Above is the Exchange corner that I knew, as it existed in 1957 when I was 30. First National was just across Commerce Street to the right, and this was the center of the world. When I worked in the Bank Bldg 1951-55, my desk was against the window and faced the Exchange; I often worked nights, and I am loathe to admit to the things that I saw. Eventually Colonial Bank built an office building there.
Jefferson Davis once gave a speech on the balcony of this hotel and is said to be the beginning of the Civil War. Below is a video transcript excerpt from Heart of the Confederacy – 1937:
On a sunshiny day, February 4, 1861, the Confederate States of America were organized at a session of the Provisional Congress, assembled in the Senate chamber of the state capital of Montgomery, Alabama. The appointments of that room have remained unchanged. The heart of the Confederacy still beats strong in this charmed city of the South, once more attuned to the common cause of the development of a perfect United States of America. On the portico of the Capitol Building, a six-pointed brass star marks the spot on which Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as the first President of the Confederacy, February 18, 1861. From early March until July 1, when the capital of the Confederacy was shifted to Richmond, Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Davis lived in this Confederate White House. Moved from its original location, it continues as one of the cherished shrines of the South.
At the lower end of Dexter Avenue is one of those quaint public squares characteristic of older American communities. There is a fountain by McMonnies, distinguished American sculptor. From the porch of the Old Exchange Hotel, William L. Yancey, stirring secessionist orator, introduced Jeff Davis to cheering crowds with the immortal words: “The man and the hour have met.” From this building flashed the message which precipitated the first engagement in the War Between the States, the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
–Heart of the Confederacy – 1937 (archives.gov)