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History of the Sheffield Hotel

Sheffield Hotel, Alabama

The Sheffield Hotel was a 5-story brick building and had 163 rooms. The hotel was located on the corner of Fifth & Montgomery in Sheffield. It was the largest hotel in the Shoals area, and one of the largest structures in the State at the time. Construction began in 1884 just as Sheffield was forming into a legitimate town and having its first land sales. Additions were added to the hotel in 1890 and 1918.

Construction of the Sheffield Hotel

Sheffield Hotel MapIn April of 1884, the Sheffield Contracting Company had already received the order to make all the bricks for the hotel, and began development of their brickyard turning out 30,000 bricks per day with a goal of increasing that to 90,000 bricks per day. Their brickyard was conveniently located along the railroad a short distance from where the railroad depot was to be built. The clay was said to be the very best and twelve feet deep in that location.

In 1887, contractors and investors fizzled, and the foundation of the hotel lay weathering for two years until a new contractor, W.J. Casey was hired. This new contractor commenced work immediately and by the end of 1890 the Sheffield Hotel was completely roofed and plaster work was beginning on the interior of the storefronts. The contractors hoped to have the retail stores that were part of the hotel occupied by May of 1891. The beautifully polished columns and elaborately carved capitals and arch stones are furnished by the T.L. Fossick Company from their celebrated quarries at Ingleton in Colbert County and Darlington in Franklin County. 

The Sheffield Hotel’s interior was finished with native pine, oak, ash, and cherry. It had 102 sleeping rooms, each an outer facing room with windows complete with Venetian blinds. The dining room was “profusely lit” with a handsome ornamental ceiling. Initial construction estimates came in around $30,000 in 1884, however by the end of construction six years later the total cost exceeded $155,000.

Miscellaneous Facts About the Sheffield Hotel

Sheffield Hotel - 1918 additionJ.B. Lagomarsino assumed ownership of the Sheffield Hotel in 1896, transforming it into a bustling hub offering various amenities such as a billiard room, barber, telegraph office, and jeweler. In 1897, the hotel narrowly escaped a destructive fire that originated in a vacant third-floor room. Fortunately, quick action by neighboring guests, who happened to be firemen from New Orleans, prevented disaster.

The hotel continued to be a focal point of the community, hosting events like the welcome reception and banquet for General Joe Wheeler in September of 1900. During the early 1900s, guests could stay in the Sheffield Hotel for $2 per day.

In 1903, T.L. Hobart, previously associated with the Metropolitan Hotel in Birmingham, assumed ownership and immediately set about completing the unfinished fourth floor. Under his management, the room rate increased to $2.50 per day, and he introduced additional services such as a complimentary bus service between Sheffield and Tuscumbia, catering to travelers arriving on Southern Railway trains at all hours. Furthermore, Hobart collaborated with the post office to extend mail drop-off hours, accommodating the midnight mail trains.

However, Hobart's tenure was short-lived, as he relinquished ownership and relocated to Denver after just one year. Henry J. Hunt, a seasoned hotelier from Chattanooga, stepped in as the new manager, ensuring the Sheffield Hotel remained a cornerstone of hospitality in the community.

Fire Destroys the Sheffield Hotel

Sheffield Hotel FireOfficials stated that every room of the Sheffield Hotel was occupied on the night of the fire on June 14, 1948. Described as the worst fire in the history of Sheffield, nobody was injured. Fire companies from Florence and Tuscumbia along with doctors and nurses came to help Sheffield fight this hotel fire. 

Called the “most destructive fire in the Shoals area”, fire first broke out in a freight elevator but was quickly extinguished. About seven hours later the night clerk smelled smoke and went to the roof and found it engulfed in flames. All the guests were quickly evacuated.

Equipment from the surrounding communities and from TVA and Reynolds Metal Co. could not reach the 5-story blaze. This permitted the hotel’s interior to be eaten away by the flames. Nearly 25,000 people came by to watch the historic Sheffield Hotel crumble in flames. 

WLAY Station Manager, Dick Biddle, broadcast the event live from just across the street and struggled because the heat was so intense.