Iconic town spots get makeovers

Published 12:19 pm Saturday, January 23, 2010

Helena lost an icon this past week.

Perhaps to call it an icon is a bit much, but it was one of the first structures to welcome you to our fair town and from the time of my arrival here, my eye rarely failed to acknowledge its skulking presence along Alabama 261.

An abandoned house by another name might be termed an eyesore, tenaciously clinging through the seasons.

I was a bit charmed by the faded pink and white striped overstuffed sofa that resided on its front porch, as if clinging to its last vestige of “yes, this comfort I can still offer.”

At a recent City Council meeting, it was approved for destruction and within hours, the dozers arrived.

Passing by, it was already smoldering planks on what was left of the foundation and even that was gone by the next day.

In a more upbeat update on changes in appearance, is the Masonic Lodge on the corner of First Avenue East that has shed its tar-shingled coating over the past months to reveal quite a fine underbelly of planked white siding. It previously received a new roof in February 2009.

“We were quite pleased with the condition of the weatherboarding,” said Ken Penhale. This 1935 structure replaced the earlier Lodge that was destroyed in 1933.

Refurbishment of this structure is underway to meet the scheduled May Helena Homecoming in conjunction with the statewide “Year of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns” celebration.

The second floor space is accessible only by exterior stairs and will have to be made handicapped accessible to house a planned local museum.

Penhale has long dreamed of a repository for his historical collection. Working together with the Historical Society, Penhale, assisted by Miriam Fowler, now retired from the Birmingham Museum of Art, will be coordinating the display.

The first two artifacts in place are a turn-of-the century pot-bellied stove and a church pew from the original Helena Methodist Church.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.