TALLASSEE -- Fire has heavily damaged a landmark hotel in east Alabama. The Hotel Talisi was destroyed in a blaze that was first reported in the pre-dawn hours Monday. An adjoining consignment store also was badly damaged. No injuries were reported, but the old brick hotel is reportedly a total loss. The Hotel Talisi was known as much for its restaurant as its rooms. The dining room featured Southern cooking that drew guests from miles around and was popular with Auburn football fans in the fall. The hotel was sold this fall to a group of investors and reopened in October under new management. The hotel's Web site said it has undergone extensive renovations.
The Elmore County district attorney's office wants to charge as an adult a juvenile accused of starting the fire that destroyed the historic Hotel Talisi. If the juvenile is tried as an adult, the charges against him will include two counts of arson, third-degree burglary, third-degree theft of property and first-degree criminal mischief, District Attorney Randall Houston said. Houston said his office would file a petition to move the case to circuit court. "We believe we have a good argument and a good basis to transfer him (to adult court)," Houston said. He said state law prevents him from sharing any more information about the case unless the juvenile's status changes. The juvenile was arrested about 4 p.m. Monday. The fire started early Monday morning in the Smarty Pants Consignments store behind the Hotel Talisi, then spread to the Tallassee landmark. The Hotel Talisi, which opened in 1928, was well-known for its restaurant. It had closed in 2008 and had been open again for less than a month. A spokesman with the state fire marshal's office said Tuesday that investigators believe the fire was started to hide a burglary at the consignment store. The city has torn down the consignment store and is conducting a structural analysis of the hotel, Tallassee Mayor George McCain said. An initial analysis Tuesday seemed to indicate that the damage was not as bad as first thought in the front of the building, particularly on the first floor, McCain said. Some of the kitchen equipment from the famous Hotel Talisi restaurant was salvaged, he said.
Police did not release the suspect's name or age. (Tallassee police chief Jimmy) Rodgers said Monday evening that the arrest was made based on information obtained earlier in the day and that police still were working with the district attorney's office to decide on charges. The Hotel Talisi was fully involved in flames about 3:30 a.m. Monday as about 120 firefighters from several area fire departments responded. The fire started in an adjacent consignment store, which also was destroyed. Both buildings most likely will have to be razed because of the safety hazard they present, Rodgers said earlier Monday . . . Tallassee Mayor George McCain said the loss of the landmark is devastating for the city."What it means is we are going to have to completely rebuild downtown because that is the anchor of downtown," McCain said.