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Monday, January 23, 2017

Room #16 - Recognizing Sixteen Random Guests

      Before I go any further with this post I want to make mention that this particular post is dedicated to the Co-Owner of The Josephine Hotel, Lt. Colonel Allen B. Perrin, who passed away this past week, on January 15th. Allen, is survived by his wife, Joyce Perrin. Allen was also my friend whom I adored.  I will miss him very much and I know not only his family and friends will miss him, but the community in Union Springs will miss him too. This special man and his wife, Joyce have been very devoted to preserving The Josephine Hotel, as well as it's long and fascinating history. It is through their tireless efforts in caring for the building that I have had access to the building and historical documents. It was a privilege to get to know Allen and it will be my continued mission to research and learn more about this amazing place and the people who built and made it a success many years ago.
                        This weeks post begins here:

     I thought it would be fun to do a random acknowledging of sixteen guests who stayed at The Josephine Hotel. The idea is to pull and recognize guests of the 1950's decade when the hotel was known as The Commercial Hotel. Since I had the privilege of studying the old hotel guest registration sheets for a time and I chose sixteen random guests who all signed in at the hotel and all had one thing in common... they all stayed in room number 16.

Below: A photo I took 2 years ago of the exact door of the room of my study.

     I've mentioned in previous posts that this door was painted sometime in the 70's. The original color was the dark walnut stain that you can see through the crackled paint.  The brass room number plate is an original plate.

Below: On the same door I wanted to point out that many of the doors in the building still have there original ornate hinge hardware from 1880. Isn't that just gorgeous?

Below: Room #16 from the inside. It is much larger than it appears here in this photo. This is not the furniture that belonged to this room. These are just random pieces of furniture left here through the years.

Below: Just ring for service... Back in the day you'd just press the button and the desk clerk would send someone to your door.

Below: Transoms above every door in the building along with the high lofty ceilings helped to keep a nice breeze blowing through the building. This would be crucial in our hot and humid climate here in the south.

Below: The view from Room #16 you see The First Baptist Church of Union Springs across the street. A beautiful view and a beautiful building church building.

As I flipped through the stack of Hotel Guest Register sheets I separated the ones that were from the 1950's decade.

Next I wrote down sixteen random guests names who stayed in room #16, along with the cities or towns where they traveled from.

Here they are:

Mr. D.A. Rooch ---------- Edison, Georgia

W. W. Morgan ---------- Flint, Michigan

F. C. Sunow ---------- Dallas, Texas

Mr. & Mrs. Hayes ---------- Valdosta, Georgia

Ray Wildish ---------- Mt. Vernon, Illinois

H. T. Caruthers ---------- Memphis, Tennessee

Mr. & Mrs. Rich Collins ---------- North Hollywood, California

G. C. Grimes ---------- Little Rock, Arkansas

Jeff L. Cooley ---------- San Francisco, California

Bill Peters ---------- Asbury Park, New Jersey

E. A. Wright ---------- Water Valley, Mississippi

Thomas & Sarah Kiner ---------- Bristol, Indiana

A. A. Schmidt ---------- Oakridge, Tennessee

H. W. Wasserman ---------- Atlanta, Georgia

G. D. Anderson & Wife ------- Dayton, Ohio (Roland's Originals)

Mr. & Mrs. William McGraw ---------- Philadelphia, PA.

There you have it. Sixteen names of people from all over the United States who have nothing in common but that over the course of a decade all stayed at different times in room number #16.  Maybe they requested that room. Was it because of the view of Prairie Street? Was it a warmer room? Quieter? All of these folks did have another thing in common. They all came to Union Springs. Look back at those cities. Wow! No kidding? They came from all over the place. Remember, I narrowed the names down from hundreds to just sixteen names. There were so many who came from so far away. Places like, New York, Montana, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Colorado. What were they doing here?  Visiting friends, relatives? Passing through? Who knows.

One of the contributing factors were the two major railroad lines that made an indelible junction for the city. One line was the Mobile / Girard Line. The other was the Montgomery/Eufaula line.Train passengers and the crews of those trains sometimes had lay overs in Union Springs.  This was easy for me to see based on all the employees who worked for the railroads signed into the guest registers.

The other reason for travelers stopping in at the Josephine was the two major highways crisscrossing right through the middle of town. Highway 82 and Highway 29 had folks motoring through Union Springs night and day as they continue to do right now.

So what happened? For reasons I don't know, both railroads stopped coming through Union Springs. When that exactly happened, I don't know. But based on the hotel guest registers that I examined, which were from the late 1940's to 1970, I could see for my self the steady decline of guests staying at the hotel. As far as I could tell the 40's and 50's were pretty steady and the rooms stayed filled. Even through the early 60's and then in the late 60's and the beginning of 1970, it just took a nose dive. It seemed like many of the sign-in pages, which had now been converted to what looks like a large index card, where many only had a few names and some were completely blank. I don't have to be a detective to figure that out.

The owners of the hotel at the time had to be struggling to keep the doors open. When you have a retail or service type business, the people in your town can rally around you. They can raise your revenue by purchasing your goods or use the service you provide. But Sadly, there is not much local residents can do to help a hotel.

By the mid 1980's the hotel portion of the building finally closed it's doors for good. The Josephine had a long 100 year run as a fully functioning hotel. Now, the three store spaces on the ground floor have, for most of the 136 year history, have almost always been occupied as a business or multiple businesses to this day.

Hopefully, one day The Josephine will have new life breathed into her and she can once more open her doors to travelers who are just passing through or participating in the Field Trials at Sedgefield Plantation or attending the fantastic Red Door Theatre for a play or eating at the Hill Top Grill and having yourself a, "Voted Best Burger In Alabama" hamburger or try a yummy meal at 82 West, where you are sure to need to let your belt out at least two notches before leaving. You absolutely must stop by FPH Bakery and enjoy a sumptuous slice of cake or pie.  Amber's homemade scones are a must.  But don't even think of leaving without one of her delicious gourmet cupcakes. Friends, you just have to see this adorable place and experience it for yourself.  Be sure to take a tour of this sleepy little town and see some of the most beautiful historic homes in all of Alabama. Not to mention the spectacular architecture of its buildings and churches. These are just a few of the many, many things to do here. 

Union Springs will be back on the map one day. Maybe one day you'll be able to stay at the historic Josephine Hotel. Maybe one day you can request to stay in room... #16. If you do, you'll be in good company and will go down in history as one of the many who stayed in room #16.

That's all for now. Be sure to check back for the latest blog post at Oh, that Josephine.

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