By Alex Wilkerson for City of Orange Beach
The Orange Beach Hotel was the first hotel built in the beach area. Construction began in 1923 and was completed in 1925.
The building overlooked Wolf Bay and was owned and operated by Hilda Dietz, daughter of James C. Callaway. Dietz opened the hotel with her husband Edward, who was a doctor from Ohio. The hotel was meant to serve fishermen who visited Orange Beach for the burgeoning charter fishing industry.
The building featured 11 rooms on the top floor, as well as four cabins, which were later added to the property.
The Dietzs had three children, a son named Alazarian, and two adopted daughters, Evalyn and Alma Brasher. In the 1930s Mr. Dietz returned to Ohio to work during the Great Depression. He died there in 1931. Hilda continued to operate the hotel for many years after his death, before selling the hotel to Leo Davis at the beginning of WWII.
In 1955 the hotel was sold to Ray and Ella Callaway. The Callaways operated the hotel along with their charter fishing business up to 1963 when the property was sold to Sandy Campbell.
The City of Orange Beach purchased the property in 2001. The hotel was operated as the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. A glass-blowing hot shop and a clay studio were added to the property during this time.
In 2014, after repairing a leak in the roof, irreparable structural damage was discovered in the 91-year-old building. The hotel was demolished in 2015, but windows, doors and other material were saved from the structure and used in the building of the new coastal arts building, which opened in August of 2017.
Learn more about historical buildings and the families who shaped Orange Beach at the Indian & Sea Museum, open Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Located at 25850 John M Snook Drive, next to City Hall.
Information in this article can be found in the book “Orange Beach – A Pictorial History,” by Margaret Childress Long and Michael D. Shipler, which is available for sale at the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum.