The Huntsville on the Record series is a partnership between The Law Firm of Siniard, Timberlake, and League and We Are Huntsville.
Thank you Michael Timberlake, Bart Siniard, and Jerry Barclay
How many of you know about the amazing bit of history found at the top of Monte Sano Mountain? I surely didn’t and was thrilled to learn of the famed Hotel Monte Sano which was a turn-of-the-century draw for the wealthiest travelers in America. Hotel Monte Sano was built in 1887, operated until 1900, and remained on site until 1944.
During the 1890s, with yellow fever and many other illnesses of unknown origin gripping the country, Monte Sano’s pristine, fresh mineral waters and cool mountain top temperatures beckoned American travelers of the most extraordinary wealth to vacation here.
As you may know, Monte Sano is Spanish for “Mountain of Health” and was uniquely known for its restorative powers. It became the place to go for a period of time in the late 1880s.
Travelers would come from downtown Huntsville to Hotel Monte Sano on a railway system developed to transport people to and from the Hotel and the upper mountain area. There was also a carriage service called the Tally-Ho that was set up to help travel the dirt roads of the 1800s on the mountain.
America’s first aristocrats, such as the Vanderbilt and Astor families vacationed at the top of our local Monte Sano. This Hotel was built with them in mind and was well-equipped to host such American royalty.
Though the Hotel had no running water, each room had a wash stand that was filled regularly with fresh, restorative mountain water. Attractions for vacationers were rarely seen bowling lanes, outdoor hiking, tennis, and of course a dip in the natural springs for the American aristocracy. For all its successes, it was only active for about 13 years, as the whims of the upper-class moved on to other leisure locations. According to historians, it was advertised that about 300 people could have been housed at any given time at the height of the Hotel’s popularity.
Currently, we can view the 3-story-tall brick chimney on Old Chimney Road as the single remnant of the historic gem that once stood as Hotel Monte Sano.
What a thing it must have been to see true American royalty traveling to Huntsville, Alabama for their family vacation, enjoying the mountain top of one of our very own treasures, Monte Sano Mountain. I’ll certainly look at Monte Sano Mountain with new admiration from now on.
Look for more Hunstville on the Record articles coming soon!
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