Saint James Hotel
Spirits of a well-known outlaw and his squeeze are still vacationing here.
An older spectral resident doesn’t like dumb questions…
A past guest who unexpectedly died here is bitter and angry!
The St. James Hotel, now known as The Saint James Hotel Selma (Tapestry Collection by Hilton), is the crown jewel of Water Avenue. It is in a prime location, with a great view of the Alabama River and the Edmond Pettus Bridge. It shines as a mid-size boutique hotel with the complete renovations done to rooms and bathrooms as well as common areas.
The three story structure still has its southern antebellum features, and the original rooms still have their beautiful fireplaces and their original mantles. To add to the antebellum flair, a grand staircase was built in the middle of the lobby that leads up to the floors of rooms.
There are forty-two rooms and suites. Thirteen of them were added to the hotel, many of which have balconies that offer a view of the river and bridge.
The bar and restaurant have been revitalized, offering services twenty-four hours a day.
For special events and meetings, both large and small, the St. James Hotel could accommodate with two rooms in the past. The elegant Brantly Ballroom, which opened up onto the Alabama River Terrace, was used for formal affairs, receptions, or other large gatherings of up to 200 people. For smaller events or meetings, the Old Bridge Room was the perfect size for groups of twenty-thirty-five or so.
As of 2022, there are now four meeting rooms advertised that hold up to one hundred seventy-five people. They may have divided the ballroom into four smaller rooms as this would be a more practical use for the Brantly Ballroom’s large space, where they can host the seminars, meetings, and other events of businesses and organizations.
The 1837 Saint James Hotel Selma is the only surviving antebellum riverfront hotel in Selma, making it one of the oldest hotels still up and running in Alabama. From its opening, it has offered a serene get-away from life’s stresses, offering upscale and pleasant surroundings and perks of the era.
The Saint James was originally called The Brantly, a name it operated under for its first fifty years of being used as a place to rest and unwind, serving as a home away-from-home for visiting plantation owners, business men and some other less than upstanding citizens on occasion.
When the Civil War broke out, the owner of The Brantly, Henry Gee, joined the Confederate Army, leaving a former slave and self-made businessman, Benjamin Sterling Tower, in charge as general manager.
This fine hotel became the headquarters of the Union forces during the Battle of Selma, as well as the home of Union occupation forces in what was left of the city afterwards.
Unfortunately, most of the city was burned down because of the high number of Confederate arsenals and factories. Luckily, The Brantly and some of the other buildings on Water Street were spared a fiery end.
After the war ended, it continued to be operated by Benjamin Sterling Tower, who eventually became the first black man ever elected to Congress.
In 1881, famous outlaws Frank and Jesse James and their gang took a break from robbing people and decided to take a holiday at The Brantly, developing a fondness for the place. During this time, the hotel was more of a tavern, and one could rent a room on a long term basis, like an apartment.
Around 1892, the hotel went downhill, hit hard by dreary financial times, and closed its doors as a hotel for 100 years, during which it deteriorated from a fixer-upper to a forlorn building that luckily had good structural bones. Various businesses such as a tire-recapping facility moved into the first floory. As the building deteriorated, it was abandoned, and was in danger of being torn down.
Around 1991, a group of investors and the community of Selma, led by the city council who valued their historic buildings, began a three year effort to raise the money needed to renovate this aging, dilapidated but beloved building.
Their six million dollar fundraiser was completed in 1997, though restoration and renovation proved to be an on-going task. The hotel was restored enough to open its doors in 1997 with a new name, The St. James Hotel, giving hope to the funky-looking, historic downtown area. It became the highlight of that section of town.
Renovated and restored by Lovelady Construction, the hotel kept its old Southern and historical charm, while adding modern perks to please 21st century guests. It opened again with twenty-nine guest rooms and suites, many with glorious views of the Alabama River or the majestic courtyard. Four riverview suites had “private, wrought-iron balconies, whirlpool tubs and gas-burning fireplaces.”
There were two restaurants to choose from. The Troup House Restaurant, for elegant, fine dining, offered traditional Southern cooking. For more informal, casual meals, folks could go to the Saint James Drinking Room, which also featured contemporary music and a wide-screen TV.
However, the next eight years were not kind to the hotel’s business despite its prime location neighboring buildings remained in a run-down state and in need of vitalization.
Finally, the Selma City Council bought the property and took over its management when it was still struggling to stay open. Alas, the Saint James Hotel shut its doors once again in 2015.
Not wanting to see the six million dollar 1997 investment go down the drain, the Selma City Council worked hard to find a buyer for this historic property. Finally, in 2018, the future of the Saint James was secured when Rhaglan Hospitality, (a division of Hilton Hotels) stepped and spent two years restoring and renovating this beloved property, which reopened in 2021 as The Saint James Hotel Selma.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
People who die suddenly in pursuit of their goals, often don’t want to go to the other side, and are stuck in this world with their restlessness and anger about their sudden, unexpected death.
Brumder Mansion Bed and Breakfast, WI (In the late 1930s, a doctor and his family lived on the third floor. He had his office in the first floor library. He and his son were suddenly killed in a car crash. He couldn’t accept his death, and stayed in his favorite 3rd floor room, grudgingly sharing it and the other 3rd floor rooms with the living, until recently when he was able to let go of his anger and leave, though he still visits).
OK Corral, AZ (The spirit of Henry Clanton was shot dead in the gun battle with the Earp posse at this famous place. He was expecting to finally reach his goal of being able to kill the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, but was angry when he was the one to die. He is stuck in this world because he wants a rematch, not able to accept his deadly defeat).
SAINT JAMES HOTEL Selma, AL (A male spirit is still angry about suddenly dying in the middle pursuing something important to him).
People who have an unpleasant end sometimes reside in the place where they have found peace in this world for their afterlife.
Kahler Grand Hotel, MN (Broch candy heiress Helen Vorhees was brutally beaten to death by Mafia thugs because she threatened to turn their race horse scam upside-down. Her spirit resides in this special place where she found peace and joy).
Wabasha Caves, MN (Three gangsters who had many good times in this night club were murdered by a hitman. Their spirits reside here, enjoying their old card games and the present social events as well, dwelling on pleasant things and not their deaths)
Kelton House Museum, OH (After dying in a Civil War battle, the spirit of Oscar Kelton moved back to his family’s home where other family spirits also reside).
SAINT JAMES HOTEL Selma, AL (Jesse James had an unpleasant end, being suddenly shot dead by surprise. His spirit and the spirit of his girlfriend have reunited in their afterlife in their favorite hotel where they have many great memories).
People who enjoyed eating and drinking in their favorite tavern or restaurant while alive, sometimes continue to frequent there as spirits.
Wayside Irish Pub, NY (Several spirits who reside here loved this pub while alive, and still do as spirits).
Brother Sebastian’s Restaurant and Winery, NE (A spectral patron isn’t letting the fact that he is a spirit stop him from enjoying himself).
General Wayne Inn, PA (Spirits of Hessian soldiers loved this bar as much as they did while they were alive).
SAINT JAMES HOTEL Selma, AL (Several spirits are still patrons of the Saint James Hotel bar).
Death sometimes doesn’t separate a pet from its human caretaker.
Vendome Inn, AZ (The loving kitty of a TB patient died here of starvation along with its mistress. Both spirits reside here).
Morgan House, MA (The spirit of nine year old Alphie and his spectral dog DoDo are constant companions in the family home).
Clinkscale Hotel, Bar and Grill, AZ (Madame Banter had a pampered cat in life who is still her spectral pet, as she is still in residence).
SAINT JAMES HOTEL Selma, AL (The spirit of Jesse James also has his spectral dog to keep him company!).
According to the Library of Congress, there are at least three known spirits who still enjoy their favorite hotel.
The Spirit of Jesse James
A male apparition dressed in 1880 cowboy threads, complete with spurs, has been seen coming out of upstairs guest rooms 214, 314, and 315.
Jesse has been spotted in the bar as well. Employees have seen him sitting at his favorite corner table, which is left of the bar.
The Spirit of Jesse’s girlfriend, Lucinda
Her picture hangs downstairs, which must please her.
Her entity has been described as being that of a tall, beautiful, black-haired woman with a calm demeanor, who has a lavender scent.
She floats around the hotel, sometimes stopping merely to look at the living. Apparently, she likes to people watch!
A Phantom Puppy Child
Has been heard running around the upstairs, barking.
It is thought to be the canine companion of Jesse James.
Spectral Social Time
Odd, unexplainable sounds have been heard coming from the inner courtyard when no one living was there.
Barking dogs have been heard, coming from the courtyard when no dogs were there.
Apparitions have been seen by psychics standing around the courtyard, dressed in 1800s clothing, socializing, unaware of the living.
This activity could be residual energy, a replay of the past, or real spirits visiting their favorite place to catch up with each other. (Elmwood Cemetery, TN)
Spectral Bar Fun
An entity started to clang together the glasses behind the bar.
The behavior ended when an employee yelled at this mischievous spirit to stop it.
Room 304 is still home to a spirit who died before he could finish what he had to do, leaving him angry and restless.
A new cook stayed here until he found an apartment and was treated to paranormal activity caused by his unseen roommate.
The cook observed flashes of light repeatedly coming through his room’s window.
The curtains in his room would move by themselves without any help from the wind or from the cook himself.
Brantly Ballroom Space
A disembodied male’s voice was heard by the manager and some employees at the same time, when they were walking through the room.
A psychic research team did some EVP recording in this room, asking “Is anyone there?”
When playing back the tape, the scratchy voice of an older man said, ‘Well, that’s a stupid question.”
Spirit of an elderly gentleman
The apparition of an older man wearing a hat has been seen sitting on a bench in the Saint James Drinking Room.
He may be the spirit who resides in Room 304 and is angry about dying before he was ready.
This spirit may have been the same one who gave a rude response to question asked by a paranormal investigator in the Brantly Ballroom area.
Guests and staff have had personal experiences with the spirits who reside in this hotel.
Alabama Foundation For Paranormal Research conducted some investigations, including recording EVPs, and found evidence of entities in the hotel.
A psychic who stayed in Room 304 had a conversation with an angry apparition, mad because he had died before he finished his to do list.
Most Probably So!
Spirits are probably still residing in the original rooms, and may still visit the revamped bar area. The original rooms are now more upscale which may please the spectral residents while keeping the original features like the fireplaces. The reasons why they have chosen to spend their afterlife here haven’t changed, and they will continue to do so.
1200 Water Avenue
Selma, Alabama 36701
The St. James can be found in the heart of Selma’s revitalized historic district, on the banks which have a fantastic view of the Alabama River as well as the city of Selma itself.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr