Admiral Benbow Inn
Admiral Benbow Inns were founded in Memphis, Tennessee by Robert B. Wood and expanded in partnership with Interstate Inns Inc. of Memphis. The chain had 18 restaurants and 6 motels when the Mobile-based Morrison Cafeterias Consolidated Inc. agreed to purchase it in 1967. The deal closed in April 1968.
The Homewood hotel project was announced as a $4 million, 5-story, 300-room luxury hotel in September 1970. It was developed by Johnson Rast & Hays for Joseph Sandner Jr and a local group of investors. Harry D. Hester & Associates designed the building. The site, falsely described as sitting "along the crest of Red Mountain", was annexed into Homewood. Called the Admiral Benbow Inn of Two Cities, it was to have featured a rooftop restaurant with views of Birmingham and Homewood. The meeting facilities were to have included a 2,500-seat ballroom and display areas for trade shows. The parking area was designed for 500 cars.
The final project was reduced in scope to just four floors with 200 rooms and smaller convention facilities. In April 1972 the project was listed as having a construction cost of $1.5 million. It opened on December 1, 1972. It boasted the 150-seat restaurant, lounge, meeting facilities for 300, and an outdoor swimming pool. Edmondson Management Services of Memphis operated the hotel which was franchised to Morrison Inc.
After the Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham closed in April 1973, many of the staff found employment at the Admiral Benbow. In 1974 the coaching staff of the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League leased office space at the Admiral Benbow Inn. They were evicted at the end of the season due to unpaid bills. In May 1975 the Vulcan Corvair Enthusiasts hosted the national Corvair Society of America convention at the Admiral Benbow. In October 1976 Helmsley-Spear Inc. of New York City assigned David Green to serve as general manager of the hotel.
By early 1977 the Admiral Benbow Inn had changed to the Quality Inn South, still operated by Helmsley-Spear, and Green was succeeded by Martin Conroy". In 1981 Homewood police arrested two sports promoters from Orlando for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Sportcaster Herb Winches had been in the room with them, but claimed he left as soon as he was aware drugs were present and was not arrested. In 1982 the hotel became the Ramada Inn Homewood.
In 1988 the hotel began operating as the Holiday Inn Homewood. Houston-based rapper Richard "Bushwick Bill" Shaw, formerly of the Geto Boys, was arrested at the hotel on marijuana charges in 1998. It remained a Holiday Inn hotel until at least 2005, and later was transitioned to Country Hearth Inn & Suites.
In March 2014, the Homewood City Council, citing over 150 police calls for various offenses including a a homicide and prostitution over the 32-month period since June 2011, voted to declare the business a public nuisance and revoke its business license.
The Patels filed a lawsuit against the city on March 21, and in May the owners and the city agreed to a settlement where the motel could continue to operate until July 31, by which time it would be sold to another party or closed. As the deadline loomed, the owners asked for a year's extension to comply, but on July 28 the Homewood City Council denied that request.
In June 2021 a group led by Ash Patel presented a redevelopment proposal to the Homewood Planning Commission which included demolition of the existing building for a multi-story self-storage facility fronted by restaurant and retail spaces.
As of January 2023 the vacant hotel building remains standing.
Restaurant and lounge
With the influx of former Tutwiler staff in 1973 the Tiffany Restaurant began serving the downtown hotel's famous roast beef salad. Manager Joe Alioto arrived in 1975 and expanded the menu to include Oysters Bienville, Shrimp Imperial and Chicken New Orleans. In November 1976 the hotel began offering a "Country Kettle Buffet". By the late 1980s the restaurant and lounge operating as "Ashley's".
The "Copper Top Lounge", named in honor of its copper-covered tables, was managed by Jim McGriff Jr. Early bookings included regulars like Tom & Marie and the Joe Shula Trio, along with featured visits from the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Buddy Rich in 1973. In 1977 the Copper Top advertised two for one drinks until 7 PM and regular entertainment from the Johnson Twins. For New Year's Eve 1977 the lounge hosted a 50's style party with Spanky and the Edsels.
By 1990 the lounge, which had already been hosting regular jitter bug contests, was renamed Jitter Bug, then Jitterbug's, and eventually settled on Jitterbuggs, a dance club featuring the "Sounds of the '50s, '60s and '70s".
- "Morrison Plans To Buy Motels" (October 13, 1967) Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 15
- Restaurants: Success at 4 (April 5, 1968) TIME magazine
- "Homewood to get new luxury motel." (September 24, 1970) Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 29
- Gibson, Ron (April 13, 1972) "Homewood looks like boom town." Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 9
- "Inn to open Friday" (December 1, 1972) Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 22
- Weaver, Emmett (December 15, 1972) "Attractive new lounge opens in city." Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 10
- The Oil Drop (1974) Vulcan Corvair Enthusiasts, September Newsletter Vol 1, No 4
- "Winches', police tales differ." (July 16, 1981) Birmingham Post-Herald, p. 8
- Thompson, Jeff (March 13, 2014) "Council denies business license renewal for Oxmoor hotel" The Homewood Star
- Rodriguez, Ana (March 14, 2014) "Homewood hotel license pulled after 148 police calls, including murder, prostitution, over 32 months" The Birmingham News
- Rodriguez, Ana (March 21, 2014) "Was Homewood justified in shutting down budget hotel? 500 pages of police records suggest yes." The Birmingham News
- Rodriguez, Ana (May 12, 2014) "City of Homewood asks budget hotel owners to sell or voluntarily close in proposed settlement." The Birmingham News
- Rodriguez, Ana (July 28, 2014) "Homewood budget hotel owners ask to extend business operations for one year." The Birmingham News
- Reed, Jon (July 28, 2014) "Homewood City Council denies request by budget hotel owners to keep business open another year." The Birmingham News
- McGriff, Jim Jr (2021) The First Line Manager: Leadership at the Bottom of a Corporation self-published ISBN 9798744208080
- Shnader, Ingrid (July 31, 2021) "Former hotel to be demolished, replaced with storage unit facility" The Homewood Star