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OPINION: The Talisi Hotel, of Tallassee, is an Albatross that Needs to be Removed



An Opinion from Griffin Pritchard of Tallassee.

So let’s talk about the Albatross. It has two definitions: 1) a large seabird with a 10-foot plus wingspan and 2) an issue that causes great problems and serves as a yoke weighing down forward progress.

Since Tallassee’s not exactly an oceanfront property, let’s stick to the second definition.

Let me better conceptualize it for you: The Hotel Talisi is an albatross around the neck of Tallassee’s progress and it stems greatly from the fact that ownership has had 12 years to do something with that deathtrap and, despite progress at the pace of a 500-year-old turtle stuck in slowly freezing molasses, nothing has changed.

It’s still a structure that may or may not fall in; that may or may not be coated with mold; that may or may not be the flea capital of town; that is an eyesore; that is a stumbling block to progress.

However – before Tallassee can move forward and begin the process of unencumbrance from such a weighty and bowed-wall monument to stagnation – we need to go back to figure out how the city got into this mess to begin with.

Paraphrasing Wikipedia – yes, I was shocked too to see that the Hotel had a Wiki – “The building was built in 1928 as a replacement for a building that had been destroyed in 1915. The name was changed from Woodall Hall to the Hotel Talisi in 1962 where it housed a restaurant on the first floor that was noted for its fried chicken and was a popular venue for weddings and parties. In July 1977 the building was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. It was damaged in 2009 by an act of arson. In 2013, the building’s owner announced plans to repair and reopen the building. In March 2019 the Tallassee City Council voted to condemn the building with plans to demolish the structure.

I guess as a response – the city’s decision to rip the bandaid off the festering wound – the “hotel was added to the Alabama Heritage mag’s Places in Peril.”

That’s a lot of water moving downstream I know, and with the involvement of the hysterical society, it only gets muddier.

Because, second only to a useless local politician, Historical Societies do more to stymie progress.

For example, this is the listing underneath the Hotel Talisi in the Places in Peril publication: “The Hotel Talisi, Tallassee, is under an immediate threat. After a devastating fire and failed rehabs, the community and state landmark has been condemned as a public nuisance and slated for demolition. A late appeal filed by the owner has delayed the demo through May 14, 2019. There needs to be a considerable effort made stabilize [sic] the buildings and renovate it, so Tallassee doesn’t lose this important place.”

Never let the facts get in the way of a great story.

They are only interested in telling a part of the story – not the fact that the owner of this derelict structure has been given more than ample time (cough…12-plus years….cough) to either make water or get off the pot (the nice way of saying such a true southernism).

And yet he dithers.

To some I may come across as being heavy-handed in my disdain for all crumbling things historic. But I’m not. More than a decade – this place burned in 2009, keep in mind – has passed and yet this structure, by the sheer grace of failed leadership, fried chicken memories and the willpower of the town’s 80 and 90-year-olds, still stands. 

And the city, ultimately, remains liable.

Think about what happens if some wayward resident happens to be admiring the scene of the crime when a wall falls. They aren’t going to sue the owner first, they are going to sue the city for their pound of flesh because, ultimately, it’s past administrations fault that the building has stood for such a long time. It takes a leader to step up and say hey, something has to change. That’s leadership – anything less is a guy standing in front a group holding everyone up from moving forward.

Until the current administration took the initiative to navigate the city into the 21st century, it was never as painfully obvious how stagnant and ineffective the town’s past leadership was.

Status Quo and a Mayberry mentality prevented so much from happening both on an economic and industrial development level.

But now – there is a path to a modern existence – despite a historic albatross weighing down the momentum.

The council vowed to keep the hotel ownership’s feet to the fire.

Great. Groovy. Awesome. Good on ya.

Then ‘Rona hit and the world shut down. What should have been a simple situation of – time limit set / ownership failed to meet expectation / the city has a new green space at the owner’s expense –  has turned into excuse after excuse after excuse after … stop being mean to this old building.

And now – on top of all the other excuses one can proffer while choosing to kick the metaphorical can further down the road – lawyers are involved.

That’s right folks, there is currently litigation against the city to stop the inevitable for … reasons. Apparently there is an “investor” “interested” in “reviving” the Hotel. I take all of those phrases with a grain of salt because in situations like this male bovine excrement tends to flow freely from the mouths of those faced with spending money.

Or could it be that ownership supported a different candidate during the last mayoral election (as evidenced by a signage sticking out like activated on a decaying corpse) and lost and now he’s having to get back to the reality of the situation.

The ownership – instead of investing the money in what surely is going to be an overpriced attorney with some sort of axe to grind against the city – could possibly invest in hanging a few new windows, a shingle, offering to spay and neuter all the feral cats that now call the MEOWtel Talisi their home – something, anything to show progress.

I have no sympathy and really the citizens of Tallassee shouldn’t either.

Twelve years have passed.

Twelve classes have graduated Tallassee High School.

Twelve football seasons have come and gone.

Twelve years worth of people have walked through downtown and thought …How the…Floofenstein…is this thing still standing.

Griffin Pritchard is a veteran newspaper guy that lives in Tallassee.