Preservation

For Sale: The Chappell House

The 1845 Chappell House—a unique and handsome structure—sits on the front portion of the property. Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery and the Montgomery County Historical Society stand ready to work with any potential buyer to find a way to retain and reuse this landmark building because of the significant impact reusing it will have on our community. The Dover-Kohl Plan, officially adopted by Montgomery as a guide for future development, specifically calls for the preservation of this landmark. In the past decade, the city’s support for re-using downtown historic buildings has been an effective economic development strategy. The snowball effect of private and public investment in historic buildings is bringing in new dollars, new tax revenue, new residents, new jobs, new visitors and new recreational and entertainment opportunities to downtown. This healthier economy and our walkable downtown neighborhood are enhancing the well-being of all our citizens. In the 1930s, one of the earliest public housing complexes was planned for this site. Both local and federal agencies understood that it would be a serious mistake and major loss to demolish the small and handsome Greek Revival cottage with its long and fascinating history tied to this river bluff location. So, they elected to adaptively refurbish the landmark as business offices for the development. This farsighted initiative was one of the first adaptive uses ever of a landmark building in Alabama—possibly THE first that was government-sponsored. The Chappell House, now the only remaining brick Greek Revival cottage in Montgomery, continued in use for municipal purposes until Riverside Heights was razed a few years ago. The house stands as the only tangible reminder of an enlightened government reuse decision and of one of the New Deal era’s boldest public betterment programs.

A Landmark Opportunity
◆ Build on a 75-year-old legacy of local and federal government repurposing of historic structures
◆ Enhance a major city gateway used by Maxwell AFB, one of our major employers
◆ Align with the city’s Smart Growth Dover-Kohl plan and commitment to economic growth
◆ Re-adapt and reuse a priceless and rare landmark
◆ Tangibly connect their staff, users, and visitors to our shared history
◆ Partner with LFM and the MCHS on a positive bicentennial project with lasting public benefits

A Potential Partnership
Long-term Benefits
A Place that Matters

When the Junior League of Montgomery published its Guide to the City of Montgomery in 1969, the Chappell House was singled out as one of a dozen structures representing the city’s architectural heritage. Today the Junior League stands poised to consider what might be done to keep this home safe.

For those seriously interested, please call (334) 264-3631.
Montgomery Department of Development
Chappell House Historic Structure Report
Chappell House Flyer

The Montgomery Theater

(Webber Building)


The Montgomery Theater—also known as the Webber Building—is the sole antebellum theater remaining in Alabama and one of only a few still standing nationwide.

In fact, it ranks alongside Charleston’s Dock Street Theater and Wilmington’s Thalian Hall–both beautifully restored amid thriving downtown historic areas–as one of the three oldest theater buildings in the South. The imposing Italianate-style structure located at the busy corner of North Perry and Monroe Streets occupies a unique and significant place in local, state, and national history. Today, despite having partially collapsed in 2014, its handsome brick façade still hints at the building’s glamorous past. Its complete loss would leave an irreplaceable gap in the once again thriving historic downtown district.

In October 1860, the theater opened. Designed by architect and engineer Daniel Cram, the structure’s façade, embellished by brick corbelling and ornamental cast-iron lintels, was laid by skilled slaves who, according to local lore, were aided by enslaved female hod-carriers. The frescoed walls of the interior were executed by European-born artisans Peter Schmidt and Frank O’Brien.

For the next forty-seven years, the Montgomery Theater attracted the biggest stars of the time. One of the first performers there was John Wilkes Booth who would gain notoriety as the assassin of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Evidence also exists that the tune Dixie was first transcribed by Herman Arnold, Director of the Montgomery Brass Band, on a backstage wall in the building. Surviving the Civil War, the Montgomery Theater was the scene of perhaps the first “sit-in” in the United States, as a group of African-Americans attempted to test the 1875 Civil Rights Act by purchasing tickets to the area reserved for “whites only” rather than sitting in the gallery reserved for black theater-goers. When they refused to move, mayhem broke out.

On November 13, 1907, the curtain came down on the last performance as the Grand Theater on Dexter Avenue prepared to open. The Montgomery Theater was soon thereafter renovated for commercial use and housed a number of department stores throughout the 20th century. In the 1930s, Walter Webber acquired the business and renamed it “Webber’s,” a name now familiar to many. In the 1950s, the first suburban “mall” opened and others followed. These, together with urban renewal and the Interstate, brought serious changes to downtown as businesses closed. Webber’s struggled until the early years of the 21st century, until finally the building, in dire need of repairs, was put on the market by the owners.


The situation is urgent. While demolition is a last resort, there is genuine fear that it could take place. This would be a terrible blow to the community which has long appreciated the structure as a signature landmark for Montgomery and the state of Alabama. It is an irreplaceable building, and its preservation will continue to enhance the life of the community for years to come.

After a few years, the Riverfront Foundation purchased the building and spent almost a half million dollars to reconstruct the roof system and re-roof it with the intent of selling it to a developer. Within the last three years, a buyer purchased it and began restoration. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2014, several months after work began, about 1/8 of the original wall collapsed at the northeast corner. Since that time, the Riverfront Foundation has reclaimed the building and—in conjunction with the City—is looking for a buyer who will restart the repurposing of the structure, either through a complete restoration of the whole building or, if that cannot be done, redesign and development of the remaining elements.