Daffodils are coming up signaling that spring will soon be here. Southern groundhogs are predicting an early spring. Gardening has really been impossible with the rain and cold weather so I digress today. My riding mower is making ruts in the yard. We’ve caught up on five years of drought this fall. My mind is on preserving our heritage probably due to the 2011 calendar of Tuscumbia historical homes I’m working on. (Update note: due to circumstances a 2012 calendar has been published)
I grew up just up the road from the Belle Mont plantation home. The dairy I grew up on as part of the original plantation and built 1828–1832 with a Thomas Jefferson’s influence. It is not known if the house was designed by Jefferson or one of the craftsman studying under Jefferson. One of the cabins used by our employees was a school for the plantation. It was torn down in the 1960’s to make way for a silo. One of my ancestors was a teacher on the plantation. As long as I could remember, the spot I built on was pasture. While doing my landscaping after building I kept digging up the old square nails used in the 1800’s. My Gusmus family genealogist cousin thinks that that relative’s shack was on the same spot that my home is built on. Belle Mont fell into disrepair over the years from share croppers and neglect. I would drive by every day going to Florence State College and my heart would just go out to the house. Sitting up on top of a hill lined with huge cedars, just magnified its despair. Its front columns looked like a sideways V. The back walls had caved in and the stair case and mantels stripped. Eventually the house and surrounding acreage was given to the state in the 1980’s. An extensive renovation has taken place and the home stabilized and more work is needed. The home is now opened for tours with the admission used for restoration. A couple of websites for more information on the mansion may be found at http://www.preserveala.org/bellemont.aspx and http://www.alabama.travel/alabama-attractions/belle_mont_mansion.html.
The other home located in down town Tuscumbia was purchased and work started on renovations by its latest owner. The outside planks where taken off from two sides and insulation wrap installed. Work stopped and the home sits abandoned. My Dad used to deliver milk at this house when I was a child. I thought it was a grand home and went by to take a picture for the calendar. Since it’s on a low traffic street, I haven’t seen the home since the days of our milk route. I was really shocked at what has happened. The city has threatened to tear down the house.
Check out more historical homes and buildings on Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook.