Boarding house closing its doors

Published 2:20 am Friday, February 1, 2019

Since 1924, the South Cotton Boarding House has offered affordable short and long-term living arrangements to local residents. Now, the boarding house will close its doors on April 1, leaving 19 people without a place to live.

“We have 19 rooms that we rent out,” Manager Mary Ann Thomas said. “But the fireman came in and told us that we can’t pass inspection. We need a new roof, the floors are starting to come up, the wiring needs to be fixed and we don’t even have homeowners insurance.”

Since the house is more than 100 years old, Thomas believes that it should be classified as a historic monument.

“This is a historic monument, it embodies Andalusia,” Thomas said. “I mean everybody comes through here. I have two people that moved out yesterday and found a place, and then two more that are coming in tomorrow.”

The rent at the boarding house is $80 a week, with everything included.

“I have some people that pay every week, some people pay biweekly, and then some people that set it aside for the month, but they always pay on the first of the month when they get their check,” Thomas said. “I have never had a problem with people paying. They always pay.”

There are no requirements if somebody wanted to live in the boarding house, Thomas said.

“I call their room their tiny house,” Thomas said. “Whenever they ask if they want to live here all I ask them is, ‘Do you have any warrants out for your arrest?’ Whatever you want to do in that room is your business, but when it comes my business, that is when we are going to have a problem. Like I don’t deal with drug dealing, I don’t deal with that.”

Thomas said that the $80 a week covers everything in the room and house.

“Most people freak out about this, but it’s only $80 a week,” Thomas said. “I mean you have a washer and dryer in the house, we have cable, I go out to the Christian Service Center and I buy everything they need. I even make sure they have clean sheets on their bed and an ashtray on their nightstand.”

She said that for the residents, the boarding house is home.

“The bottom line, what is killing me is that this place is their home,” Thomas said.

Thomas remembers when she was only a resident at the South Cotton Boarding House.

“I remember when I came here, I lived upstairs and there was only a bed,” Thomas said. “But now, there is a bed, sheets, a dresser, blinds, a lamp and it is all yours. I have been here for five years and there are people here that have been here even longer than I have.”

The boarding house is usually always booked, Thomas said, and the residents are very upset that it is closing.

“I stay booked,” Thomas said. “When one leaves, another one comes in. When we told the residents that we were closing they were very upset, because they have nowhere else to go. Where else are you going to find a place for $320 a month that has water, heat, cable and a working kitchen?”

She said that everybody gets along in the home, and she hopes that they will all work together to find a place when they close their doors.

“Every one that lives here are friends,” Thomas said. “I have my beer drinkers that will sit in the living room and relax and I hope that maybe all of them can get a place together. I mean I have an 87 year old that lives up stairs, where is he going to go?”

Thomas will be moving to Florida once the boarding house closes, and she is worried about what will happen to the building.

“Once I leave, I don’t know what will happen,” Thomas said. “If I come back and see this house just sitting here, I think once we leave it will just fall in. I really would like to stay open, but I just don’t see that happening.”