Old House Expo – Save the Date!

By on 31 March, 2016 in Historic Midtown, Sandra Nickel with 0 Comments

IMG_0855.JPGThirty-one years ago, one worried historic preservationist (Marilyn Sullivan) and one old-house-loving REALTOR (yours truly) got together to brainstorm how to save one wonderful old house downtown (Brittain-Dennis cottage, now a fully restored and leased property in Old Alabama Town) and create positive buzz about Montgomery’s historic neighborhoods.

What resulted is Old House Expo. This year’s event happens Sunday, May 1, 2016 1:00 – 5:00pm, so save the date. And why, might you ask?

Every year, folks see the Old House Expo ad in the newspaper or find the site on the internet and show up to see what it’s all about. They oooh and aaah with just a tinge of sadness, then confess they didn’t even know that our residential historic districts existed.

Many have moved to Montgomery from other parts of the state or nation. Most have bought or rented in east Montgomery or a suburb and didn’t see homes in Old Cloverdale, Cloverdale Idlewild, or Garden District never mind Cottage Hill or Capitol Heights. And they are amazed that, not only are the homes wonderful and the surroundings lovely, the areas are filled with families with little children who love to front-porch sit and walk about the neighborhood. In a word, it’s safe!

Safe, indeed. My husband and I have lived in our Garden District home since 1980. Yes, we have experienced an occasional property crime (Emory Folmar and I didn’t agree on much, but I totally agreed when he said, “If you’re going to live within walking distance of poverty, you’re going to have property crime!”). And I have never felt unsafe…not for one single moment.

Why, then, are so many in the River Region fearful of our downtown and Midtown areas? In my opinion it is, unfortunately, as a result of the vestiges of racism and all those other isms. On some level, conscious or subconscious, there’s the tendency among most of us to feel less than totally safe when we are in the minority and/or in the presence of people who are very different from ourselves. The most obvious difference, of course, is color. But it can also be clothing/hair/makeup/jewelry. Think about your own reaction to “Goths,” those folks who dress in black, dye their hair black, paint their nails black, etc. Think about your own reaction to the folks with tattoos and piercings.

I’m reminded of my own terror on 9-11. As we watched on television, the World Trade Center collapsed and it became obvious our nation was under attack. And as a result of the “peace dividend,” our fighting forces were greatly reduced. “If we had to defend ourselves,” I worried, “would today’s young people answer the call as young men did at the outset of WW II? Would the kids with tattoos and piercings actually sign up?”

It didn’t take long for me to have my answer, because tattoos and piercings are the order of the day right down the street from my office at Tomatino’s and Café Louisa. I went down and asked a number of them, dreading the answer, “If we have to fight, will you go?” And it humbled me—actually made me ashamed to have wondered—when every last one of them reassured me that they were ready and willing to go if needed.

I obviously drew some pretty bad inferences about people, just because of what they had done to their bodies without knowing a blasted thing about them as human beings. That’s an ism and I’m guilty. So it’s not totally surprising that racism makes some folks draw erroneous inferences about the quality of life in our older and historic neighborhoods where diversity is the order of the day. It is one of the things that makes Midtown who we are: a rich mix of young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. We not only tolerate but celebrate our differences.

Old House Expo is one concrete and specific way that we old house and old neighborhood lovers can showcase our beloved close-in communities and help “outsiders” understand why we survived the recent real estate recession a whole lot better than other areas of town! See you May 1!

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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