the town.
Padgett says that theme hasn’t diminished.
“Mentone is like a magnet toward creative people and that magnet is still here,” Padgett says, “The old hotel is gone and that magnet is still here.”
Padgett says that’s evident in the success of the festival Saturday.
“All these wonderful artistic people, and the visitors are having fun and life goes on,” Padgett says.
She says that’s just it — life goes on. Despite the loss of an icon, there’s more to Mentone, and it’s thriving.
“She’s not there looking over us, but the spirit of Mentone is still here,” Padgett says.
Mentone’s mayor tells us there’s no word as to what will go onto that site once it’s fully cleared.