Theres history in little old Calera Presbyterian church

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A short trip in Shelby County can be surprisingly fun and interesting. There are lots of unusual things to see if looked at through the eyes of a &8220;pretend tourist.&8221;

We had that experience when Pat Bird, of Calera, invited us over for lunch and especially to see the little Presbyterian Church and the adjacent Akridge Arboretum.

Of course we knew of the church, but had never been inside.

It&8217;s a beautiful tiny chapel reminiscent of the 1880s, the era in which it was built, and is the oldest church building in Calera.

Some of the wood flooring is original and there are pegged pews.

Especially interesting are the many old pictures along the walls.

It&8217;s really a mini-museum with so much Calera history depicted in the photos.

The church was built about 1887 by a group headed by James Daniel Hardy.

Mr. Hardy had moved his family from New York to the Calera area to take advantage of the opportunities that the rich deposits of lime provided.

Later that family owned and operated the Newala lime plant.

At the time of their arrival in Calera, the only church in the community was a church shared by four denominations. The Hardys, who were perceived as &8220;Yankees,&8221; were not welcome in that church and decided, along with a few others, to build their own facility.

Presbyterians occupied the building some twenty years and the church was dissolved in 1929. The building was used as classroom space for the elementary school for a short period and then home of the Calera Church of Christ.

In the mid-1980s the ownership of the property reverted to the Hardy family who transferred it to the city of Calera.

With the help of grants, the church was restored.

The arboretum is adjacent to the chapel and is a work in progress.

In the foyer of the little church building there is posted a professionally designed master plan for the garden.

It&8217;s a delightful place for a walk or a picnic.

There is an outdoor stage and a pavilion nestled among the trees and shrubs.

Ms. Bird told us, &8220;Lamont Franklin, a teacher at Calera High School, was our guiding light.

She organized the establishment of the Akridge Arboretum and the acquisition of the chapel.&8221;

Ms. Franklin, now deceased, was a well-loved and loyal citizen of Calera.

Both the church and the garden are owned and maintained by the City of Calera with the active participation of the Akridge Arboretum Historical Society, chaired by Jimmy Lee.

Both of the facilities, along with the city&8217;s recreation building, are available as rentals for weddings, receptions, family gatherings, etc. For information or reservations, call 668-3500.

Catherine Legg can be reached by e-mail at