Kress Lives: Remembering Monroe

By on 10 April, 2018 in Art, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

A local street named after our nation’s fifth President was once an “epicenter” of Montgomery’s black culture and capitalism. This week, a new multi-night project based in the newly-rennovated Kress Building downtown is taking a look back at the heyday of Monroe Street.

“Remembering Monroe” will kick off Thursday with an oral history of Dean Drug Store, which once was an important site of commerce on Monroe Street. Led by the proprietor, former Tuskegee Airman Dr. Richard Harris, Jr., the drug store has been described as a command center of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Harris’ daughter will tell stories of Dean Drugs in an event starting at 5 p.m.

The next night at the same time will be a story about the integration of the workforce of one of the Monroe Street businesses. Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 1, stories will be told about the kinds of personal relationships that formed among workers during the Civil Rights Movement. On Sunday, local author and historian Joseph Caver will talk at 3 p.m. about the entertainment scene on Monroe Street, and Monday at 9:30 a.m. will focus on Bill Traylor, a formerly enslaved local artist.

Again, all events will be at the newly-rennovated Kress Building, so it’d be worth stopping in to see the place, even if you don’t catch all of the local history. But the stories are going to be awesome and there will also be an art exhibit on the lower level of the building.

MML first wrote about MarJam’s renovation of the Kress Building back in 2014. We published a really informative piece by Carole King in summer of 2017, and have been enthusiastically following the public conversation about the building. At one point, city leaders insisted that all of this downtown redevelopment was going to be called “The Market District,” but we’re not sure that term has really taken hold. There was also a lot of talk about getting rid of automobile traffic in that part of town, at least on certain days. That’s another idea you don’t hear too much about these days.

Shops are moving into the Kress Building, like the Prevail Union coffee shop. Their manager, Kellie Bowers, had this to say about the move: “All of us at Prevail Union are very excited about moving later this month into the Kress building. Kress on Dexter is an incredibly huge step forward in the revival of downtown Montgomery and we are thrilled to be a part of it! We can’t wait to share the new cafe space we are creating and some exciting changes and additions to our menu. We hope that the cafe will be a place where people will come together to talk, relax, and enjoy great craft coffee.”

The Kress renovation did win an award, and is a project of something called Montgomery BUILDS, which this Montgomery Advertiser piece describes as a production of Sarah Buller and her husband, MarJam’s Mark Buller. So we’re really excited that this “Remembering Monroe” project is looking back on our city’s often-overlooked history. And it’s a great opportunity to learn while looking at the future of Dexter redevelopment.

Admission to the storytelling events is free, and Eventbrite information can be found here and the Facebook events here.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with one cat, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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