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Lauderdale Hotel: A Forgotten Piece of History


The Lauderdale Hotel was located approximately two and a half miles East of downtown Florence, Alabama, on a high hill with a commanding view of the Tennessee Valley. The hotel was built in 1889 and was one of the most imposing structures in the area at the time. A model of convenience and beauty situated a couple of hundred yards back from the McAlester Manufacturing Company’s factory overlooking the Tennessee river.

The hotel, located in the far eastern limits of the city, was built during the boom days by the Railroad & Improvement Company for the purpose of boarding the employees of the McAlester Manufacturing Company whose jeans clothing factory was located nearby. The company was organized in 1889 and employed forty-eight women who were skilled in the operation of steam powered sewing machines. The girls were paid $1 a dozen for making pantaloons, and averaged $8 a week. They paid $2.50 each board at the hotel.

The hotel faced a tragic event on May 28, 1890, when the body of Edward McKenna, was discovered suspended from a transom with a ten-foot United States flag wrapped around his neck. McKenna was employed at the hotel as a cook, and came to Florence just two weeks earlier from Philadelphia. He was in seeming good spirits the day previous, but was in bad health, which was assigned as the cause of his insane act. During the night he entered the cupola, and taking the flag rope, hung himself to the transom. He left behind a widow and several children. The incident was a tragic reminder of the human toll that industrialization can take on the workforce.

On a Friday morning, in late December of 1894, the Lauderdale Hotel was totally destroyed by fire. The fire was caught while the ladies of the house were rendering lard, and the building being of wood, it spread rapidly and was soon beyond control. The building had cost about $18,000, but its location so far from town reduced its value largely. It was not insured, and has been essentially erased from history, apart from this article you’re currently reading. 



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