Modern History - 405 Magazine

Modern History

Old and new converge at Birmingham’s Elyton Hotel.

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Old and new converge at Birmingham’s Elyton Hotel

Birmingham, Alabama’s iconic 1909 Empire Building overflows with Southern hospitality and charm, welcoming guests as Elyton Hotel. One of the city’s oldest skyscrapers, the 16-story building underwent a $27 million renovation five years ago. Today it pampers guests with modern amenities and design.

Ornate Classic Revival architectural details — like the granite Doric columns and molded terra-cotta facade — cause passerby to pause outside. Intricate designs in various patterns, colors and shapes draw your gaze up, and if you look closely, you’ll spy carvings of faces at the very top. Upon completion, this impressive structure was the tallest building downtown. The name “Elyton” is a nod to Elyton, Alabama, a historical town that predated Birmingham and was named after federal land agent William Ely, who played an instrumental role in developing the area.

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History buffs may also appreciate the curious marker on the corner of 20th Street and 1st Avenue, just steps away from the Elyton Hotel entrance, reading “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” This commemorates the massive amount of marble and stone that went into the Empire Building combined with the adjacent buildings of the Woodward Building, Brown-Marx Tower and the John Hand Building. All were completed in the early 1900s.  

The Elyton Hotel entry is flanked in various marbles and features a rising staircase, original to the building, and antique chandeliers to amplify the aesthetic — but the lobby’s modern interior design is both refreshing and well balanced against all of the hotel’s historical elements. Oversized sconces and blended blue-and-white walls evoke a feeling of floating through the clouds. Playful decor and contemporary furniture enhance the room’s bubbly personality, and while a large oriental rug grounds the space in tradition, its bold pattern and colors seem to suggest, “There’s something new happening here.”

Modern themes continue throughout the hotel’s 111 rooms and six suites, with black, white and chartreuse being the colors of choice. The Presidential Suite includes a luxurious sunken tub and chartreuse glass doors in the bathroom. 

Food and drink at the Elyton celebrate flavors of the South. The Yard restaurant rotates a seasonal menu, although the popular Cornish hen and fried okra are almost always available. On a breezy summer eve, head upstairs and outside to find Moonshine, the rooftop bar that serves up small plates and craft cocktails. Try the signature cocktail, “The Lady in the Moon,” inspired by the female faces incorporated into the Empire Building’s architecture; they’re easy to admire from patio seats. Sip this pleasing mix of rosemary, prosecco, lemon, simple syrup and gin while you soak in the downtown Birmingham skyline. It’s a great way to top off your visit — and it just may have you toasting to the Elyton Hotel, where new and old live together beautifully.

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