ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Nearly 1,000 people lined Alexandria's downtown sidewalks to tour historic Hotel Bentley, which has been closed since December 2004.
Businessman Mike Jenkins, who plans to renovate the 102-year-old building as condominiums and a boutique hotel, opened it to the public Saturday..
"I'm really surprised so many people showed up," Jenkins told The Town Talk (http://townta.lk/RNuuC3). "I appreciate it."
The tour was held in conjunction with the Alexandria Museum of Art's Art Market and Green Market.
People posed for pictures on the grand staircase and gazed at the ornate ceilings and marble pillars, all hearkening back to the days of grand galas in the ballroom and a time when the nation's who's who spent a night or two at the hotel.
"I used to come here with my daddy and he'd get his haircut at the barber shop. Every now and then they'd cut my bangs," said Ann Twilley of Alexandria. Her parents owned Pecks Antiques in Pineville.
"My dad always told me about how when he was a boy there were baby alligators in the lobby fountain," she said.
Michael Glorioso said he attended his 10-year Bolton High School class reunion at the Bentley in 1982.
"My stepdaughter, who got married in 2002, had her wedding pictures taken inside the hotel," Glorioso recalled.
The hotel opened in 1908. It went bankrupt and closed in the late 1960s. Investors renovated and reopened it in the 1980s, then sold it to people who sold it six months later for $5 million to Baton Rouge businessman Robert "Bob" Dean Jr., a former resident of Alexandria. He put another $2 million into renovations, but closed the hotel in December 2004.
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com