King of Capitol Heights

The king of the jungle is currently the talk of the town—yes, I am referring to the Capitol Heights lions.  The royal pair that crouch on cement pedestals on Madison Avenue are being renovated, and the process is creating quite a buzz — almost a roar.

Matt Okarmus wrote a great article in the Montgomery Advertiser and featured a photograph of Charles Thomas working his magic. Really, his efforts are more like serious elbow grease as he carefully removes nearly a hundred years of multi-layered paint from the limestone monuments that should never have seen even one layer of paint.  Nonetheless, the residents of Capitol Heights and many other Montgomery residents are so pleased that the process seems magical.

The Sentinel of the Heights

Almost ten years ago, the Capitol Heights Civic Association commissioned a report on the lions from Camille A. Bowman, an Architectural Conservator affiliated with the Alabama Historical Commission.  Bowman noted that the paint needed to be removed so as to let the limestone breathe. From her experience, she felt like the limestone was from Alabama. The material’s similarity to that of the Confederate Monument led her to propose that the limestone may well have originated from the same source — the Rockwood Quarry in the vicinity of Russellville, Alabama. She also made a “supposition” at the time that the lions could have been carved by well-known Curbow and Clapp who had a business on Dexter Avenue.

However, Charles Thomas has literally uncovered some information, and historian extraordinaire Carole King, has also made an outstanding discovery. Patiently rubbing and scraping, Thomas has uncovered the words “Capitol City M.” We were all ecstatic, and Carole King went right to work looking for documentation of the company.  As is the case with much historical research, results have not been forthcoming.  Then, in a casual conversation, a friend told her that a stonemason named William Lemar Jones carved both lions. Carole is not revealing her source, and has not yet found solid documentation on Mr. Jones, but she is confident his hand created the royal pair.

So it is the lions will continue to guard Capitol Heights in the new millennium. Madison Avenue continues to be a lifeline to and from downtown, and so people continue to drive by the lions that frame the entry to the “other side” of Capitol Heights. Charles Thomas will continue his restoration work on the lions and Carole King will continue to search for more information on the limestone beasts. And so it goes that Capitol Heights continues to be a popular neighborhood where the past is appreciated, the present is pleasant, and the future looks bright.

And I ain’t lyin’.

Karren Pell is a writer, teacher, and performer who lives with her husband, Tim Henderson, and an assortment of cats and dogs in Capitol Heights. She is the author of three books. Her musical compositions range from commercial songs to theatrical works, with five musical adaptations to her credit.

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