Historic Buildings of Stillman College
Presbyterian ministerial students at the Tuscaloosa Institute (now Stillman College), founded in 1876, pose in front of the Victorian cottage that served as the institute's home from 1881 until 1898, when the school moved to its present location. Stillman House, as the building is known today, still serves the college as a gathering place for alumni and others. (Photo courtesy Heritage Commission of Tuscaloosa County)
Saving souls and mending bodies were important goals for early educators and students at Tuscaloosa’s Stillman College, founded in 1876. Established by the Southern Presbyterian Church to provide a “Christian education of practical value” and train young black men for the ministry, the school has played an important role in the education of African Americans in Alabama for more than one hundred years. Three buildings in particular serve as reminders of the college’s rich heritage: Winsborough Hall and Emily Estes Snedecor Hall, both on the Stillman campus, and Stillman House on Twenty-first Avenue in Tuscaloosa.
The “Mockingbird” Courthouse
Arguably no Alabama courthouse is better known nor more frequently visited--especially by those not on legal business--than the Monroe County Courthouse, built in 1903. The fame that Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has brought to the building has attracted thousands of the novel's admirers to tour it. After substantial and thoughtful restoration, the old Monroe County Courthouse now serves as the centerpiece of the Monroe County Heritage Museums complex. There, the Mockingbird buff may stand just where Atticus Finch defended Tom Robinson, to absorb all the atmosphere of the scene in the courtroom that appears quite as it did in the 1930s, when the novel is set.
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.
Making Preservation Profitable
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.”
From the Vault
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