Shown is Gurnee Avenue in Downtown Anniston. Historic resources, dating from Anniston’s heyday as the “Model City of the New South” through its turbulent civil rights era, are threatened by a proposed federal courthouse project and the construction of a new criminal justice center for the city. One location in particular—the site of the May 14, 1961, attack on a busload of Freedom Riders—is in imminent danger of destruction due to the construction project.
Th e courthouse plan also requires the demolition of sixteen more buildings that contribute to the Downtown Anniston Historic District, including an intact streetscape along Gurnee Avenue that served as the backdrop for the initial Freedom Rider bus attack. Photos of the bus when it was firebombed on the outskirts of town became one of the iconic images of the civil rights movement. Additionally, six other structures will be demolished, including the Anniston City Land Company Building (1890), one of three signature buildings constructed by the town’s founding leadership to attract investors to the city. Th e eff ectiveness of local and federal historic preservation protection will be tested by both projects. The courthouse plan is subject to a review through Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The proposed justice center also is located within a locally designated historic district. Preservationists at the local, state, and national level hope to ensure the protection of the significant Gurnee Street streetscape and the restoration of the Anniston City Land Company Building.
Alabama's Endangered Historic Landmarks
Each year since 1994, Alabama Heritage has highlighted threatened historic sites throughout Alabama. The “Places in Peril” list has identified more than 215 imperiled historic resources throughout the state, and is compiled by the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation. The locations highlight the results of deferred maintenance, perceived obsolescence, development pressures, and lack of funding—forces that now more than ever threaten our cultural legacy. But awareness is a powerful force, too, and can cultivate a renewed determination to be responsible stewards of our heritage. For more information, visit the AHC or the ATHP websites. Alabama Heritage is proud to bring to you a selection of the places designated as perilous. Please keep your comments to information relevant to the featured place in peril. Alabama Heritage reserves the right to delete any comment that we deem inappropriate.