Harvie Jones Architectural Collection
Twickenham Historic Preservation District: The First Twenty-Five Years
1972-1997, Huntsville, Alabama, History, Maps and Comparative Photographs
1972 Photographs - Carey Cooper; 1997 Photographs and Compilation - Harvie P. Jones, FAIA
The Architectural Collection of Harvie P. Jones, FAIA, Dept. of Archives/Special Collections, M. Louis Salmon Library, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL.
This notebook was compiled in 1997, the twenty-fifth year of the Twickenham Historic Preservation District, for two primary reasons: To be able to assess the successes and shortcomings of the evolution of the Twickenham Historic Preservation District and the Architectural Review process by being able to directly and easily compare the 1972 photograph of each building with its 1997 companion photograph, and to document for future reference and study how each building in the District appeared upon the designation of the historic district and what changes had occurred by twenty-five years later.
The photographs also show changes in landscaping, landscape elements such as fences and walls, tree and shrub growth and disappearance, building appearances and disappearances, visible building additions, alterations, restorations, and the permitted remodeling of some newer buildings that were under fifty years old (the cutoff age for a "contributing structure" in a historic district).
In some cases where pre-1972 photographs were of interest and available, these have been included. Many more such photographs, such as the 1930's Historic American Buildings Survey photographs, are available from various sources.
No 1972 negative or print was found for a few buildings. In those instances a photograph nearest to the 1972 date was used from Harvie P. Jones' collection or from the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.
About eighty of the Twickenham District buildings are each extensively documented with between ten and two-hundred black/white annotated photographs, plans, etc. in the collection of Harvie P. Jones FAIA. Most of these buildings involved architectural work by Jones & Herrin, Architects (Harvie P. Jones) from 1967 through 1997. This collection is willed to the University of Alabama in Huntsville Library. The collection also includes several hundred color slides of the District from the 1955-97 period.
Several of the pre-1972 photographs are copied from the collection in the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Heritage Room.
The 1972 photographs were made due to the foresight of Joe E. Cooper, the 1972-73 President of the Twickenham Historic Preservation District Association and then a resident of the 1835 Judge Lane House at 511 Adams Street. Joe had his son Carey photograph each building to document the District at its beginning. These 1972 negatives and prints are, in 1997, on file at the THPDA office of the 1819 Weeden House Museum at 300 Gates Avenue.
To prolong the life of this collection the following steps have been taken:
- Black and white negatives and prints, rather than unstable color negatives and prints, have been utilized.
- All pages are of acid-free paper.
- All paste is pH neutral.
- Negatives are stored in acid-free sleeves.
- All negative-sleeves are identified by date, photographer, street, and street-numbers. Negative sleeves are stored in labeled acid-free envelopes.
- A second set of clear photocopy reproductions on acid-free paper has been given to the Huntsville Madison County Public Library Heritage Room courtesy of the Historic Huntsville Foundation.
- The cost of true archival-quality photographic prints and archival processing of the negatives could not be afforded (about nine-hundred photographs are involved). The life of these machine-processed prints is unknown, but the negatives should still be available in the future.
In compiling this notebook, the 1972 photograph is typically on the left and its 1997 companion is to its right. Each is dated. In many cases there are notes or sketches pertaining to additions, modifications or other items of interest, and a "circa" date of the event. These dates are by memory and therefore are approximate. The accurate dates are available in the minutes of the three-hundred meetings (as of March, 1997) of the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission on file at the City of Huntsville Building Inspector's office on Fountain Circle.
The names of architects or designers of restorations and modifications are also noted by memory, so some may be incorrectly noted. To search three-hundred sets of meeting notes was not in the time available for compiling this notebook.
Dates and historic names of buildings, where noted, are taken from such sources as Glimpses into Antebellum Homes’’’, 1992 edition, A.A.U.W. Huntsville Branch. Many of these dates are of necessity also approximate since construction dates are frequently not precisely recorded. Some other dates are from the detailed research of records in the 1970's by Linda Allen and Patricia Ryan of the Huntsville Planning Commission. The Planning Commission records contain this research on most of the buildings in both the Twickenham and Old Town Historic Districts.
While every person can form their own opinion of the effectiveness of historic preservation in the District, a comparison of the 1972 and 1997 photographs would appear to indicate a high degree of success. In 1972 several houses were cut into makeshift low-rent apartments, and many houses were in poor to mediocre repair. One such early 19th century house was bought in 1972 for $16,500, restored for about $75,000 and sold ten years later for $500,000(Randolph Street, p.28, No. 519). There are now only a couple of houses in the District in less-than-good repair. The past indicates that these will be brought up to good condition.
In the first twenty years of the oversight of the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission, requests for demolition or moving of houses out of the District could be delayed by the Commission for up to three months but not legally prohibited. In this period one early nineteenth century house was demolished by its owner and three early twentieth century houses were demolished or moved out of the District. A Supreme Court case of about 1990 (a church in New York City) upheld the right of a Historic Commission to prohibit demolition of a historic building. This has not yet been tested in Huntsville.
One empty and neglected Federal Period house on South Greene Street was demolished in 1974 by the City Minimum Housing Office in a "failure to communicate" problem. That City office was then unaware of the city's Historic District Review process and so tore down the house (with great effort due to its sound timber-frame construction) upon the owner's request. The house was in easily-restorable condition (see South Green Street, p.5. No. 703).
A visual confirmation of the historic preservation success of the Twickenham (and Old Town) Historic Preservation District is to compare the state of preservation of these District houses with that of the houses in the unregulated but historic area east of Andrew Jackson Way and north of Maple Hill Cemetery. This large area contains hundreds of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century houses. In the past twenty-five years most of them have been nicely renovated, but without the guidance and review of a Historic Preservation Commission. As a result there are many renovation and addition examples there that are historically inappropriate to the particular house. Plastic siding and false shutters are rampant, for example. This area could have been a Preservation District but it may now be too late for much of it. An effort of about fifteen years ago by the Historic Huntsville Foundation to encourage a District there met with much owner resistance. Another effort by some residents is under way in 1996-97 involving a portion of this large area, which will, we hope, be successful.
The score in 1997 for the Twickenham Historic Preservation District seems to be that the preservation successes o f the Historic District far outweigh, in every respect, the few losses. The key has been the overwhelming support of the property owners, who in 1972 petitioned the City to form the District and the Architectural Review process administered by the City of Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission.