The council is developing a program that will fund half the cost of preparing architectural illustrations showing how a building would look if it were restored. One pilot project is Camden’s 1870 Antioch Baptist Church, which consolidated local support for preservation. A building that did not appear to have a future now has a renovated exterior.(Thomas Kaufmann)
The story of Alabama is to no small degree one about the interplay of three distinct cultures: indigenous, European American, and African American. Only in recent decades, however, has a broad-based concerted effort been made to identify and preserve places that reflect the diversity of the African American experience. The Black Heritage Council of the Alabama Historical Commission is playing a critical role in this effort.
How many of you drive past vacant and deteriorating historic buildings in your downtown or neighborhood? Those of us who love historic buildings believe there are far too many of them out there that need attention, resources, and a new life. During our country’s bicentennial, our national leaders felt the same way and were concerned about the loss of America’s heritage when they saw a decline in our downtowns and older neighborhoods. At the time it seemed that people had abandoned their town centers for shiny, new suburbs and shopping centers. As a result, Congress created tax incentives in 1976 to encourage private investment in historic places.
When taking on a research project, one never knows quite where it will lead. The road appears straightforward, but unexpected twists and turns may lie ahead. Certainly this proved to be the case with the Oakleigh outbuilding known simply as “the cook’s house.”
Operated exclusively with donated materials and volunteer workers, the Mobile Middle Bay Lighthouse Centennial Commission, chaired Capt. Hal Pierce, keeps the lighthouse painted and repaired. "Each of Alabama's significant historic structures needs a resource group as dedicated as this one," says Kimberly Harden, preservation architect with the Alabama Historical Commission. (Courtesy Alabama Historical Commission)
Hurricanes, Yankee Gunfire, and time have taken their toll on Alabama's three Gulf Coast lighthouses, but the structures and their quaint, some times tragic histories-live on, primarily because of the affection many Gulf Coast residents have for these beacons of light, and the time and money they are willing to commit to their preservation.
I am frequently asked how I became interested in cemeteries. It is a story that began for me as a young child. Every year on the first Sunday in May, I traveled with my family to Bethabara Cemetery in Fayette County for Decoration Day. And every year I watched my mother and aunts place flowers at our ancestors’ graves. We would walk between rows of headstones, and I would hear my grandfather repeat the same stories about who was who and how that person fit into our family tree. Then we would stand beside the freshly decorated graves and proudly have our picture taken. Those faded photographs not only depict the evolution of the cemetery but also remind me how quickly time passes. My grandfather died in 2008 and now lies buried at Bethabara, and Decoration Day is more meaningful to me than ever before. I walk the rows with my own children, repeating the stories my grandfather entrusted to me many years ago, perpetuating my love for old cemeteries that began when I was a child.
From the Vault
Read complete classic articles and departments featured in Alabama Heritage magazine in the past 35 years of publishing. You'll find in-depth features along with quirky and fun departments that cover the people, places, and events that make our state great!