Historic preservation remains a Montevallo priority

Published 11:27am Tuesday, July 23, 2013

By DEANNA SMITH / Guest Columnist

Congratulations to the City of Montevallo for its recent inclusion of the downtown core on the National Register of Historic Places. As a board member for the Montevallo Development Cooperative District, I can honestly say not a meeting goes by that historic preservation doesn’t rise to the forefront.

With so much progress in Montevallo, it is great to be reminded of our past. So I thumbed through “Images of America — Montevallo,” a book by the University of Montevallo’s own Clark Hultquist and Carey Heatherly. From this book I learned that, sadly, the home of Henry Clay Reynolds, first president of the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School (AGIS) — now the University of Montevallo — was demolished during the 1960s for a shopping plaza.

A few pages later, my heart was uplifted as I saw a photo of the private residence of Francis Marion Peterson, the second president of the AGIS, and I realized that UM is in fact the owner of this wonderful treasure in the rough. Even more exciting is the plan for UM to restore this two-story Victorian to its former state of grandeur.

According to the 1990 National Registry nomination form, the home was built in 1900 by Mrs. Lucy Cary and purchased by Dr. Peterson in 1908. However, it was Miss Charlotte Peterson, the long-term principal of the elementary school, who resided in the home until 1970. Fortunately, UM purchased the home from Mr. and Mrs. Tony Hall in 1996.

The exterior features include a wrap-around porch, pitched roofs and historic wooden sashes. Inside, it isn’t hard to imagine how elegant the home must have been in its day with features such as hardwood floors and 10-foot ceilings.

Though the structure’s current condition reveals many years of aging and bracing itself against the weather, its future potential was awe-inspiring during a recent project-planning tour of the property.

The planning for restoration is underway with a $550,000 budget, made possible by the university’s recent bond issue and grant support from the Save America’s Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

The university intends to work closely with an historical consultant and the state historic preservation officer. It is our desire that Montevallo residents for many generations to come will be able to reflect on our rich history when visiting Peterson House.

DeAnna Smith is the vice president for business affairs and treasurer at the University of Montevallo.

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