- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh is a handy man to have around the Alabama State House. During the 2015 legislative session, the state’s top senator tore down walls known as filibusters, swept the floor of unwanted bills and drew a blue print for bringing gambling to Alabama.

For his next project, in his home district and far away from the Statehouse, Marsh will remake a mansion.

Marsh Properties, operated by Marsh, R-Anniston, has acquired downtown Anniston’s historic Victoria Inn from the Anniston City Council.

The city council, which voted on Monday to transfer the property to Marsh Properties, is giving away the historic inn for free under the condition that the new owner spends at least $1.5 million on renovations.

The city has sought someone to take over the Victoria Inn since soon after it acquired the property from Jacksonville State University Foundation in 2013.

In an interview this week, Marsh said the city issued a request for proposals but didn’t receive a single response. The city then issued a second request, with Marsh Properties as the only contender.

“It’s not something I would have typically taken on, but my wife and I are in position to take it on and we’re excited about it,” Marsh said. “We think it’s an important historical facility for the area and we want to maintain it.”

Marsh said the company plans to rename Victoria Inn as Hotel Finial, named after the 19th Century finial atop the main house.

According to the Victoria Inn’s website, John Mckleroy - a Confederate veteran, state school superintendent and two-time candidate for governor - built the structure in 1888 as his home on a hill. Nearly 100 years later, Anniston developer Earlon McWhorter and architect Julian Jenkins restored the home and in 1984 the National Park Service listed it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Neither Anniston’s mayor nor the city’s manager responded to multiple requests for comment about the property transfer.

Marsh said he plans to leave the outside of the Victoria largely same, while making a number of changes to the interior. Marsh Properties will renovate “every single room,” changing the decor of the 19th century structure to give it more of a contemporary feel that is “comfortable and suitable” for the present time.

The renovated Victoria Inn will not have a full-scale restaurant, although it will maintain a bed and breakfast. The goal, Marsh said, is to have guests visit area restaurants.

Marsh said he expects renovation costs to exceed $1.8 million, adding that he’s ready to spend “whatever it takes.”

The goal is to be operational by February 2016, he said.

“We think that the Victoria Inn is historic to Anniston,” Marsh said. “It’s the only hotel left in Anniston, and we just think that it’s important that it survive and be brought back to its potential.”

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