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SELMA, Ala. (AP) — A hotel dating to before the Civil War has reopened in Selma near the bridge where demonstrators seeking voting rights for Black people marched in 1965.

The St. James Hotel, with a courtyard and rooms overlooking the Alabama River, resumed business Tuesday as part of the Hilton chain following a $5 million renovation that updated the old building in the heart of Selma, where the hotel first opened in 1836 when the city was a hub of Alabama's plantation region.

The Selma Times-Journal reported that it took two years of planning, negotiations with the city of Selma and extensive refurbishments to return the three-story hotel to its former glory.

The head of the Birmingham-based Rhaglan Hospitality, which purchased the hotel from the city for about $300,000, was happy to see the project completed.

"I can't properly express how thrilled I really am," said President Jim Lewis.

Civil rights sites including the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march crossed in 1965, have become a draw for tourists, but the city has had few hotels to accommodate visitors, many of whom stayed in Montgomery.

The St. James Hotel opened with 42 available rooms and 13 more on the way. The hotel also has a full bar and restaurant.

The building has operated on and off as a hotel and other businesses after closing. For a time, the hotel was owned by the city in an effort to bolster downtown before going out of business a few years ago.

"A lot of work has gone into this. The interesting thing is that this is not my first ribbon cutting for St. James. I was around when we did it before," said Mayor James Perkins.

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