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Early morning hours, Nov. 30, 2009

The last paying customer at the Hotel Talisi

By Michael Butler

Bryan Taylor was in Tallassee the week after Thanksgiving in 2009. He and his sister were the only guests in the Hotel Talisi.

Taylor is a deputy sheriff who lives in Tampa, Fla. He has family and property in Tallassee and visits regularly.

"The managers lived on the third floor," Taylor recalled. "That Sunday evening, I heard a real loud squealing and narrowed it down to one of the air conditioning units."

Taylor remembered telling management that the unit could "catch the place on fire."

"They turned off the unit," Taylor said. "We went to bed and everything was fine. About 3:30 I awake to banging on the door. 'You gotta get up. The place is on fire.' We grabbed everything we could."

The fire did not start from a faulty air conditioner but instead from an act of arson. Many locals know the story now, but Taylor has an insider's perspective.

Taylor in uniform

"I forgot my keys to my truck. I knew I needed to move it for the fire department. So I turned around and went back in and got my keys off the dresser. As I come back out and look down the intersecting hallway, I looked toward the Smarty Pants. You could see the Smarty Pants. The whole wall was gone."

Taylor said no one realized that the fire had actually started next door. "We just thought the hotel caught on fire. We watched it burn for four hours. There were 21 fire departments there. I counted them," he said.

There is a story Taylor tells of heroic proportions by firefighters that few people have heard.

"I was the last paying customer out," he said. "One of the managers went back inside after I came out. He went back up to the third floor to get his cat. He couldn't get back out. He's banging on the window. Nobody knew he went back in. The Tallassee Fire Department saved his life. There wasn't a ladder truck there. They got extension ladders together and got him and his cat out."

On the night of the fire, Taylor thought as he walked out of the hotel to safety that it would likely be the last time he would see it. "I literally turned around and took one last look."

It's going on five years since the Hotel Talisi, built in 1928, has been in operation. Work has been done by owner Wylie Troupe and his plans are to reopen it.

Taylor hopes to be there for the ribbon cutting if and when that day comes. "I was the last one out. I want to be the first one back in," he stated.

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