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MHDC ENews: March 2010                             Volume 2 Number 3
Greetings!  
Spring is here and with it our annual Mobile Historic Homes Tour.  Come and visit some of Mobile's most gracious homes as we open our doors in Ashland Place on Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20.  This edition of ENews will have a complete overview of this year's Tour.  I hope you will make plans to attend, and also enjoy some of our supporting events.
  
Beginning in this issue, our architectural historian, Cart Blackwell, will begin a new feature on historic buildings.  Enjoy his profile as we take you on an architectural tour through some of Mobile's most significant structures - some preserved and some lost. 
 
And as always, we hope that you will share our ENews with your family and friends who enjoy and support historic preservation.  Please feel free to pass along this electronic publication and encourage everyone to subscribe.  It is our hope that this communication tool will help keep our community updated on preservation issues and special events.
2010 Mobile Historic Homes Tour features Ashland Place
2250 DeLeon
 
This 1908 Georgian Revival homes was designed by George Rogers for the John B. Waterman family.  It will be one of six featured homes on this year's Mobile Historic Homes Tour. Photo courtesy of Bob Peck.
 
With spring comes an old Mobile tradition.  This year the Historic Mobile Preservation Society will present the 41st annual Mobile Historic Homes Tour on Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., in the Ashland Place Historic District.
 
Ashland Place was established in the early 1900s and is Mobile's oldest subdivision. The neighborhood was established next to the Spring Hill Trolley Line. It was home to Mobile's lumber barons, captains of industry and business leaders. 
Many of the homes are still occupied by the original family members, a unique characteristic of this historic area.  A walkable neighborhood, Ashland Place features homes in a variety of architectural styles, all designed by leading architects of the period. 
 
This year's tour will showcase how contemporary families live in historic homes.
This year's houses include the homes of:
 
Kent and Murlene Clark
216 LeVert Avenue
1928 Spanish Colonial Revival
 
John and Allison Peebles
107 Ryan Avenue
1921 Craftsman Bungalow
 
Ian and Theresa Whelan
2254 DeLeon Avenue
1908 Georgian Revival
designed by George Rogers
 
William C. and Gwen Roedder
211 LeVert Avenue
1908 English Tudor
 
Richard and Mary Taylor
2256 DeLeon Avenue
1938 Mission
 
Wes and Amy Pipes
207 LeVert Avenue
1950 Raised Cottage
 
Along with the six homes open for touring, Ashland Place United Methodist Church will be open for tours on Friday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. and all day on Saturday.  The Oakleigh Historic Complex will also offer free admission to all Mobile Historic Homes Tour ticket holders.
 
Along with the tour of homes, several events have been planned to enhance your Homes Tour experience.
 
On Friday and Saturday afternoons, our historic house museums - Richards DAR House, Conde Charlotte House, Bragg Mitchell Mansion and the Portier House - will be offering an Afternoon Tea beginning at 2:00 p.m. with an additional $10 ticket.  Proceeds from the teas will benefit each house museum. 
 
The Mobile Historic Development Commission will be giving a guided Walking Tour of the Church Street Graveyard from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.  The tour is available with a separate $5 ticket.
 
Noted architect L. Craig Roberts, AIA, will give a lecture on the historic architecture of Mobile at Bernheim Hall on Friday evening beginning at 5:30 p.m.  The lecture will be followed by a Champagne reception.  Tickets to this event are $15.
 
For a complete run-down on the weekend activities, please visit the Historic Mobile Preservation Society's website at www.historicmobile.org
 
Mobile Historic Homes Tour tickets are $17 in advance, $20 day of the tour.  Tickets are available for purchase at the following ticket outlets: Fort Conde Welcome Center, Conde Charlotte House, The Richards DAR House, Downtown Mobile Alliance, Mobile Arts Council, Oakleigh, Cotton Capers, Bragg Mitchell Mansion, The Ivy Cottage, High Cotton Consignments, Antiques At The Loop, B&B Pet Stop, Five Gold Monkeys, It's Inviting, Ellen's Boutique, and Page and Palette in Fairhope. 
 
Supporting event tickets are available for purchase through HMPS and at the door.
 
This year's Mobile Historic Homes Tour is made possible from the generous sponsorship of Augusta Tapia Interior Design, Iberia Bank, Maynard Cooper & Gale PC Attorneys at Law, Tom Mason Communications, Roberts Brothers, BankTrust, Mobile Historic Development Commission, Robin C. and Kathryn S. Roberts, B&B Pet Stop, Delchamps Printing, Mobile Public Library, RBC Bank, L Craig Roberts, AIA, Douglas Burtu Kearley, AIA, Holmes and Holmes Architects, Memorable Mobile Tours Inc., Christina Wilby Gustin, Waites Cleaners, Robert S. Edington Attorney at Law, Heirloom Appraisals, H. Robert Peck, John W. and Joy U. Klotz.    
 
 
 
 Barton Academy and Yerby School: A Classical Pairing of Educational and Archtiectural Excellence

by Cartledge Blackwell, architectural historian 
 
With its monumental portico and lofty dome, Barton Academy cannot but capture the eye of the passerby. Regardless if one is a local or a visitor, the view of this grand old edifice is a sight to behold. As one of the most architecturally and historically significant buildings in Mobile, Barton Academy is worthy of the reverence for its past and concern for its future. Unfortunately, the physical presence and popular fondness for Barton is such that one forgets that the building is part of larger complex which includes another equally grand and important building - Yerby Academy.

 

Yerby Academy as seen from Conti Street
 
2250 DeLeon

  Located directly behind the Barton building, facing
Conti Street, Yerby School occupies the other half of a block once called Barton Square. Completed in 1905, the Yerby building was constructed as part of a tripartite effort aimed at consolidating school property, alleviating student overcrowding, and expanding educational instruction. With fourteen large classrooms intended for the instruction of fifty students each, the building fulfilled the numerical and educational requirements of the period, as well as providing the City with yet another awe inspiring public building. Having its own stylistic merits and historical significance, Yerby is much more than an aesthetic complement to her more famous and hallowed sister. Together the Barton and Yerby buildings comprise one of the few intact downtown blocks remaining from early 20th Century Mobile. This article will briefly illustrate how the Yerby portion of the Barton block achieved its present form. In so doing, the reader will hopefully realize the interlocking histories of two of Mobile's grandest educational edifices.
  

During the September 7, 1902 meeting of the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners, the board members assembled addressed a perennial issue still facing schools today - overcrowding. After much consideration, the School board decided that the only means to alleviate overcrowding at Barton, as well as consolidate the number of city schools, was to build a new school directly behind the venerable old building. Dilapidated wooden buildings occupying the rear portion of Barton Academy Square were demolished to make way for the proposed school. The Board specified that the new school be built in "accordance with all the principles of modern school architecture and sufficient to not only accommodate [the]children now attending the school [Barton], but also the Girls Primary School (formerly located on Jackson Street)."

 

As was common practice, the Board's Executive Committee was called upon to solicit plans for the proposed building. Unfortunately, this standard procedure was fraught with conflict from the beginning. By April 24th of 1902, four architects had submitted plans. After an extended meeting during which each architect was called forth to explain his plans, the Board decided to award the commission to Mr. Benjamin Smith of Montgomery. Having designed several schools upstate, "Architect Smith" was well suited for the job. Still, Mobile's architectural establishment was understandably concerned about awarding such a prestigious commission to a non-resident architect. Citing an overlooked residency clause forming part of the Committees initial solicitation, local architects and contractors argued against Smith's appointment. Though the Board voted to strike the clause, tempers would continue to flare through the whole of the building campaign.

Rivalries and suspicion within the architectural profession were only part of the School Board's concerns. After selecting Benjamin Smith's plan, the Board of Commissioners had to face the all too often reality of a lack of initial funding. Consequently, the project for the new school was postponed for a year.  Much needed repairs to the Barton building were delayed as well. Work stood at a standstill on both projects. Local architects utilized the lull in events to reassert their supremacy. They insisted that the repair and remodeling of Barton Academy be done by one of their own. Ultimately the firm of Watkins and Hutchisson assumed this hallowed task. A measure of the importance of that undertaking can be gleaned from Messrs. Watkins and Hutchisson's request for not just equal, but if at all possible greater compensation than that awarded Mr. Smith. Ultimately the Hutchisson firm not only made repairs to Barton, but also added the wings which flank the main building. In the meantime, work finally proceeded on the Yerby Building. Ground was broken in 1903. The School opened its doors in September of 1905. The initial projected cost of $25,000 was increased twice, eventually reaching $40,000.

Stylistically and compositionally, the completed Yerby building provided a design contrast to Barton. While both buildings utilize classical detail and observe proportional harmonies, Yerby eschews a central axial approach. Instead of employing a dome or entrance to anchor the design, Smith played down the center by employing two
Yerby Academy Side View
2250 DeLeon
entrances. The slightly recessed entrances provide the fašade with a rhythmic five part composition comparable to the expanded Barton, yet with an effect all it's own with regard to the design approach and stylistic vehicle. Yerby's ordered plan and robust elevations betray the influence of the popular Beaux Arts approach. The Beaux Arts was not a style, but a system which insisted on internal order and functional adherence - a duality perfectly suited for a school building. Axial and cross-axial halls provided access to the seven main classrooms of the first and second floors. Multiple flights of stairs lead to additional classrooms and exercise facilities located on the ground floor. Utilities were obscured on the ground and attic floor levels. To this ordered Beaux Arts plan were grafted elevations featuring a dynamic interplay of classical elements. Engaged columns, bulls-eye windows, and banded masonry are combined in such a way to engender monumentality and security.

 Upon the completion of Yerby and the repairs to Barton, students and parents were confronted with two distinctive classically inspired visions that made up a unified whole. The Mobile Register applauded the building, noting the conjunction of an "interior well adapted for the purpose."  The artful and functional paring functioned as a consolidated education compound in the heart of downtown Mobile.  Though weathered by time and threatened by neglect, the often overlooked YerbySchool remains a testament to City's commitment ot architectural and intellectural excellence.

ARB at a Glance
The Architectural Review Board is continuing to work hard to protect our historic districts.  Here is a look at their body of work for February 2010.
 
Total Applications                        
Applications Approved by Staff -  26       
Applications Reviewed by ARB - 11         
Applications Approved by ARB - 9          
Applications Tabled by ARB - 1                  
Applications Denied by ARB -  1           
Applications Withdrawn - 0                      
Applications in Design Committee - 1     
Applications Appealed - 0                    
 
Applicants estimate the proposed job costs for renovations and improvement to homes and buildings in districts, under the Architectural Review Board's jurisdiction, will cost an estimated .  To date, an estimated $354,355 in construction cost have been spent in our historic districts.
 
For more information on the Architectural Review Board, and for a schedule of meetings, please visit the MHDC website at www.mobilehd.org.
Inaugrual African American Heritage Trail Walking Tour
by Dora Finley
 

The African-American Heritage Trail's (AAHT) inaugural Downtown Walking Tour took place on Saturday morning, February 20, 2010 during Black History Month. The Mobile Chapter of the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was the tour recipient. Jack and Jill has a membership base of over 9,500 families and is the oldest (founded in 1938) and largest African-American family organization in the United States.

 

Mrs. Jacqueline Johnson, Program Director for the Jack and Jill of Mobile first requested a tour for their organization during Black History month a year ago. "Thanks to Jacque's persistence, we developed a tour that met their parameters", according to AAHT Chairperson, Dora Finley.  The Jack and Jill children and parents met at Wintzell's Dauphin Street parking lot which was the first and last stop of the tour.  After instructions, the large group of fifty, safely and orderly walked on sidewalks and learned about the following AAHT sites:

  • The Fire House of Creole Fire Co. #1
  • The Medical Clinic of Dr. T. N. Harris- Mobile's first licensed Black Physician.
  • The Non-Partisan Voters League office of early Community Advocate, John LeFlore.
  • The St. Francis Street home of Bettie Hunter, built in 1876 by the successful black entrepreneur during the Reconstruction period. 
  • The turn of the century sites of A.N. Johnson's Funeral Home, Printing Office, and People's Drug Store in 500 block of Dauphin Street.
  • Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception-keeper of the records, documenting early Creole Heritage in old Mobile.
  • The home of Wallace Turnage self emancipated slave. 
    2250 DeLeon
The families concluded the Black History tour with a Wintzell's special luncheon served in the former Dr. H. Roger Williams' turn of the century Live and Let Live Drug Store.  According to Dora Finley, AAHT Chairperson, "We were honored to host such a visionary organization as the Jack and Jill of America and to assist in its mission: "to empower our youth to excel through leadership and service in our communities".

 

Richards DAR House Museum to hold Annual Spring Garden Party
The Richards-DAR House Museum, Mobile's premiere Italianate museum house (1860), opens its doors and gardens for its Annual Spring Garden Party on Sunday, March 21 from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., at 256 North Joachim Street, in the historic deTonti Square District.  Celebrate spring with azaleas in full bloom, great company, and delectable hors d'oerves, desserts, and tea-party fare. Cash donation wine bar will be available in the courtyard and, as always, their will be prizes for the Garden Party's annual hat contest. The categories for judging are: Breath of Spring; Best Hat and Ensemble; Best Vintage Hat; Most Creative Hat; and Funniest Hat. The contest is open to both men and women. Proceeds to benefit the house museum. $10 Donation. Tickets may be purchased from any board member or for further ticket  information, please call 633-6495.

Alabama to celebrate Year of Small Towns & Downtowns
More than 200 towns and cities will stage "Great Alabama Homecoming" events and unveil historic markers in 2010 as part of the Year of Small Towns & Downtowns, Gov. Bob Riley announced on Tuesday, March 9.

The Governor will officially launch the tourism campaign at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery. The homecomings will continue through mid-December with a majority of the events taking place in the summer.

"Communities will welcome former residents to participate in food, crafts and music events that celebrate each town's unique characteristics," Riley said. Historic markers written by local historians and provided by the Alabama Tourism Department will be unveiled, he said.

A total of 215 communities, ranging in size from Mooresville, population 54, to Birmingham, population 300,000, have scheduled events throughout the calendar.

For more information on the Year of Small Towns and Downtowns, visit the Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel website at www.alabama.travel
Calendar of Events
Old Dauphin Way Historic District
March 25 - General Meeting, 7:00 p.m., St. Mary's School
April 3 - Spring Plant Sale, 10:00 a.m., Old Shell Road School Playground
April 25 - Annual Picnic, 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., Little Sisters of the Poor
 
Church Street East Neighborhood Association
March 16 - Neighborhood Meeting and election of officers, 6:00 p.m., 201 S. Warren Street
 
Historic Mobile Preservation Society
March 19 & 20 - Mobile Historic Homes Tour, for more info visit their website at www.historicmobile.org.

Richard DAR Museum House
March 21 - Annual Spring Garden Party, 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Tickets $10.

To submit events, please forward information to Mobile Historic Development Commission at mhdc@cityofmobile.org.  Please include contact information. 
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Sincerely,
 

Rhonda Davis
Public Relations Chair
Mobile Historic Development Commission
In This Issue
2010 Mobile Historic Homes Tour goes to Ashland Place
Barton Academy and Yerby School: A Classical Pairing of Educational and Archtiectural Excellence
ARB at a Glance
Inaugrual African American Heritage Trail Walking Tour
Richards DAR House Museum to hold Annual Spring Garden Party
Alabama to celebrate the Year of Small Towns & Downtowns
Calendar of Events
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