Let's take a walk through a brand new day.
A recent visit to the Birthplace of Mardi Gras brought the usual… bands, floats, parades, outlandish costumes and BEADS! It was fun to watch the parade and be in the line of fire of the “throwers” on the floats who not only hit us with beads and trinkets, but also with rice, ramen noodles, honey buns, and moon pies! Mardi Gras is a grand time.
We chose to stay at the historic Battle House Renaissance Hotel which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The parade comes right in front of the building and is a prime location for catching all those Mardi Gras treasures. It is a beautiful hotel that has quite a history. Established on the site of Andrew Jackson’s military headquarters during the War of 1812, a luxurious and grand Battle House opened in 1852. It’s name came not from a military battle but from two brothers, James and Samuel Battle. Many important people visited Mobile and used the hotel as their base. Stephen A. Douglas stayed at the Battle House the night he lost the presidency to Abraham Lincoln.
Unfortunately, in 1905, fire destroyed the hotel. Miraculously, all 147 guests were saved by the Mobile Fire Department and the hotel staff. In 1908, the current Battle House was constructed. It, too, has had it’s fair share of famous guests. Woodrow Wilson visited in 1913, but most exciting to me was the fact that my teen idol, Elvis Presley, stayed here!
You may wonder how I know all of this history. From Mr. George, of course! When I checked in to the hotel, I inquired about the hotel history. The front desk clerk shared a sentence or two but said, “If you REALLY want to know the history, ask Mr. George. He’ll be up at the Concierge Lounge tonight. You can’t miss him. He’s a cute little 87-year-old man. But, don’t tell him that I said he’s cute!”
Meet Mr. George.
Mr. George is a walking encyclopedia. He first worked at the hotel in 1958 and is a living icon. I invited Mr. George to join us at our table and share the history of the hotel and Mobile. His history lesson started in the 1600’s and ended in 2019. What a storyteller he is! We were fascinated. Then, Mr. George offered to take us on a tour of the hotel. We learned about the Whispering Arch, the Tapestries, the Grand Ballroom, the Lobby Fountain, and also about three young boys (who shall remain nameless) who delighted in putting baby alligators in the lobby fountain.
We came for Mardi Gras, but left with a history lesson and a new friend. If you’re ever in Mobile, Alabama, plan to spend at least one night in the Battle House Renaissance Hotel. Ask for Mr. George and sit back, relax, and prepare to be entertained.
Mr. George, 87 never looked so good!