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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Inside The Josephine Part 3 of 7

Lets continue our tour of The Josephine Hotel and discover some of the many hidden treasures of the past. 

When I left you in my last post, we were still on the first floor, poking our heads into rooms, closets, nooks, and crannies.  This rear staircase leads to the third floor.  Inside was a wooden box covered in fabric.  The owners discovered this years back when they purchased the building.  When they removed the lid, this is what they found inside...

Stacks of the original registration sheets and cards. The large ones were at one time in books and the pages had been removed. But remarkably you can read most of them.  These delicate pages hold a significant and historical record of the hotel's past visitors. They forever preserve The Josephine's contribution to tourism in the city of Union Springs.

It's amazing how far away they came from just to stay here at the Josephine Hotel.

Below are various types of paperwork, like bills, bookkeeping, and correspondence.

Also found in the closet with the box was this small red cradle. Most likely made for a doll, it is too small for a human baby.  It was probably left behind years ago by a child who was told to go and gather her things and get ready to depart. Children often leave behind toys in hotels even to this day.

Long corridor leading to a rear corner room and a storage closet on the right. 

This is the view from a room in the back of the building.  Note that you can see Amerifirst Bank.  It is interesting to note that the property where the bank sits today was once owned by The Josephine Hotel.  That's right.  The exact spot where the bank sits was the living quarters for the hotel staff.  That parking lot is where the main kitchen was located.  There was a walkway from the 2nd floor directly to the second floor of the living quarters.  The are behind the Chinese restaurant next door was also owned by the Josephine and was the site of a beautiful courtyard.  

 In this same room I saw lots of what most would call junk.  But if you look a little closer you see light fixtures, jugs, jars...

An old tape dispenser, a Bible, and more light globes.

The old rolls of textured wall paper they used to put on the walls and paint over it.

Old screens and window panes.

Many of the rooms still have the old linoleum rugs on the floor.

This old Cable - Nelson piano came to live here at the Josephine around 1906 and has been here ever since.  It has seen better days and probably provided lovely music when someone sat down and played it.  Today, the owners and several of the ghost hunters have heard notes being played from time to time on its own.  I guess ghosts love old pianos.  After all they were once people too.

A few weeks ago, the owners rolled the piano out into the main hall from one of the front rooms where it sat.  Mr. Creepy came too.  He provides a little extra fun when the ghost hunters come for a night of hunting.  

When the owners moved the piano bench and placed it by the piano, they opened the lid to the bench.  Joyce, the owner, never had looked there before, figuring that it had been cleaned out long, long ago, but found a torn and crumpled piece of paper.  Joyce just uncrumpled the paper and discovered this handwritten music.  Each note was hand penned, including the lyrics to what she decided to call, "The Ghost Song", since it is about ghosts.  This is all there is. But isn't it delightful?  Who could have written this?  How long has it been there?  So many questions beg to be answered.  I even wonder if it was written by one of the many long term tenants who may have stayed here and knew the hotel's ghosts intimately.  Who knows.  But it is interesting to say the least.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, people use to come to the Josephine to get their portraits made by a traveling photographer from Olan Mills in the earlier years.  Later there were different photographers representing different companies.

The owners have had plans to convert one of the old rooms into a photography studio.  The idea is to use a room like this:

To restore this room and be using fireplace mantles, antique sofas, furniture, and props of all kinds, they would have an unique approach to using old world style and class in a modern day digital photography era.  

Portraits like these can be recaptured in this modern day.  What the owners want to do is recreate the scene with a modern twist.  I think that will not only be awesome but who wouldn't love to have their portrait made in a historic hotel?

When these stairs are cleaned up and restored how cool would it be to have an engagement or bridal pictures made here on the grande staircase?

For now, this will complete our journey of the 2nd floor.  There are always a few treats I may save for later, but we will begin touring the 3rd floor in my next blog post.

Be sure to check back soon for part 4 of 7 of "Inside The Josephine", a 7 part blog series on the never before photographed places inside the Historical Josephine Hotel.

Remember if you don't want to miss a single post, just scroll back to the top and enter your email address in the white bar.  That way, every time I publish a new post, you'll be among the first to read it.

Thank you, 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Inside The Josephine ~ Part 2 of 7

It's almost as much fun to look into the past when you see the inside of this old hotel as it is to think of what could be.  You think of the people who might have stayed here.  Were they visiting family or just passing through?  We're they salesmen or business men in town to close a deal?  Could they have been a politician with his staff on a campaign stop?  What ever the reason, everyone wanted a chance to stay at one of the finest hotels in Alabama in the 1880's.  

The Josephine was world class and it was designed and built by the very best architects and builders to be found in Alabama.  However, it was the vision of Dr. Robert Fleming and his determination to invest in Union Springs that made The Josephine Hotel a reality. 

This ad, like many others, were placed in the Union Springs Herald well in advance of The Josephine's grand opening. 
September 13th, 1880 was the day of she opened.  A reception welcoming guest and borders, all awaiting to see the stylish accommodations.  It had to be quite the sight.

The hotel, with it's stylish furnishings, dark walnut woodworks, newly heart pine stained wood floors, elegant woven rugs, draperies, first class dining, and delicious cuisine would make The Josephine Hotel irresistible to passing travelers.

Today, The Josephine still stands.  She is about to be awakened.  

Her front windows are currently being replaced.  In the near future, she will have all that white paint removed and restored back to her original red brick.  With time, and money the owners hope to get rid of that awful awning and restore the original facade back to the original look.  The porch and beautiful balcony will become a place where the town's people will once again gather.

Today, you see here what's left after 134 years of multiple renovations.  Let me explain what you are seeing here.

First this is the front facing Prairie Street.  If you were to remove the wall to your right you'll see another window that comes to the floor just like the one you see on the right in the photo.  This room is much larger than it looks.  Without the wall on the right you would be standing in what was the original lobby of the hotel.  The window there that comes to the floor would allow people access to the balcony.  There was a wonderful large swing on that porch. 

Furniture items left behind from long ago still remain here.

If the balcony were still here, guests would have this view.

The entire hotel has transoms.  When all the windows are open and these transoms are open as well, there is a very nice and continuous breeze blowing.  Even in these hot, humid summers we have here, one could find relief by sitting in the lobby and enjoying a that breeze. 

Since there weren't telephones in the rooms in those days, a guest would simply push this button for service.  This would ring the clerk at the registration desk in the lobby.  The clerk would then dispatch a hotel servant to attend to the needs of the guest. 

Almost every door in the building still has the original number on it. The doors are made of solid dark walnut.  Amazingly they still open and close as perfectly as the day they were built.

 Many of the doors still have these beautiful and original hinges on them.  They're ornate and incredibly well made.

Most of the rooms have sinks in them.  The shared bathrooms would be between two rooms.  They included a tub and a toilet. However, that is not what was original to the way it was in 1880. I believe I was told that there may have only been two bathrooms per floor and shared by all on that floor.  (Uhh, I don't think I could do that, do you?)

Below, all the tubs in the building are cast iron tubs. All but one. There is only one that is a claw-footed tub.  Most likely the only one original to the building.  The others were probably removed by previous owners of the past.  I tried to get a photo of that claw-footed tub, but it was in a dark room, with no power, and silly me couldn't get my flash to work.  

Almost all the rooms still have the original radiators for heat.  Some had fireplaces in addition. 

Remains of a bathroom.

More furniture left behind.

 Long ago all the side windows were bricked up by a past owner.  Why?  Who knows.

This is another door that leads to the shared bathroom and the opened door to another room.  See that wonderful dark wood peeking out from beneath that white paint? 

An old cane bottom chair found tucked away in a closet.  Like time stood still.

More furniture left behind...

Wall brackets with ornate tops, made for shelving.  

An old chair an a few other old items left behind.

Here's an old record album some one left. Tommy Sands, a very popular singer and later became an actor.  This album was released in 1957.  

An additional door in this room gave access to another hall and staircase that led to the 3rd floor.  The door is somewhat smaller than entry doors to the rooms. 

This is that stairway below.  Is this where backstairs gossip got it's start?

The woodwork on this staircase is also all original an in amazing condition.  Not one slat out of place.  Just beautiful!

In the photo above if you notice to the left of the stairs you see what looks like a door.  That is a closet under the stairs.  Want to know what was found there?

Well you will have to wait until part 3 of this 7 part blog.  Don't you just love to be kept hanging?  

Don't want to miss a single part?  Just go back to the top of this blog and enter your email address in the white bar.  What happens is that when I hit the publish button it will send you the latest blog post. That way you'll never miss a single post.

Thank you for joining me on this tour of the historic Josephine Hotel.  Be sure to catch the next post coming soon and we'll continue the tour on the first floor.