The Vagabond – The Dwight Inn burned twice in Alabama City

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By Danny Crownover

On September 1, 1900, the only hotel until recent times to be built in Alabama City, the Dwight Inn, caught fire at 1 a.m. in the morning, the alarm being turned in by a nearby resident.

The hotel was owned by the Dwight Manufacturing Company, mostly to accommodate employees and visitors that had business with the big cotton mill company.

The fire department promptly responded, but the blaze had a head start. The fire, which was believed to be started through a bad flue or rats chewing on wires, started in the rear of the building and in no time at all had spread to every portion.

The hotel, which cost $4,000 and had $2,500 insurance, was run by J.A. Pettigrew. It had 20 well-furnished rooms and was full of guest at the time of the blaze. All but one of the guests escaped, with some of them narrowly avoiding death.

The one guest who did not escape was A.C. Baer of Harmony Grove, Georgia. Baer occupied a room on the second floor just over the spot where the fire started. It was evident that he got out of bed and headed for the stairway but become confused by the smoke and ended up in a room across the hall.

Baer, whose charred remains were recovered short-ly before noon, was a German musician who came to the area to instruct the Mitchell Brass Band, which was named in honor of Col. R.A. Mitchell, an agent for the Dwight Manufacturing Company. Baer was 60 years old and left a wife and several children. He had formed and taught an excellent band that played frequently in Alabama City.

Mitchell announced that the hotel would be rebuilt at once, and it was not long before workmen were busy on the new structure. In fact, the new hotel was in operation in a few weeks and was one of the familiar landmarks of Alabama City for more than a quarter of a century.

In February of 1927, a fire again broke out in the new Dwight Inn. Due to extremely cold weather, the water pipes in Alabama City were frozen to such an extent that they failed to furnish any water for the firefighters. The blaze, which started on the roof, caused $15,000 worth of damage. Twenty-five guests were forced into the bitter cold.

The firemen did a good job of saving adjoining property. The post office located next door caught fire, but very little damage was done, and the government property was saved. The hotel, however, was destroyed, this time to such an extent that it was not rebuilt. The rubbish was re-moved, and the site eventually was turned over to a filling station. The hotel stood at the corner of Wall Street and Kyle Avenue (now Meighan Boulevard).

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