About an hour ago, one of the most important landmarks in downtown Alexandria met an untimely demise. The awning outside of The Hotel Bentley’s historic Mirror Room Lounge collapsed on 3rd street. While no one was injured in the fall, what is sure to be irreparable damage was done to the old blue neon sign that beckoned thirsty guests into the basement lounge of the hotel so many years ago. Response from local police resulted from a phone call from local photographer Charles Ward. “I just called Lee Gwinn, who owns Spirits Bar and Grill, and they all got to work,” Ward remarked. Those who were close by when this tragic event occurred have disappointed looks on their faces. Shannon Nolan, owner of Finnegan’s Wake on 3rd Street, was in his pub directly across the street when he heard the awning collapse. “We heard a massive crash and though it was lightning,” Nolan said, “But when the ground shook, we went outside to have a look.” The bar emptied into the street and everyone’s jaws dropped. As the dust settled, Nolan added,“The Bentley sign just gave up the ghost.”
The Hotel Bentley has been a part of this city since it was constructed in 1908. The building is a testament to a time when the downtown area of Alexandria was thriving with business, music, and stars. Rumors have circulated over and over about possible renovations and restorations. Any news about improvement can be found at the Historic Bentley website. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the sign for the Mirror Room Lounge will be a part of any future improvements to the Hotel.
While the hotel’s framework and structure seems to be relatively undamaged, a piece of its history and culture lies in shambles. The city can only hope that some of the locals will make the most of the situation. Perhaps the tragic end to a vital piece of Alexandria’s history will spur her residents to a renewed appreciation of the downtown area. It seems interesting that the shards of glass, broken lettering, bits of wire, and rusted nails lie at the foot of an otherwise untouched and mammoth structure. The hotel has been neglected for a long time. Perhaps this was simply a cry for help.