If the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa in Mobile, Ala., were a movie set, it would be dotted with starlets wearing shiny dresses and sparkling jewelry, giving their hands to debonair gentlemen in tails as they descended the staircase.
Standing on a downtown corner for 111 years, the Battle House has returned as Mobile’s glittering social center. Although Elvis Presley, Woodrow Wilson and Cesar Romero have all slept there, they make up only a small part of this hotel’s storied past.
Captains of industry, other American presidents and Mobile’s most sought-after debutantes have all graced the Battle House with their presence.
“This hotel personifies the preservation of Mobile,” said general manager Margo Gilbert. “Not a day goes by that I don’t bump into someone who used to come here before it reopened. We are enlightening a whole new generation on what this hotel is about.”
Since 1852, there has been a Battle House on this site, where Andrew Jackson had his military headquarters during the War of 1812. After the original hotel burned, the current one was built in 1900.
Mobile society whirled around the Battle House, especially during carnival season, when its ballrooms sparkled with revelers. By 1974, however, the hotel had fallen into disrepair and closed its doors.
In June 2001, the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), announced it would renovate the Battle House and construct the tallest building in Alabama next door to it.
Six years and $132 million later, the original eight-story hotel, connected to the sleek, new RSA Battle House Tower, officially reopened with a sold-out gala that rivaled the balls of years past.
Between the original Battle House, which has 238 guest rooms, and the hotel tower, which is connected by an enclosed walkway, there are 353 rooms. Rooms in the tower are contemporary; those in the original hotel exude Old World elegance. Guests who prefer one style of room to the other can specify when they make a reservation.
With 27,000 square feet of meeting space, there are many options for prefunction, breakout and flexible meeting space among the 20 meeting rooms.
By far, the most popular space is the Crystal Ballroom, more than 4,100 square feet ornately decorated with cathedral ceilings and panoramic wall murals that illustrate the history of Mobile.
A double staircase joins in the middle and makes a presentation area, but be aware that the pillars throughout the room make sight lines difficult.
The 10,000-square-foot Moonlight Ballroom is in the new tower and can be broken into as many as five rooms.
Hubert Staley, an education specialist with the Alabama Department of Education, plans an annual conference for as many as 2,300 people at the Battle House. The hotel’s elegance and touches like a Tiffany glass dome in the lobby that is 99 percent original help bring him back.
“We keep going back because the hotel is so beautiful,” said Staley. “There are enough hotel rooms for us so close by that it’s very convenient [there are 1,200 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Battle House.”
“Anytime we’ve ever had a problem — maybe a presenter didn’t let us know what equipment was needed — it’s been taken care of right away,” said Staley. “The Battle House, to me, is luxury at its best.”
That luxury extends to the heavy red-and-gold draperies, large soaking tub, and Aveda soaps and lotions in guest rooms. A shoe-shining caddy stands beside the pink marble elevators on each floor. The European spa’s quiet room has a fire pit next to a large jacuzzi.
“I’ve lived in Mobile for 12 years, and I come to this spa because it’s like a vacation,” said Jean Dodge as she dried her hair in the ladies lounge.
There is a rooftop fitness center and pool, tennis courts, and golf nearby at Magnolia Grove and several other partner courses. A former ballroom has been converted into the Grand Presidential suite, with views of Mobile and Mobile Bay from its roomy patio. Although pricey, it includes a baby grand piano, a billiards table, a fountain, a fire pit, palm trees and a hot tub.
Sydney Hoffman is the director of the Alabama Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and she has brought as many as 450 conference attendees to the Battle House.
Hoffman has events catered from the hotel’s Trellis Room, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant that can serve up to 100 people.
“I like that there are things to do that are walking distance from the hotel, like the Mardi Gras Museum, where we catered an event. I’ve also had attendees take in a baseball game,” she said.
“I was just there this week, and a bellman helped me with my bags and gave me his card in case I needed anything. I ended up calling him to change my room so it would be closer to my meeting. He was very accommodating, as the staff always is.”