At 5:05 p.m. today, Mayor William Bell will cut a ribbon and the Hassinger Daniels Mansion will open to the public for the first time since 1898. The ceremony marks the beginning of a bed and breakfast and the end of a two and a half year renovation – a renovation that oversaw the addition of 14 bathrooms and the subtraction of all mid-20th century changes that occurred, taking it back to its original Victorian floor plan and features.
“The renovation was much harder than our first one of Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast,” says Sheila Chaffin, owner of the Hassinger Daniels Mansion and Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast.
While Cobb Lane underwent various modifications over the years, Hassinger Daniels still had its original wiring before the renovation, and certain areas of the house couldn’t be properly heated or air conditioned. The plumbing and much of the roof needed to be replaced. It also needed water line extensions and full abatement. As involved as the renovation was, the decision to turn it into a B&B was obvious.
“It was built to be a residence and looks like a residence, so it’s an excellent conversion to a bed-and-breakfast,” Chaffin says.
Once opened, Hassinger Daniels Mansion and Cobb Lane will represent the B&B market in Birmingham. The next closest B&B is the Columbiana Inn Bed and Breakfast, located in Shelby County. While the market is meager, Chaffin enjoys the guests that her B&Bs attract.
“They’re sophisticated travelers,” Chaffin says. “They’ve been to many hotel chains, and they are seeking something different.”
The differences range from something as big as the service and the variety of the rooms to something as small as being able to open the windows. One of Chaffin’s favorite Cobb Lane stories involves a tense businessman opening his window during a thunderstorm and letting the rain wash over his face.
“I thought he was going to complain,” Chaffin says with a laugh. “But he just wanted to tell me how much it helped him relieve stress before his presentation the next day.”
The house, a Victorian mansion, sits in the middle of Highland Avenue’s “silk stocking neighborhood.” The neighborhood got its nickname because those who lived there were rich enough to afford “silk stockings.” While the moniker has stuck, the original Victorian decor that accompanied the neighborhood is mostly gone.
“There used to be a whole community of these houses,” says Chaffin. “Now there’s only two left.”
Hassinger Daniels’ ownership history has helped it outlive the other mansions. In the 115 years since being built, it has only had three owners. According to Chaffin, the continuity has squashed any chance the house would have been commercialized. Location is another aspect that has helped to extend its lifespan.
“Being in the middle of the block contributed to its preservation, since corner properties along principle roadways have the greatest pressure to commercialize first,” Chaffin says.
The mansion is named after its previous owners, William Hassinger, the president of the Southern Iron and Steel Company, and his wife, Venoa Daniels. He built the 10,022 square foot brick and limestone mansion for his family, which included seven children.
While operating a B&B won’t be new for Chaffin, operating one this big will be. Hassinger Daniels is more than twice the size of Cobb Lane, and will feature three more rooms. Each of the 10 rooms will feature a different theme. There will be a Camelot room that features carved Camelot carousel horses and a Vulcan Vista room, which has 115-year-old stained glass windows that provide views of the Vulcan statue.
“The mansion is gorgeous, truly beautiful, in its restored condition,” Chaffin says. “We’re delighted to finally be ready to open for business.”
The rooms range from $109-159 and the innkeepers are offering a 20% discount on all rooms during the months of July and August.