Montgomery—Then & Now Hits the Shelves

Midtown’s Dynamic Duo has done it again! Because of the wonderful response from Montgomery’s Midtown dwellers and history lovers, Montgomery’s Historic Neighborhoods was an awesome success last year. So Arcadia Publications came back to the weary authors – Karren Pell and me – with another proposal. Their newest series is Then & Now books featuring historical images side by side with contemporary photographs. And because Montgomerians were so generous in sharing their family photos with us on the first book, we accepted the challenge. Our thinking was that a Then & Now book would be only half as difficult to produce because we only would only need to find half the number of historic photos and the other half would be new. However, we miscalculated all the legwork it would take to produce a quality photograph with the best lighting, time of day, etc.

After our first book’s  neighborhood focus, we wanted this publication to concentrate on the downtown area. Our goal became to not use photos never before published or at least not widely seen. We found wonderful photos in the Permanent Collections of Montgomery County Historical Society, Landmarks Foundation and the Alabama Department of Archives as well as from private individuals. We researched maps, city directories and public records. We depended on the works of Mary Ann Neeley, Jeff Benton, and other local historian friends because we’ve learned not to “reinvent the wheel!” We relied heavily on the photogravure collections called Art Work of Montgomery, which were produced by The Gravure Illustration Company who sent photographers to Montgomery in both 1894 and 1907.

Because Arcadia Publishing has very stringent format requirements, we were confined in our design work. We used our creativity on the photographic content instead. We decided to divide the photos into chapters according to purpose: places of worship, learning, fun, healing, and governance. We were very limited on the number of words that could be used in the narratives and captions, so words were chosen wisely to include the historic information accurately in as few words as possible. Having prepared ourselves by reviewing Then & Now publications produced about other cities, we were bound and determined NOT to include depressing comparisons of wonderful pieces of architecture being replaced by parking lots or chain stores. We focused on Montgomery’s historic preservation progress and development success. The book is a documentation tool of what is here now in 2011 and will be a valuable research resource for future historians.

After a deadline of mid-May, we were given one opportunity to review the layout and make corrections. And then we waited. Arcadia had promised a delivery date of November 14th, just in time for the Christmas retail flurry. Orders were taken and book signings scheduled.

As of this writing, the Arcadia sales representative will be hand-delivering cases of Montgomery – Then & Now on Monday afternoon, Nov. 14th, to suggested retail establishments on our marketing plan, so look for us in your favorite bookstore. It’s a fun trip into our city’s past and a way to start planning for our future in the Montgomery — Capital of Dreams!

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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  1. Andrew Dexter says:

    How is this book different from “Montgomery and the River Region – Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow”, published in 2007 by Mary Ann Neeley and Robert Fouts?
    It seems to me that they would both cover the same ground

    • Carole king says:

      This book has about 75 older images and 75 new images (of same place) organized in a genre format such as churches, businesses, etc. Each photo has a narrative of that particular site. We tried to used photos never published before or at least not very often. Then and Now is strictly photos and does not contain any business profiles. Hope you enjoy it!

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