The Rural Training and Research Center has a complicated past steeped in the not-so-well-known Civil Rights Movement in west Alabama, overshadowed by the events in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham. A legal battle played out between African American tenant farmers and white landowners that resulted in the tenants’ evictions from the land. The community united and formed the Panola Land Buying Association (PLBA). The goal was to build a place that was theirs. As part of that movement, the Federation of Rural Co-ops supported the farmers along the way. In 1970, the PLBA formally purchased 1,100 acres in Epes, Sumter County. The newly acquired land included a barn and farmhouse affectionately nicknamed “The Big House.” The structure, constructed c.1960, served as the Federation’s first training center office and meeting facility until the group built other new structures on the property. The Federation of Rural Co-ops opened the Rural Training and Research Center supporting and educating farmers across the South. The staff and local contractors began work at the training center facilities. They decided that the Training Center needed an Administrative Building, cafeteria/classroom, dormitory to accommodate 80 people, and a print shop. The staff also developed various demonstration farming projects including a feeder pig farrowing and feed barn, a cattle herd, and vegetable crop projects in greenhouses. Most of these facilities remain at the Center to this day. This site demonstrates the triumph of a resilient community and draws focus to the effort to preserve rural farming communities. The Rural Training and Research Center is listed in the Alabama Register for its agricultural, social, and civil rights history and for its architectural significance.
On June 15, 1853, Edd W. Shields was born into slavery and lived as an enslaved person until the age of 12. At the age of 10, he began taking lessons and learned how to read. He worked on the farm in the mornings and took lessons at night. Later in life, Rev. Shields entered the ministry and by 1880, he pastored his first church. In 1882, he began to teach public school. In 1890, he purchased a 70-acre estate in Linden, Alabama. In 1903, Rev. Shields deeded 12 acres to school trustees for Linden Academy. The school was built to educate the descendants of the enslaved in Linden. In 1928, Shields’ grandson Robert Adams built a house on a portion of the original property. Following his military service and his homecoming from World War II, Mr. Adams moved to Huntsville to attend Alabama A&M. While in Madison County, Mr. Adams established schools to help African Americans prepare for voting literacy tests. In 1952 his home in Linden was converted into a four-bedroom dwelling to serve as a home for teachers who taught at the nearby Linden Academy. After the school was consolidated, the house reverted into a primarily private family residence. Frank Lankster, a great-great grandson of Edd Shields, purchased the home in 1991. The house is listed in the Alabama Register for its African American history.
Founded in 1834, the community of Stockton was part of the Tensaw Settlement and among some of the first settlements established in Baldwin County. Nestled along the banks of the beautiful Tensaw River, Stockton served as one of the main shipping ports, welcoming the tall mast schooners that sailed up the Tensaw River to load cargo bound for foreign ports. The growth of the community depended on the timber business for many years. Time has not changed the community much over the years. It maintains a charming small-town atmosphere with its landscape dappled with many of its original old homes and families. The Rice Creek Cottage is a prime example of the small original homes that remain in Stockton. The cottage was constructed c. 1940 and is located on a one-acre lot approximately one mile from Rice Creek Landing. Rice Creek Cottage has been home to many African American families over the years, making the property a multi-generational piece of Baldwin County’s Black History. This common cottage style offered affordable housing following World War 1I. Rice Creek Cottage is listed in the Alabama Register for its architectural significance.
In the early 1840s, the Baptist Congregation of Alabama constructed the building now owned by Saint Luke AME Church. Early white settlers worshipped at the structure until they built the First Baptist Church of Eufaula in 1869. In 1877, 10 years after they were organized, St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church raised money to purchase the 1840s building from the First Baptist Church congregation. ln the 1950s, the church hosted reading and writing meetings to educate the community and its members to combat voting rights discrimination. The congregation was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and worked to improve education and Christian development in the community. The church encouraged voting rights and worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The church held voting rights meetings and informed its members about voter suppression. The church still has an active congregation. Saint Luke A.M.E. Church is listed in the Alabama Register for its religious and social history and for its architectural significance.
Beginning in 1916, Coffeeville Colored Industrial School held classes in the Masonic Lodge until the Coffeeville Rosenwald School was constructed in 1922. The school added the agriculture and handicraft building in 1927. In 1954, a fire destroyed the Rosenwald School and by 1959 the school was rebuilt and renamed the Clarke County Training School. The school was constructed as an equalization school, which were schools built in the 1950s for African American children in a last-ditch effort to stave off integration in the South. The school consisted of 12 classrooms for grades 1-12, a library, administrative offices, gymnasium, and restroom facilities. The school is one story with interior block walls and an exterior wall of windows in each classroom. The cafeteria was accessed through double doors from the school lobby or through exterior doors from the gym. In the mid to late 1960s, a two-classroom brick building with office space was constructed. This school served as the Black high school until integration in 1970. Following the integration of the school, the building became Coffeeville Elementary until it closed in 2007. The school held the Title 1 program for the county and taught remedial reading and held the kindergarten classes. Clarke County Training School is listed in the Alabama Register for its educational significance as a mid-20th century African American school.
Completed in 1952, George Washington Carver Homes (GWC) is the second oldest public housing development in Selma. Located in east Selma, the GWC Homes sit on a 17-acre site and includes 48 two-story brick apartment buildings. The site also features an office building and one community building. The GWC Homes housed many civil rights activists and became a major center for civil rights activism in Selma. Numerous community organizer meetings were held there and offered organizers shelter while in Selma. During the Black teacher- and student-led voting rights demonstrations in January and February 1965, several marches formed at GWC Homes and included many of the residents. Black students protested the lack of voting rights in Dallas County by kneeling along the public sidewalks at the apartments. On March 7, 1965, the march known as “Bloody Sunday” formed in the GWC recreation yard. Protestors gathered in response to the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson of Marion by an Alabama State Trooper a few weeks earlier. Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used GWC’s recreation yard to marshal the marchers into squads in preparation for the march. Many GWC residents joined the “Bloody Sunday” march. Hundreds of civil rights demonstrators who arrived in Selma to participate in the marches stayed in the apartments of GWC residents. Communal kitchens were created by organizers at the apartments to feed and shelter the protestors. George Washington Carver Homes is listed in the Alabama Register for its role in providing a place of rest to marchers during their participation in Bloody Sunday and for its architectural significance.
Columbia Presbyterian Church was organized in January 1888 at a meeting held in the Columbia Baptist Church building. Both the Baptist and Methodist churches in Columbia assisted the Presbyterians to form a congregation in Columbia. Without a church building, the congregation held services in the back of the general store owned by Henry Miller Beach, one of the lead organizers of the Presbyterian Church. Later in 1888, the Methodist Church in town constructed a new building and sold their old church on Washington Street to the Presbyterians. In the summer of 1899, the Presbyterian Church board of trustees purchased a vacant lot at the comer of River and N. Davis Streets, and by late 1902, they had raised enough money to construct a new building. The church was completed in 1903. The sanctuary in the new church was uniquely built as an amphitheater, with a 3-degree sloped floor and curved pews. Entry was at the rear of the sanctuary, which was the highest point of the amphitheater. It allowed those seated in the rear of the sanctuary to see over those seated at the front. The church has not seen any significant changes except a storm in the mid-20th century destroyed the belfry on the east side of the church. Columbia Presbyterian Church is listed in the Alabama Register for its religious history and for its architectural significance.
Semmes School was named for the town of Semmes, which was named for Admiral Raphael Semmes, a confederate Civil War veteran. The first Semmes School was founded in 1874 and was located about 1.5 miles west of Semmes. Classes were first held in the First Baptist Church building. Later this school was re-located to three different sites in the Semmes and Crawford area before a one-room schoolhouse was built in 1902. This Semmes School building was located on the west side of Wulff Road on property that later served as a parking space for school buses and faculty. In 1917, a four-room stucco building with two outhouses was built facing west on Wulff Road. The 1902 one-room building was moved across Wulff Road to the south end of the stucco building. In 1938, the red-brick Semmes School building was erected in front of the stucco building to house the growing number of elementary students. Construction on a new high school building was completed in 1949. The new Semmes High School contained seven classrooms, conference room, principal’s office, general office, teacher’s lounge, janitor’s room, and separate restrooms for boys and girls. Enrollment increased considerably after students from Wilmer High School and Tanner Williams High School were bused to the new Semmes High School. In 1949-1950, the agriculture building was constructed on the southeast side of the high school building. The agriculture building was considered one of the finest in the county. In 1966, the Mary G. Montgomery School was constructed and became the new senior high school. At this time the Semmes School was restructured to accommodate the Semmes Elementary and Semmes Middle School. In 2002, the Semmes Middle School moved to a new location and the former middle school became the location of the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. The Semmes High School is listed in the Alabama Register for its educational and social history.
The Tuscumbia Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America formed this church in 1853. The first building was located on the southeast corner of Bank and Church Streets in Decatur. It was a single story, plastered and painted structure with large windows and a brick foundation. The Civil War interrupted services, and in 1864 the building was dismantled by the Union Army. After the Civil War, having worshipped with the Methodists in a log structure that was used as a church and school, Rev. Alexander Penland and others assisted in the reformation of this Presbyterian Church. By 1873, a small frame church was built on this site, and the Presbyterian Church of Decatur was incorporated in 1903. The first brick structure was erected in 1904 but was demolished to construct the current sanctuary in 1953, with additional expansion in 1978. The church was designed by Alabama architect Horace Miller Weaver. Born in 1885 in Collinsville, Alabama, Weaver focused primarily on commercial architecture and designed a few county courthouse annexes. From 1853, this congregation has worked to fulfill its mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ, who love God, love one another, and serve the world.” The First Presbyterian Church is listed in the Alabama Register for its religious history and for its architectural significance.
The Wyatt-Malone Building was constructed in the community of Albany, Alabama, in 1920 on what was then known as “Main Street.” Since Albany was separate from Decatur, it developed its own commercial district. While the town merged with (Old) Decatur in 1927, evidence of the two separate cities still exists as the street layouts are vastly different and most of the original street names remain. The Wyatt-Malone Building housed various retail businesses from 1920 until 1963 and included a sign shop, dry goods store, sheet metal shop, and clothing stores. In 1964, Chenault and Chenault, Attorneys purchased the building and converted it for office space. While changes have occurred to the building over the years, attorney offices continue to occupy the building more than 50 years later. The Wyatt-Malone Building is listed in the Alabama Register for its commercial history and for its architectural significance.
St. Paul AME Church in Brundidge, Alabama, began in 1861 when the forefathers of the church were still enslaved and held their meetings amongst the brush arbors. In 1880, members succeeded in raising funds to purchase the land to construct their own church building. Members raised the funds “penny by penny” over several years until the project was complete around 1900. For over 141 years, the church has provided a sanctuary of spiritual fulfillment and a place of community life. St. Paul AME Church also represents a significant landmark in the history of emancipation by offering the Black community the freedom to worship in an unhindered manner. The church offered the congregation freedom to speak out and allowed their voices to be heard. During the Civil Rights Movement, the church was a significant stopping point for noted civil rights activist John Lewis, who was known to speak there on several occasions. Saint Paul A.M.E Church is listed in the Alabama Register for its civil rights and religious history and for its architectural significance.
Samuel E. Trotter built this residence in 1892 and the Trotter family has occupied it for over 100 years. The house was constructed as a traditional wood frame farmhouse and Mr. Trotter selected the timber used in the construction from his land. He owned 5,000 acres of land, which included acreage for timber and farming. The Trotter Farm was used for many different agricultural purposes. Since the founding of the farm, the Trotters have grown many different crops including corn, cotton, and peanuts. They also raised cattle, hogs, and poultry. The Trotter Family owned one of Goshen’s two cotton gins and used it to process their cotton yields. Mr. Trotter passed away in 1943 and the farm passed to his son, William Moses, and his wife Mary Louise, who occupied the farm until their deaths in 1987. Following their deaths, their son, William Peavy Trotter, inherited the property and continues to utilize the land for logging. The home has not seen many changes over time, except the removal of its two chimneys, which were damaged by Hurricane Opal in 1995. The Trotter Home and Farm is listed in the Alabama Register for its agricultural history and its architectural significance.
Sam Raine built the Lincoln Theatre in 1948 and it is situated in the Downtown Bessemer Historic District. Architect Charles McCauley designed the theatre. He is best known in Birmingham for designing the City Hall, Temple Beth-El, and the Avon Theater. McCauley’s final design of the theatre yielded a steel-framed, air-conditioned venue that seated approximately 500 people. During the first half of the 20th century, First Avenue North was the heart of Bessemer’s Black business district. In addition to the Lincoln and the Frolic Theatres, residents remember a jewelry store, pool room, two photography studios, hotel, and a series of barber shops. The Lincoln was built as a first-run picture house for Black audiences who were restricted from entering other theatres downtown. In addition to the movie business, the Lincoln served as a community center for the Black citizens of Bessemer, hosting fashion shows and church socials. In 1955, the theatre hosted a movie party for the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorers for the “Negro scouts of the Bessemer-Fairfield Division” of the Boy Scouts of America. Raine shared management duties of the theatre with his son-in-law Sam Maples throughout the 1950s, until he leased the building to Theodore Jones Jr. for $400 a month. In 1968, the theatre was sold to Sarah LaSala. The theatre continued to operate throughout the 1970s, screening occasional movies as late as 1983. LaSala sold the Lincoln Theatre to John and Marian Boyd in 1987. The Boyd family converted the Lincoln lobby and auditorium to an upholstery shop and other businesses, including a storage area in the old theatre. The building changed hands several times before it was purchased by Actor André Holland in 2017. He began making plans to restore it as a community asset. Along with several family members, the actor created The Holland Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Restoration efforts are currently ongoing with plans to use the building as a cinema and performing arts space. The Lincoln Theatre is listed in the Alabama Register for its commercial and social history and for its architectural significance.
The Auburn Girl Scout Hut, also known as the Little House, has served as a meeting place for local Girl Scouts since its construction in 1937. The small, frame building stands on land owned by the City of Auburn. The design of the rustic building was based on a sketch by architect E. Walter Burkhardt, who also oversaw the Historic American Buildings Survey in Alabama in the 1930s. The first Girl Scouts in Auburn began meeting in the early 1930s. While many of the Auburn Girl Scout troops met in the hut, others met in private homes, schools, and churches. The girls participated in a variety of activities. They hiked and camped, learned practical skills, studied foreign countries, and performed community service projects. When the hut was constructed, Girl Scout troops in Auburn and throughout Alabama were for whites only. By 1952, there were two African American troops in Auburn. The national Girl Scouts began an effort to desegregate troops throughout the country in the 1950s, and by the early 1970s, racially integrated troops were meeting in the Auburn Girl Scout Hut. The Auburn Girl Scout Hut is listed in the Alabama Register for its social history and its architectural significance.
Mr. Hall W. Thompson constructed Shoal Creek Golf Course in 1974 fulfilling his dream of building his own golf course. Thompson hired professional golfer and emerging course designer Jack Nicklaus to route the course. Nicklaus had collaborated on the design for his home state course, Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Ohio, which opened in 1974, and had designed a course in Toronto. However, Shoal Creek was the first course Nicklaus designed on his own in the United States. The property and its buildings are an excellent example of the New Traditional Colonial style that was popularized in the mid to late 1970s by the nation’s bicentennial celebration. Shoal Creek is also a good example of a highly engineered planned landscape. Shoal Creek was designed to be a golf club first and a real estate development second. Thompson prioritized the course routing and wanted house sites scattered organically around the course. . Shoal Creek revolutionized golf greens in the Southeast by being the first to prove it could be done and demonstrating how. Thompson engineered the landscape to support the growth of bent grass, a highly desired grass for golf greens but considered previously unsustainable in the southeastern climate. A combination of ingenuities in irrigation and drainage, manmade lakes and dams with a pump system that could redirect water uphill, made this possible. As a result, Augusta National followed suit and replaced its greens with bent grass in 1981The period of significance runs from 1974 when design and construction began until 1990 when the club hosted the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America’s 72nd annual tournament. The media surrounding the event highlighted the fact the course had never been fully integrated. This media coverage led to the racial integration of private clubs and golf courses throughout the country including Shoal Creek. Despite minor alterations and additions to the property over time, Shoal Creek retains a high degree of integrity as a premiere golf course and club. Shoal Creek is listed in the Alabama Register for its recreational and social history and for its significant design.