The Alabama Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, is pleased to announce three Alabama properties that have been added to the National Register of Historic Places: Bricklayers Hall in Montgomery, Montgomery County; The Alabama Book Store in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County; and Vanity Fair Park in Monroeville, Monroe County.
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources, worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a nationwide program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archaeological places. Properties listed in the NR include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture at the local, state, and/or national level. Alabama has more than 1,250 properties in the National Register.
“The National Register properties in Alabama tell an incredibly rich and diverse story of who we are as people, where we’ve been as a culture, and where we are going as a community,” said Lisa D. Jones, State Historic Preservation Officer and Executive Director Alabama Historical Commission. “Through the advocacy of citizens and the Alabama Historical Commission, we hope these resources and their legacies remain for generations to come.”
Bricklayers Hall, 530 South Union Street, Montgomery, Montgomery County
The neon letters of “Bricklayer’s Hall” stretch across a blue ribbon of signage on an unassuming brick building along South Union Street in Montgomery. Commuters in the Capitol City may have often passed the modest structure without knowing the magnitude of its worth as a key backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. Bricklayers Hall is significant at the national, state, and local levels as the headquarters of the Montgomery Improvement Association from February 1956 (about three months after the organization formed and the Montgomery Bus Boycott began) until 1960. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had an office in the building, as did the Montgomery Improvement Association’s administrative staff: Maude Ballou, Erna Dungee, and Hazel Gregory. The building also hosted meetings and provided workspace during the boycott.
The building was constructed in 1955 by the Bricklayers Union No. 3, a local African American labor union that was established before 1900. It contains a meeting hall and offices on the second floor, as well as two office suites on the first floor that the union rented out. It is located in the Centennial Hill neighborhood – the most prosperous African American neighborhood in Montgomery between 1904 and 1908.
Bricklayers Hall was also nominated for its association with civil rights Attorney Charles S. Conley, Jr., who had his offices in the building from 1961 to 1965. During this period, Conley worked on several important civil rights cases. He defended the Freedom Riders who protested segregation in buses and bus terminals and challenged racial segregation in Montgomery’s public libraries and the exclusion of African Americans from trial juries. In 1964, he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court as an attorney for four African American ministers who were sued by public officials because their names appeared on an advertisement in the New York Times that criticized the officials’ response to civil rights protests. The case, New York Times v. Sullivan, resulted in a landmark ruling that protected the rights of journalists and activists to criticize public officials.
The legal owner of the site is Ms. Anoo Kaushik. Her husband, Dr. Suresh Kaushik was the primary contact regarding the nomination. Alabama Department of Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Congresswoman Terri Sewell submitted letters in support of the nomination, as did Alabama State Representative Thad McClammy, who was closely involved in the nomination effort.
The Alabama Book Store, 1015 University Boulevard, Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County
The retail site has not always featured its familiar crimson awning, but the impact block lettering of Alabama Book Store has welcomed collegians seeking supplies and textbooks for nearly 80 years. Three generations of the Jones family have owned the retailer, which is currently known as Bamastuff. Located on “the Strip” in Tuscaloosa, AL and adjacent to The University of Alabama, the Alabama Book Store was established in 1938 and opened in the University Boulevard location in 1942. The property was nominated for its local significance as the longest-operating collegiate bookstore in Tuscaloosa. According to the nomination, written by Gene Ford, “the Alabama Book Store has been an integral part of the educational experience at the University of Alabama” for more than 80 years. The Alabama Book Store not only provided books and supplies but also hired students to work in the store. Over the years, the business adapted to changes in the university curriculum, in technology, and in students’ needs. It was also one of the first commercial buildings in Tuscaloosa to install air conditioning, which cooled the bookstore when it opened in 1942.
The Alabama Book Store was also recognized for its architectural significance. The building was designed by notable Alabama architect David O. Whilldin (1881-1970) and is an excellent example of Depression Modern architecture in Tuscaloosa. The building’s symmetrical limestone façade and simple ornamentation are typical of this style.
Vanity Fair Park, 271 Park Drive, Monroeville, Monroe County
Scenic Vanity Fair Park in Monroeville, AL was established in 1948 through a partnership between Vanity Fair Mills, Inc. and local residents. The park spans nearly 20 acres and includes an artificial lake, a picnic pavilion, tennis courts, the 1952 Community House, and the site of a swimming pool that was constructed in 1963 after the lake was closed for swimming. The site illustrates the important role that Vanity Fair Mills played in the development of Monroeville between 1948 and 1980, when the company donated the park to the City of Monroeville. In the 1950s and 1960s, town boosters touted the park as one of the community’s best features.
It was the only park in Monroeville until the mid-1960s, when the City of Monroeville established Clausell Park, which was open to African Americans, who had been excluded from Vanity Fair Park. The City’s acquisition of Vanity Fair Park in 1980 was a milestone in the development of municipal recreation in the community.
The facility provides a variety of outdoor activities such as fishing, picnic pavilion, walking trail, and Community House. The park was donated to the City by Vanity Fair Foundation. The park was created under the direction of M. O. “Whitey” Lee who was a resident of Monroeville, a trustee for the Foundation and Chairman of VF Corporation until his death on March 5, 1962. The park was later renamed in his honor. This nomination was funded by a Certified Local Government grant from the National Park Service to the City of Monroeville.
For more information about the National Register, or to learn how to begin the process of nominating a property, please visit www.ahc.alabama.gov.
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