Can you spot Helena’s history?
By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist
On the recent holiday weekend that exuded joy for the happy state of football in Alabama on Saturday, it was a very quiet Sunday morning at the Helena Riviera. The local great blue heron flew by, headed for his spot near the mossy end of the dam.
Three dogs were making one another’s acquaintance along the banks of Buck Creek, as their owners chatted. Things got a bit feistier as one owner produced an orange plastic Frisbee and tossed it out over the waters for his enthusiastic canine to retrieve.
Indeed, the morning in general reminded me of my first extended stroll through Old Town in June 2008, while composing in my head the first of these weekly columns.
During such un-peopled moments, the eye is drawn to details otherwise overlooked. Can you identify the location of the following small decorative motifs in Helena?
1) A vertical series of metal postal boxes, each emblazoned with an eagle, talons holding a shaft of arrows, against a background of delineated rays?
These mailboxes were not opened with a key, but by twisting the metal knob in alignment with your personal code formed from the numbers one to eight.
2) A circular wastewater metal cover designed by the East Jordan Ironworks with a scenic underwater motif?
3) An historic home built in 1895 that is still lovingly maintained and quietly welcomes with wicker porch furniture and abundance of large potted ferns?
Sandwiched in the above photo are the draincover in the sidewalk near 3745 Helena Road and a close-up of the handsome mailboxes that are still visible on the front façade of what was, in 1900, Ruffin Brothers Store.
J.L. Ruffin began this “50-year commercial dynasty housed next to the railroad tracks on the west side of Main Street. It sold everything from hats to coffins and served as the town post office for many years.” (From Images of America, Helena, AL)
Standing just behind this building on Second Avenue, is the C.T. Davidson home, which has been occupied by his descendents and restored by James and Marion Sides. Marion Sides’ mother, Emmie Pitts Davidson, taught school in Helena, was an original member of the county library board and served as the town clerk.