SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Phillip Dennis and his family are visiting Selma for the first time and couldn’t help but notice the St. James Hotel, shuttered, broken and empty. But it may not be that way for long.
“Secretary of War for the Confederacy stayed here," said Dennis while reading the historical sign marker in front of the building.
He loves history and believes letting the St. James go would be a shame.
“It’s a style I saw in Augusta growing up with the wrought iron rail," Dennis recalled.
Selma Mayor Darrio Melton says the city is in final negotiations with Rhaglan Hospitality in Birmingham to sell the building. Assuming the deal goes through, Selma would receive $400,000 from the sale, plus revenues still being worked out right now.
Melton also credits the state for getting involved with incentives. Part of the deal still being worked out is the number of employees Rhaglan Hospitality will hire.
“The numbers are still being played with as part of the conversation this week," Melton stated.
It’s been a long road for the St. James. It’s survived wars, countless administrations and the stories it could tell if the walls could talk. From a practical matter, the mayor is more than pleased to unload it because it’s weighing down a city that’s already struggling financially.
“It was a drain on the city’s budget to the tune of $1 million a year," Melton said. “The city has no business being in the hotel business.”
City leaders say the new hotel owners will help this part of Selma turn the corner. In fact, the hope is new businesses will move into empty store fronts across the street.
“So it is an opportunity for economic expansion," the mayor expressed of the potential deal.
“I think it’s important to hang on to history," said Dennis, who is visiting with his wife and son from Indianapolis.
Still, there’s no deal yet to make a toast. There are ‘i’s’ to be dotted, ‘t’s’ to be crossed and a few more miles to go before the St James breathes again on the riverfront.
If all goes well in the next few weeks, the St. James should reopen under the Rhaglan flagship by the end of the year after some interior and exterior repair work is done.