During the Civil War, the Brantley was occupied by Union troops during the Battle of Selma. Due to its concentration of Confederate arsenals and factories, the occupying army burned much of the city. Fortunately, the St. James and other structures on Water Street were spared. Together they form the heart of the revitalized historic district and represent one of the finest collections of antebellum industrial buildings in the South.
Following the war, the hotel was operated by Benjamin Sterling Turner; the first African American ever elected to the United States Congress. He reportedly hosted the legendary outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse James in 1881. In 1892, the hotel fell upon hard times and ceased operations.
The doors were closed on the building, and were not reopened for a century. A group of investors purchased the old hotel and after putting in approximately $6 million in restorations, they were able to officially reopen the doors of the establishment in 1997 as the St. James Hotel.
Since its reopening, two of the most reported “hauntings” in the hotel include Jesse James and his girlfriend Lucinda. Several have claimed to have seen the apparition of a man dressed in attire that was common for a man in the late 1800s. He is most often seen in the rooms in which he typically stayed – rooms 214, 314, and 315. However, he also has been sighted at a certain table in the bar.
Many things are known about Lucinda. For one, she enjoyed the scent of lavender so much that when someone smelled the scent, they knew she was near. Today, several witnesses claim they are able to smell lavender with no logical explanation. In other instances, a full apparition of Lucinda is said to be walking the halls of the structure.
In the area of the courtyard, many strange events have been reported. First, several witnesses have observed what appears to be residual hauntings of individuals who are fully clothed in dress that was common to the 1800s. They seem unaware of the “living” surrounding them.
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