I am speaking of the Old Exchange Hotel at the corner of Commerce and Montgomery streets in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. Built in approximately 1847 it was the scene of many famous events, but the most famous one was when Jefferson Davis arrived on the evening of February 16, 1861.
From the Commerce Street balcony of the hotel, President Davis was introduced to the people of Montgomery and welcomed by William Yancey, who had been appointed by the mayor and council to deliver the address of formal welcome. This was when Yancey delivered these famous words, “the man and the hour have met”!
On Feb 18 Mr. Davis was inaugurated as President before a gathering of more than ten thousand people. The procession to the capitol formed at the Exchange Hotel.
The members of the Confederate cabinet were quartered temporarily in the Exchange where they held informal conferences. It was from the President’s office in the hotel on April 11 that the telegraphic orders were given to fire on Fort Sumter. This message was carried to the telegraph office in the Winter building across the street from the hotel.
In 1904 the old hotel building was removed to make room for a new building. In 1906 the New Exchange Hotel was completed but regrettably this hotel was replaced in 1974 by an office building. Don’t you wish the original building was still standing and that we could “hear those walls talk”?