Montgomery’s Most Endangered

June 23, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual “11 Most Endangered Places” list. It made me think about places and things in our Montgomery community that might also be at risk.

First to come to mind is the hex paver sidewalks that occur in our oldest historic areas: Cottage Hill, a turn-of-the-last-century neighborhood; the north end of the Garden District; parts of Highland Park and Capitol Heights. We (a group of us who care) also suspect they can be found in neighborhoods not yet named as local historic districts: the near West Side, Five Points and what is called the Rosa Parks Combined Communities.

Hex pavers 4

Recently the City of Montgomery told a Garden District Preservation Association officer that the hex paver sidewalks had become too expensive to maintain and that, henceforth, as repairs were needed, they would be replaced with regular concrete slab poured sidewalks. The Association noted that this problem has been discussed and debated at both the neighborhood and city level for the better part of 30 years. Perhaps now a program can be crafted to preserve these unique assets so that future generations can appreciate them –  just as current residents do.

Another Montgomery landmark beloved by many and now at risk is Winter Place, the complex of two 1850’s houses tied together decades ago with a breezeway.I remember fondly the time when Winter Place was “the place to be” on Halloween.  Then-owner Winter Thorington held the party-of-all-parties, attracting a crowd so large that MPD had to direct traffic at the intersection of Goldthwaite and Mildred. Anybody who was anybody was there: a crowd that found Montgomery bluestockings rubbing elbows (and other body parts when dancing!) with the then-marginalized LGBT and African American communities.

Winter Place 4Today Winter Place sits forlorn and rumored offered for sale by an Air Force officer who, starry eyed, bought it with every intent to restore its grandeur. The time, money and effort required by such a restoration has, it is reported, proven more than he and his new bride can manage. How sad. Who among us, I wonder, has the vision and resources to make sure we do not forever lose these important Italianate monuments to another age?

Every city of any size has its Wal-Marts, big box stores, and shopping plazas dense with national chains. It is not they but the historic homes, neighborhoods and infrastructure that give each community its distinctive look and personality.It is the historic areas that draw heritage tourism and its “clean dollars.” We cannot afford to fail to invest in their preservation. Perhaps it’s time for a “Montgomery’s Most Endangered” list and all of the associated ballyhoo.

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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There Are 11 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Jay Croft says:

    Because of the shifting soil in Montgomery, I would think that hexagonal pavers would hold up better than concrete slab poured sidewalks.

    Look at the sidewalks and driveways all around Old Cloverdale, for example. Cracks and crumbling cement. This includes my own driveway. The hex pavers on College Terrace look nice, even though they may look uneven. Which is easier and cheaper to replace–a section of pavers, requiring no special equipment to install, or poured concrete, which involves specialized trucks and equipment?

    And I fail to see what “maintenance” the city has done on the paver sidewalks.

  2. Feedback on Facebook has caused me to realize that some were deeply offended by my reference to a well-mixed crowd at the referenced parties. If you were one of those offended, please accept my apologies. I meant to CELEBRATE this mixing, which was extremely rare 40 years ago in this town.

  3. Kim W says:

    Wake up Montgomery! These are our the city’s treasures and we should not allow them to be lost. If only we could get grant money to support the cause or someone with enough money could come in and really reclaim the history within the walls through restoration. Winter Place is one of those homes that gets into your soul with it’s mystery, history and charm. At age 19, I was writing articles about the house for my school’s newspaper and doing research down at the Archives and History. I would leave after hours of looking through documents and getting dirt and dust all over myself. I only hope someone can continue appreciating the home the way it deserves.

  4. I’ve seen and put in a reasonable offer for the Winter Place, but to little avail. I’ve restored and currently live in a house in Cottage Hill. I’m starting to doubt the current owners self described commitment to ensure the Winter Place’s historical integrity remains intact. I believe he’s upside down in the property and wants to transfer that loss to the next owner, wether they restore or tear it down.

  5. Billy, I know nothing of the seller’s motivation and/or circumstances. And as a REALTOR who has handled many a short sale in the past few years, I know it may be a case of the seller’s simply not having the resources to make the lender whole on an offer below the outstanding mortgage balance.

  6. Well, I would love to renovate the Winter Place and make it my personal residence. If you do happen to run into the owner, please let him know he still has a very interested buyer.

  7. Angelyn says:

    What about asking for stories from Winter Place? Who knows what you’ll uncover, and it will keep people talking about the property. I’m pretty sure friends of mine lived there in the 1990s, unless Montgomery has other decaying double mansions. Memories are hazy, but I remember fantastically high ceilings that leaked buckets, cool darkness on the brightest summer day, and a narrow, after-thought kitchen that happened to produce some excellent vegan biscuits and gravy.

  8. Dan T says:

    FWIW, I don’t know currently as I no longer live in MGM, but a few years ago the city had many of the hex pavers stock piled along the north fence Oak Park in the maintenance yard.

  9. Hey, Dan. We’ll look into that. Thanks so much!

  10. Dan T says:

    You’re welcome and good luck on the preservation efforts. My late mother lived on North LeBron for a long time and we loved Old Cloverdale!

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