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Remember When: Early Homes in Andalusia

 “Home Sweet Home” is a song written by a lyricist John

Howard Payne and English composer Sir Henry Bishop for an opera first produced in London in 1823. This song became popular throughout the United States and was a favorite of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. It

has become known as the “Ballad of America” and is most often included in sing-a-long assembly song books.

     ‘’’Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam. Be it ever 

so humble, there’s no place like home. No more from that 

cottage again I will roam. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Home, home, sweet, sweet home. There’s no place like home.”

     Most of the younger generation of Andalusians are not even aware that some beautiful and unique homes were once located on the main streets of the town. They were built with their lap board siding, railings, gazebos, dentil moldings, fancy columns, stained glass, wrap-around porches, porte cocheres, and gingerbead trim primarily after the turn of the century when trains began delivering building materials by rail to the growing town.

     On East Three Notch Street, residences were situated on both sides of the thoroughfare within one block of the Public Square. The two-lane street was lined with massive oak trees that provided shade and beauty. Traveled by horse and buggy and mule and wagon for many years, these city streets were dirt paths before paving began in the early 1920s. (Tuscaloosa Concrete Co. is stamped in the oldest sidewalks.) Paving was just done to the curves on E3N and River Falls St. and to the top of Bay Branch Hill on S3N.

     On South Three Notch Street, homes that appeared on both sides beginning after the railroad track crossing were convenient to the center of town. These stately residences were constructed rather close together on narrow lots typical of the day. Sidewalks were utilized for strolling, for walking to downtown stores and chuches, and for visiting neighbors. Porches were prevalent and people sat on their porches with the families and greeted the passers-by. (Maybe during this 2020 Virus Pandemic “stay-at-home” time, people are once again rediscovering their porches!)

     Homes on Church Street were also located within one block of the square. Just picture a home being located where the Regions Bank now sits. Yes, it was! The River Falls Street homes were quite fashionable. Only about one of the two-story grand homes on that street still exists.

     Old postcard photos at the Three Notch Museum that feature street scenes of long ago portray picket fences in just about every front yard. Ladies in long dresses holding parasols are shown walking along the sidewalks. These scenes can date those pictures to before the 1920s when the dress lengths were finally shortened and the drop waist dress became the style.

     One by one through the years each former home gave way to a commercial usage. Could that have been before zoning? Perhaps residents died and their children moved away never to return to live in Andalusia. Perhaps like the Burnetts (River Falls Street), franchise owners of the Coca-Cola business, there were no children or heirs. Maybe termites or lack of maintenance is to blame for the loss of these structures. Just think, we could have our own “annual spring tour of homes” if all of these lovely home places had been preserved and restored.

     This progress, we call it, is no different than what happened in most small towns and large cities. I remember when my great aunt’s home in Montgomery on Court Street was razed to make way for the interstate. I think of that each time I turn off the Court Street exit going to the State Capitol. Yes, times change, and there is not much turning back.

     For those who still own the remaining historic homes of old Andalusia, this sentimentalist hopes they will continue to appreciate and take pride in the “jewels” that they are privileged to own. The craftsmanship of that time is unsurpassed. The character of our town’s early beginnings is important. Where we are going in the future is tied in to where we have been in the pastA Proud Heritage, A Promising Future. “Those Places Matter” (or “This Place Matters”) is an ongoing theme of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

     Featured here are four homes that graced the main streets. We should Remember When these were “Home Sweet Home” to those who lived and resided there.  A baby was probably born in that house, and the master or lady of the house might have passed away there. Maybe a wedding was staged in the living room or perhaps a school teacher boarded there where widows did not intend to live alone. Could it be that the home was full of playful children? Maybe several generations lived in a particular residence at one time. Probably the residents entertained at dinner parties, birthday parties, and Christmas sing-a-longs in the home. Piano recitals could have been presented in that place. The home libraries were places of contentment and havens of learning for many a young student who went on to greatness.

     I can just hear one father telling his sons, “Make sure the wood pile stack is high and the coal scuttles are full by the time I get home!” He probably sternly told his children at supper around the table, “Eat what is served on your plate” and worded grace something like this – “Lord, make us thankful for these and all our blessings.” When you drive down these streets today, just try to imagine one of the distinctive homes of yesteryear where there is now a vacant lot or a business enterprise. That was “once upon a time,” one part of the history of Andalusia.

 Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at suebwilson47@gmail.com.