A Vanishing Morning View

By on 20 July, 2012 in Carole King with 2 Comments

View of Morning View on the main entry side facing Madison Avenue (Courtesy of Montgomery County Historical Society)

With the road construction plans around Madison Avenue and discussion of moving Lee High School, there has been a lot of interest lately in now-vanished and ever-mysterious Morning View.

Morning View was the large estate of Gen. Mitchell Houghton located just south of Madison Avenue at what is now the Federal Drive intersection. The house was constructed around 1906 on the eastern edge of the newly-incorporated city of Capitol Heights. Although supposedly built in the 20th century in the Greek Revival style, local legend and much architectural evidence has it that this brick structure with stucco overlay was built around and over an existing one story house with a brick floored basement. Morning View faced north with a grand circle in the front approach. There were entrances on the west and south sides as well. Four large columns supported the grand front portico with steps running the entire width of the porch. To the west side, another two story portico created a sun porch on the first floor with an open balcony on the second floor. The rear of the house featured a screened-in porch below with a screened-in sleeping porch across the second story.

According to the Capitol Heights Weekly from Thursday, July 3, 1924…

General Mitchell B. Houghton, Confederate veteran of many battles during the Civil War, is commander of the Alabama Division of the United Confederate Veterans.

He is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Woman’s College of Alabama [now Huntingdon College]: a devout member of the Court Street Methodist Church; Director of the Exchange Hotel and other large corporations, and a recognized authority on the subject of cotton planting and horticulture.

As a literary genius, Gen. Houghton has gained renown thru his many instructive articles on Southern Agriculture, As an author, his works are exceptional. His greatest book — a story of the Civil War, based on his reminiscences of four years’ valiant service under the Stars and Bars will live forever.

Morning View, the palatial home of General Houghton, has often been declared the most beautiful place in Alabama. Indeed, as one meanders thru the two hundred acres adjoining Morning View, they cannot help but wonder if Paradise could have been more wonderful—birds, squirrels, rabbits, and livestock are here aplenty—beautiful flowers of every variety—fruit trees and vegetables of every type adapted to Alabama soil grow here in abundance.

Morning View nurseries and the Flower Gardens, operated by Pfingstl, are widely known.

Truly speaking, Morning View has no equal in Alabama.

The streetcars running out to Electric Park all passed in front of Morning View, as did the highway to Tuskegee and places east and for decades many Montgomerians passed the impressively landscaped grounds of the estate. According to Joe Johnson, a historian of Capitol Heights, Frank Browne, a native of England was Houghton’s head gardener at Morning View for many years. It was said he was an Oxford graduate. He was a true English eccentric and during the 1920s, he was often seen walking about nearby Capitol Heights inspecting the flowers and plants at various homes. He seemed to take a special interest in Capitol Parkway. At that time, individual property owners were responsible for maintaining the parkway in front of their homes. There were some informal efforts to coordinate the grass cutting and the types of plants (usually crepe myrtle). Browne acted as self-appointed landscape specialist for Capitol Parkway sometimes, much to the dismay of the ladies of the parkway.

Due to his manner of dress and life style, everyone assumed that Browne’s financial situation bordered on the poverty level. However, as the area developed he began investing money in mortgages on Capitol Height property as early as 1912 and acquired a good deal of property in the area. When Frank Browne died in 1940, he was living in a boarding house with few personal possessions. He left a rather large estate to a sister in England and to Dr. Bernardo’s Home, a system of orphanages also in England.

A Historic Structure-Site Survey done by the Alabama Historical Commission in 1968 documented the house still standing and owned by Bessie Walker. Morning View was soon afterward destroyed by fire in the early 1970s.

Famous cast iron lions today relocated to home on Haardt Drive

One of the most noted features of Morning View were the life-sized pair of cast iron lions that appear in photographs around the early 1930s on the front lawn flanking the entryway. Today, these lions, the last remaining remnants of the grand estate Morning View, survive and guard a private residence on Haardt Drive. Until recently, the fern pit, used for storing porch plants in the winter months, was visible in the Ann Street upholstery shop parking lot. Large cedars, assorted magnolias and other hardwoods remain and continue to spark our imagination of the glory days of Morning View.

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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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. marie smith says:

    they do not need to move LEE HIGH SCHOOL alone

  2. Ashley W says:

    Very cool. I’m a history nerd and I love love love all this history! I was recently browsing on Capitol Heights website because I wanted to know more on the background and came across a picture of the MorningView Mansion which, up until today, I had never heard of and I’m 19 years old and have been a resident of Montgomery, Al all of those 19 years! This might be a long shot because this article/blog post was from a few years back but I found it when I searched Morningview Mansion on Google. Very interesting read. Would love to know more about this house and where exactly it was located. There isn’t much information on it and I’m guessing it’s because it doesn’t exist and hasn’t for a long period of time and has since then been forgotten! But I want to know more about it if possible. Thanks.

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