By Elizabeth Ann Brown
It is always amazing to go around our Midtown neighborhoods and see the variety of houses we have in Montgomery. I never fail to get a smile out of people when I give them directions to my house by telling them I live around the corner from a well-known politician, with the caveat that I am in a much smaller house. Large and small, Greek Revival, bungalow and ranch, rich and not-so-rich, we manage to live cheek-by-jowl with one another in (mostly) happy companionship. In my heart, I know this is America.
Montgomery’s urban planning seems to take into account every idea tried in the 19th and 20th centuries. The grid in downtown, those wacky places where the grid shifts and leaves us a little uncertain of where we are, boulevards, broad streets, then on to the romantic curves of Cloverdale. We have something for every taste, except perhaps for that of our traffic engineers.
It is my great pleasure to join this blog and talk about the architecture and planning of our city. We will cover styles, and also look at the incredible variety that results when people just plain ol’ build what they like.
Architecture is a subject that everyone thinks they know a little something about, even if only intuitively. But there’s actually quite a bit to it — and it’s a subject that has been written about since humans started building structures. Want to get ahead on your homework? Start out with some good books:
The porch at Capitol Book and News on Woodley Terrace at Fairview (pictured below) always seems to have a ready supply of copies of Historic Architecture in Alabama by Robert Gamble. Another great resource is A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester. You’ll recognize lots of local examples in here: They photographed their way through Montgomery, Selma, and Union Springs as they wrote the book. Lastly, grab a pocket-sized guide I found on one of the used book web sites for a whopping $2.95, What Style Is It? by Poppeliers and Chambers.
Next time, we’ll begin our studies in earnest with styles and photos of Greek Revival, the architecture of our young democracy.
Elizabeth Ann Brown has lived in and loved Montgomery’s Garden District for more than twenty years. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture and a masters degree in Community Planning from Auburn University. Her hobbies include pursuit of the ultimate chicken salad sandwich, bicycling, and working on her old house, a 1913 bungalow.