The fate of one of the city’s oldest homes, once in question, has been saved by local developers and a little luck.
When Pulmonary Associates bought the former Alabama Pain Clinic site and went to the Planning Commission for approval of an off-site parking lot last year, residents feared the home on Tuscaloosa Street on the lot would be demolished.
After months of debate, and a successful appeal of the parking lot approval before the City Council, developers worked to have the house moved. When attempts to buy the house initially stalled, Bob Isakson, CEO of Lafayette Land Company and Palmer Hamilton stepped up with a plan to move it to DeTonti Square downtown.
Isakson said they knew the house was two structures put together. He noted the crude way the homes were combined, but he added that the house attached to the front obscured the true age of the older structure in back.
“We were taking the houses apart and discovered that one was, in fact, an antebellum house, built before the Civil War,” he said. “The one in back appears to be much older. It was a Creole house built in the 1820s.”
Currently, there are only three other houses in Mobile experts believe were built about the same time as the house formerly on Tuscaloosa Street.
Isakson said he tried to move both houses to DeTonti, but couldn’t find enough available space to do it. Instead he sold the younger house, circa 1850s, to Steve May, who was in the process of placing the home on a lot in Common Street Friday afternoon.
“This whole house is like a time capsule,” May said while supervising crews that had brought the house over in three pieces via truck trailers. “It has all the original window panes, the original front door and Egyptian marble mantles.”
May called the Greek revival home a “poor man’s Oakleigh” because it was modeled after the home now a short jaunt across Government Street.
“The whole thing is just a masterpiece,” he said.
Once the house is in place by Tuesday or Wednesday, May said he’ll begin to completely restore it. It will be a big task, as some of the original glass will need to be replaced with specialty glass from New Orleans and the mantles will have to refinished.
“It always takes longer and costs more than you think,” May said. “I would’ve thought it would take six months, but I’ll say nine.
Once it’s restored, May doesn’t have any plans for the property, but he mentioned it would be personally tough for him to sell it.
The only issue now for the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Isakson joked, is which house will still be listed there.
“That’s a funny question,” he said. “We’ll make sure they both get listed.”
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