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News & Updates | August 2021


Public input sought to identify, document Montgomery Civil Rights Movement sites

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Lyn Causey, AHC's National Register Coordinator, leads community feedback meeting on August 5.

In 2020, the AHC received funding from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant program to develop a historic context on the Modern Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery. This document will make it easier to nominate places associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery to the National Register of Historic Places.

On August 5, the AHC participated in two meetings seeking public input on the project. More community meetings are planned for the fall, and the public is encouraged to contribute ideas and information.

An important goal of the project is to raise awareness of the places that are significant in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama’s capital city. The historic context document will tell the stories of the people of Montgomery who worked long and hard in the cause of racial equality and recognize the places that testify to their extraordinary successes, as well as the challenges and risks they faced.

Consultants for the project are Katie Randall, Afore Preservation Consulting; Dr. Carroll Van West, Middle Tennessee State University; and Cheri Szcodronski, Firefly Preservation Consulting.

For more information about this project, email Lyn Causey at Evelyn.Causey@ahc.alabama.gov. Information about the National Park Service's African American Civil Rights Grants can be found on the National Park Service website.

If you know of a If you know of a story or place important to the long history of Civil Rights in Montgomery, please contact Katie Randall of Afore Preservation Consulting at katie@aforepreservation.com or (615) 743-5862. 

This project is supported by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

Upcoming Events

August 28 - Black Heritage Council Community Preservation Forum, 10 a.m., Alabama Department of Archives and History

August 28-29 - Battle for Fort Mims Reenactment, Fort Mims

August 28-31 – Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Gulf State Park

September 11 – Muster Weekend, Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson

September 11 - General Joe Wheeler Birthday Party - Pond Spring

September 16 - Alabama Register Review Board Meeting, 9:30 a.m., AHC Carriage House

September 23 - National Register Review Board Meeting, 10:30 a.m., AHC Carriage House

September 25 - Museum Guided Tour, 10 a.m., Confederate Memorial Park

October - Archaeology Month

November 3-6 – Frontier Days, Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson

Eleven properties added to Alabama Register

The Alabama Historical Commission created the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage to recognize buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts of historical, architectural, and/or archaeological significance. Nominations may be submitted by anyone to the Alabama Historical Commission. A staff review committee determines if the nominated property meets the established criteria and the property is added to the register if the criteria is met. The designation is honorary and does not restrict what a property owner can do with the property. 

“The Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage is an important resource for recognizing and preserving the stories of important places in Alabama,” said Lisa D. Jones, AHC Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer. “This is central to our mission to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic places."

For more information about the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage, contact Rebekah Reader at 334-230-2699 or Rebekah.Reader@ahc.alabama.gov.

The following 11 properties were recently added to the Alabama Register:

Royal Oaks, Coden, Mobile County

Royal Oaks

Coden, Mobile County

The Alexander family constructed Royal Oaks around 1896. Jacintha Alexander operated a boarding house here for several years until she and her siblings tragically died in a 1906 hurricane. The family sold the property soon after. The home changed hands several times over the years until 1986 when Col. Roosevelt J. and Carolyn S. Lewis purchased the house. During the years the family has owned the property, the home has withstood several hurricanes. The home has served as a popular backdrop for pictures for various occasions such as high school senior class photographs, prom, homecoming, dance recitals, weddings, and Azalea Trail photos. Royal Oaks is significant for its role in the social history of Coden, Alabama, as well a good example of the Greek Revival architectural style.

Camp Hill Historic District

Camp Hill, Tallapoosa County

The Camp Hill Historic District was listed in the Alabama Register for its significance as the town’s historic commercial and economic center. The buildings included in the Camp Hill Historic District are good examples of Romanesque and Colonial Revival architectural types. The town of Camp Hill, Alabama, was incorporated in 1895, but settlement in the area began in the early 1800s. The historic commercial buildings in Camp Hill’s historic business district were developed between 1880 and 1965. The downtown district also includes the Norfolk Southern Railway system (previously known as the Central of Georgia Railway), which was responsible for transporting goods throughout numerous adjoining states in the South. 

New Providence Primitive Baptist Church

Kinston, Coffee County

Constructed in 1905, New Providence Primitive Baptist Church is an excellent example of vernacular architecture and the design is indicative of the basic floor plan used by many Primitive Baptist Churches in Alabama. The exterior of the church was constructed to look like the Texas Alamo. The church was built using local labor in a simplistic design with no window treatments, no distinct doors or entry points, sitting low to the ground with no piers. The interior retains its historic pews and pulpit but is just as sparse and quaint as when it was constructed. The church is currently being restored and will continue to host Sacred Harp singings. 

Shady Dell

Tuscumbia, Colbert County

Dr. A.W. Davis, the first African American physician and surgeon in Tuscumbia, constructed Shady Dell in 1920. Dr. Davis provided medical care to the African American population from 1914-1942. The home is located across from where his former office stood. After Dr. Davis and his wife died, their daughter, Sadie Mae Davis, inherited the home. Although Sadie and her husband Jason lived in Savannah, Georgia, they visited the home often during the summers and holidays. After their deaths, the home passed down to their daughter, Edythe Jason, who eventually sold it to Barbara and Glen Stewart. In 1958, Barbara Stewart moved to Tuscumbia to begin her teaching career at Trenholm High School. Mr. and Mrs. Stewart’s three children, Carolyn, Wayne and Danita, now own the property and are presently renovating the home.

Mulberry School House

Mulberry, Crenshaw County

Constructed in 1920, the Mulberry School House is an example of a rural school that provided a quality education to African American children. The Mulberry community donated lumber and tin to build the school and it is still owned by the Mulberry Community. Like many African American communities in the South the Jim Crowe era of segregation restricted African Americans' access to railroad cars, hotels, theaters, and public buildings. African American children suffered by having to attend separate schools with inferior materials and equipment. The community joined together to build a place to educate and instruct their children. Many of these schools have been lost. The community hopes to restore the schoolhouse so that it can be used as a community space.

Superintendent’s House

Irondale, Jefferson County

Constructed in 1915, this property served as the Superintendent’s Home of the Alabama Fuel & Iron Company in Irondale, Alabama. The house was used as a residence except during the "Troubles" with unionization in the 1930s. Management and miners alike were affected when in 1933 the United Mine Workers made a bid to organize the coal miners of Alabama. During this time, the house became company headquarters for meetings between management and workers and was the site of negotiations between the company and the workers who sued the United Mine Workers Union to remain in their dwellings. The Superintendent’s House is significant in its role in the development of industry, community planning, and social history during the first half of the 20th century in Alabama.

Jesseton Post Office

Danville, Lawrence County

Joel T. and Letha G. Sandlin purchased this property in 2020. Mr. Sandlin discovered this c. 1830 dogtrot log cabin when he began to remove overgrown vegetation on the property. After contacting the Lawrence County Archives, they discovered the dogtrot cabin was once used as the local Post Office in Jesseton, a community named after Jesse Hill, the first Postmaster. The skilled men who built this cabin dovetailed the corners and scalped the logs. The original chinking between the logs was made of clay and a mixture of feathers, horsehair, and twigs. Like most homes constructed during this period, this log cabin is a single-room home with a single fireplace. The dogtrot design of the home kept it warm in the winter and cross ventilation between the doors helped cool it in summer. The Jesseton Post Office was listed to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage for its association with social history and architecture. 

Winfield High School Gymnasium

Winfield, Marion County

The Winfield High School Gymnasium was constructed in 1941 as a part of the old Winfield High School (now Winfield Middle School). Additions were made in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1986 to add athletic rooms, a furnace, and a band room. The gym functioned as a community center and was the site of numerous school dances and sporting events. The community hopes to rehabilitate the building for use as a community gym and meeting place. 

Blackwell House

Semmes, Mobile County

Built by the Blackwell family in 1951, this home sits on four acres of shaded grounds and symbolizes the significance of Semmes as an agricultural and horticultural center. Owen and Vivien Blackwell founded Blackwell Nurseries, Inc. in 1938 and produced a line of plant material typical of the Semmes area including camellias and magnolias. In the 1960s due to several freezes and changes in the market, Owen Blackwell introduced innovative ideas that revolutionized the industry. Blackwell Nurseries became well known as the largest azalea producer in the nation by the late 1960s and helped earn the reputation of Semmes as "The Nursery Capital of the World." Blackwell Nurseries propagated and produced 3 million azaleas for the greenhouse and nursery trade by the mid-1990s. Blackwell Nurseries phased out its nursery operation in 2003 after 65 years in operation. Members of the Blackwell family lived in the home until 2007. The historic home currently operates as the Semmes Senior Center. 

Bassett Homestead

Roanoke, Randolph County 

The Bassett Homestead was listed to the Alabama Register for its agricultural and architectural significance. Charlie and Leona Bassett constructed the home in 1914 after Leona received 40 acres from her father upon her marriage to Charlie. The property originally contained 120 acres, but a portion of the land was sold in 1998. Charlie and Leona had 10 children, seven of whom were born in the house. The Bassett family continues to own the property and they use it as a gathering place for family events and reunions.

Brock’s Gap

Jefferson/Shelby Counties

Brock’s Gap is a railroad pass that was completed in 1871 through Shades Mountain in Hoover, Alabama. Brock’s Gap was used by the L & N Railroad and was the final link in connecting Montgomery to Birmingham. Attempts to bring the railroad up from the Cahaba River and across Shades Mountain began in the 1850s but the difficult terrain made it nearly impossible to complete. The completion of Brock’s Gap led to the founding of Birmingham and subsequently led to Birmingham becoming the center of the Alabama mineral region and the South’s largest industrial center. Brock’s Gap extracted a heavy toll both in terms of funds and human lives before the railbed was successfully completed using enslaved labor before the Civil War ended and the convict lease system afterwards. Brock’s Gap was listed in the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage for its association with transportation, industry, method of construction, and archaeology. 

Brock's Gap, Jefferson/Shelby Counties

Explore the Historic Preservation Map

With the generous support of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, the AHC has been diligently working to convert paper files associated with Alabama’s historic architectural resources into a web-based system utilizing GIS technology to increase the information’s accessibility to the public and to ensure their long-term preservation.

The new Alabama Historical Commission Historic Preservation Map Initiative will enable the public to explore these resources virtually and understand why these resources are culturally important to Alabama, particularly in the communities in which they exist.

Our GIS map includes maps for all of the Alabama Historical Commission's many historic preservation programs.

Explore the Map

Deadline to nominate Places in Peril is Oct. 31


If there is an irreplaceable historic building or site in your area that is threatened by demolition or neglect, this is your opportunity to help save it!


Places in Peril is a listing of some of the state’s most endangered historic properties and focuses on bringing state and regional attention to these places in an effort to create meaningful solutions to the threat faced by historic buildings across Alabama, generating support for their preservation.


Nominations will be accepted through October 31. Each submission will be evaluated for its significance and level of threat. Visit our website for more information or to nominate a place.


Behind the Scenes at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park

Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park is located in Wetumpka, Alabama.

Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park is a significant archaeological site. This area, where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers meet to form the mighty Alabama River, has been occupied for 10,000 years. Prehistoric and American Indians, Spanish explorers, French marines, English and Scottish traders, and American settlers all left their mark on this National Historic Landmark. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark by the Department of Interior in 1960. The Alabama Historical Commission has owned and managed the park since 1971.

Ove Jensen has served as Site Director for the historic property for about seven and a half years. Although he says he’s always been interested in history, as far back as he can remember, he didn’t come to it as a career until later. Not sure of how to apply his love of history to earning a living, Ove studied business and foreign languages on an ROTC scholarship, and served in the Army for several years. When he got out of the Army, he finally decided to follow his passion and went back to school to study History.

Ove Jensen, Site Director, Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park

“Initially I planned to be a teacher, but then I started seeing other options,” Ove said. “I realized the park systems work with history, so in 1995 I started volunteering at Horseshoe Bend National Park, and then started working there. I wanted to do something I like to do.”

Some well-known features of Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park include an AD1100 Mississippian Indian mound, a replica of the 1751 French Fort Toulouse, replicas of Creek-style houses, and a partial recreation of the earthworks of the 1814 Fort Jackson. Visitors also can bird watch on the William Bartram Nature Trail. Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park is an official site on the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail. A pavilion can be reserved for groups and activities, and there is a 39-unit RV campground and a boat launch on the Tallapoosa River.

The Park also hosts a number of special events throughout the year, such as the popular Alabama Frontier Days living history event, traditionally held over several days in the fall. Frontier Days is the largest education-based living history program in the state. It puts into focus the south as it transitioned from Creek Indian lands to military forts and civilian homesteads from 1700 to 1820. Using Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson as a historical backdrop, the public can experience living historians who will bring the fort to life through military reenactments and demonstrations of frontier crafts and trades. Alabama Frontier Days is scheduled for Nov. 3-6 this year.

“Because of the name, especially the first part – Toulouse – naturally people think of French occupation,” Ove says. “While that is unique, what people don’t realize is the human story here is so lengthy, between 6,000 and 8,000 years. People moving, transient through the area and living here, and for the last 2,000 years or so permanent settlements here. People have been attracted to the site throughout the ages because of the geography, with the rivers here.”

Ove says he gets a lot of joy from sharing the Park with visitors, but also finds personal enjoyment working there. “In particular, one area I really like is down where the Mississippian mound is, where the Mississippian settlement was. Whenever I walk by that area, I can imagine what it was like and, in my mind, I fill in that town, that village in that field. That point down to where the rivers come together, I feel like I’m in the deep-history point of the site. Once I get down in the area where the bottomland is and the rivers are on either side of you, it gets a little magical,” he says.

If you would like to get involved at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers. Contact the Visitor Center by calling 334-567-3002 and ask for Ove Jensen or John Gurner, who just joined the Park as Cultural Resources Specialist. The Park grounds are open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and the Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. You can learn more about Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park to help plan your visit on our website.

Moore Building, Freedom Rides Museum receive funds from NPS African American Civil Rights Grant Program

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Moore Building

The Alabama Historical Commission has received a fourth grant from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program through the preservation grant category for the rehabilitation of the historic Moore Building. The grant, announced by NPS on July 27, for $500,000 brings the total amount the AHC has received from the NPS for the Moore Building to $1.8 million to rehabilitate the building. The funding will allow the AHC to completely upgrade the building’s electrical, heating and air conditioning, add new stairs and an elevator as well as add an updated fire suppression system. The building, constructed in 1942, was used as an office space until the early 2000s. 

Artist rendering for Freedom Rides Museum exhibit

AHC also received a fourth grant from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program through the history grant category toward the cost of developing a new and permanent exhibit at the Freedom Rides Museum. This grant also was announced by NPS on July 27.

The grant for $50,000 brings the total amount the AHC has received from the NPS for the museum exhibit to $200,000 and will be used toward the fabrication of the first phase of the exhibit, which will be installed at the end of 2021. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

In 2018, the AHC contracted with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc. (RAA), an internationally recognized exhibit design firm based in New York, to develop a plan for a permanent exhibit at the Freedom Rides Museum. RAA has developed exhibits for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Partially funded by the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior or the U.S. Government. 

Belle Mont visitors enjoyed Art of the Dish

Visitors to Belle Mont Mansion on June 25 and 26 enjoyed a series of stunning tablescapes during The Art of the Dish.

George Terrell, pictured at left, provided an informative and entertaining program, discussing dining customs during the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Victorians utilized numerous dishes and silver, serving several courses at mealtime. Terrell, a native of Tuscumbia, is a former history professor, now retired from Gadsden State Community College. He is a well-known collector, speaker and author.

Examples from Terrell’s personal collection of R.S. Prussia Porcelain were a special feature for this year’s event.

Visit Belle Mont on Facebook to see more images from this spectacular event.

R.S. Prussia Porcelain

Whimsical seafood service

Placards provided information about pieces and collections.

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Rep. John Lewis' family tours historic Greyhound Bus

On July 17, 2020, the world lost a freedom fighter when Congressman John Lewis passed away. He spent his life with a passion for ensuring every person's right to freedom, equality and essential human rights.

In 1961, John Lewis was among the brave group of men and women, Black and white, who joined the Freedom Rides, with the goal of ensuring the desegregation of interstate travel in the United States. Despite enduring unimaginable violence and imprisonment, the Freedom Riders succeeded in their goal, moving forward one more step on the path to civil rights. The journey continues today.

On July 16, the Freedom Rides Museum was honored to take part in Rep. John Lewis Weekend activities in Nashville, presented by the American Baptist College (ABC). Among the activities was a collective educational presentation, "How Are We Freedom Riding Today?" in the John Lewis-Julian Scruggs Conference Center on the ABC campus.

Those who attended the presentation and the public were invited to also visit the Freedom Rides Museum's restored vintage Greyhound bus. The bus is a traveling exhibit that allows visitors to imagine the experience of the Freedom Riders by immersing themselves in the sights and sounds riders would have experienced.

We were honored to welcome members of Rep. Lewis' family, as well as Freedom Rider Etta Simpson Ray, among our guests on the bus.

The bus also traveled to Anniston, Alabama, on May 14. Among the visitors who explored the bus on that visit was the cast of FREEDOM RIDERS: The Civil Rights Musical. Seated on the bus, the performers were moved to sing “Freedom Song,” from the musical, which is being produced by Allen and Gray Musicals. They recently shared their video of this performance with us. We encourage you to watch and listen!

Click here to Watch the Video

Happenings Around Alabama

It is important to continue our mission to share Alabama’s history with visitors even when observing pandemic precautions like limiting capacity to allow social distancing. Our historic properties provide a variety of options for safe exploration, education and relaxation. Here are some activities that took place in July and August.

Freedom Rides Museum

  • Historic Greyhound Bus visited Nashville and Anniston.

Belle Mont Mansion

  • Hosted "Music at the Mansion" as part of the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival.
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Belle Mont "Music at the Mansion"

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Living History Volunteers, Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan

  • Living History Volunteers set up inside the Fort on August 7.
  • World War I living history demonstrations by group Voices of the Past was held in July.

Old Cahawba

  • True Crime Walking Tour gave visitors the opportunity to learn more about the obscure parts of Cahawba’s history, exploring the wild ways of Alabama’s 19th century frontier through an exciting narrative.

Click here for a map of AHC properties

Rare blooms flourish in summer at Old Cahawba

If you come out to Old Cahawba soon, you will see that the Old Cahawba Rosinweed, Silphium perplexum, is in bloom. You can see this plant along County Rd 9 near the Forever Wild Old Cahawba Prairie Tract kiosk and at the intersection of County Rd 9 and County Rd 2.

This rare plant is located in only three Alabama counties (Dallas, Perry and Bibb counties) and all known populations are found within eight miles from the Cahaba River.

To give you an idea of the plant's size, Old Cahawba Park Worker Warrent Reese is 6 feet tall!


David Tuck

In Memory

We are saddened to share the news that former Black Heritage Council member David Tuck passed away in late July. David was on the board from 2005 through 2017 and served on the BHC as Congressional District 3 representative. He also represented the BHC on the Alabama Historical Records Advisory Board. David was a tireless advocate for historic preservation across the state and in his district but close to his heart was Coosa County where he lived, especially rural resources. We remember David as dedicated to talking about and sharing the importance of preserving historically Black places and records. Let us keep his family in our prayers. He will be missed.

State Archaeologist Stacye Hathorn participates in Alabama Archaeological Society meeting

The Alabama Archaeological Society (AAS) held its summer meeting August 14 in Demopolis, with a combination of in-person and virtual attendance. State Archaeologist Stacye Hathorn participated in the first part of the program, speaking about public outreach in archaeology. The second part of the meeting welcomed the public to present artifacts for examination.

A woman brought in a large grinding stone, which was ground down in several places on both sides. 

AAS President Steven Meredith, an archaeologist and former geologist, examined the rockwhich is a sandstone estimated to be formed about 65-70 million years ago. It may have been used to grind nuts or corn in the last 3,000-5,000 years. Until now all the stone's owner knew was it was a grinding stone her father found decades ago, not far from where they lived in Marengo County.

AAS President Steven Meredith examines a rock and estimates it about 65-70 million years old. The owner taking notes about this artifact said it was found by her father more than 50 years ago.

AHC welcomes new employees

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John Gurner

Cultural Resources Specialist

Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson Park

John Gurner joins AHC as Cultural Resources Specialist at Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson. Originally from the Mississippi Delta, John has lived most of his life in Alabama. He graduated from Jacksonville State University with an MA in early American colonial and cultural history. In 2011 he took up the challenge to work as a living history interpreter at Fort Morgan State Historic Site. In 2016 he joined the staff at the US Army Center of Military History, stationed at the Anniston Army Depot, as a curator for the long-term collections storage facility. His time there was spent in collections management and consolidating collections from the field museums.

In his spare time he enjoys traveling, photography, and hiking.  

Heather Thornell

Senior Accountant

Heather Thornell started working for the state in 1996 with the Department of Public Health as a clerical aide. Since that time, she has worked for the Health Department, the Treasury Department, the Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and the Board of Engineers for a total of 24 years. She graduated with an Accounting degree from Troy State University Montgomery in 2001.

Heather is from Slapout, Alabama, but currently lives in Millbrook. She has three children – a daughter, 26, and two boys, 18 and 16. Her hobbies include fishing, fishing and FISHING! 

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