By Carole King
I thought a little beginning about how I fell in love with historic preservation would be in order.
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t aware of the world around me. In high school, after my friends and I got driver’s licenses we used to roam through neighborhoods just looking at all the houses and imagining ourselves grown up and homeowners — what color we would paint them, how we would arrange the furniture, what flowers we would plant. But it wasn’t until after college that this infatuation with older buildings actually got a name — historic preservation.
I went back to graduate school and began studying architectural styles, the preservation movement, museum issues — and I came back home to put the book-learning into action. I was most fortunate to meet Mary Ann Neeley, who gave me the opportunity to learn about Montgomery’s history and architecture and to assist with the many restoration and museum projects at the Landmarks Foundation. Under the vision of Jimmy Loeb and the Landmarks Foundation board, the Old North Hull Street Historic District grew and morphed into Old Alabama Town, which today houses 50 historic structures in a six block downtown area.
My initial job description included researching buildings and creating the historic interior spaces as museums, but as those of us working for non-profits know, every day brings something new, especially in the preservation world.
I discovered the older neighborhood of Capitol Heights and loved the convenience it afforded me to downtown (and the neighborhood property values fit my pocketbook). Along the way, I stumbled upon many other old house enthusiasts — Sandra Nickel and Marilyn Sullivan began an early historic neighborhood preservation group called Preserve Montgomery comprised of residents of Cottage Hill, Old Cloverdale, Garden District, Capitol Heights and Old Line Street District.
Through the decades, the residents of these historic homes — from antebellum raised cottages to mid-century ranches — have remained networked because of their shared interests and issues. These are the same folks who continue to promote and enjoy midtown living and its rich cultural and community events — the Capri Theatre, concerts in the Clovedale-Idlewild bottom park, the Capitol Heights By Candlelight Tour, the Old House Expo, the Greek Food Festival, and the Alabama Book Festival, just to name a few.
We’ve watched our property values soar, while we save and renovate threatened historic structures. The city’s new (tighter) historic designation ordinance regulates our neighborhoods’ character, while we re-green our streets with the efforts of the urban forester. Our locally owned businesses thrive and, oddly enough, folks are moving back into the midtown area from the eastern ‘burbs.
So, being a passionate bungalow-lover and tree-hugger, I look forward to this opportunity to promote midtown living and sharing the ups and downs of old house living!
Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!