Historical commission speaks in LaFayette

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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LaFAYETTE — On Thursday afternoon, a certified local government coordinator from the Alabama Historical Commission was in LaFayette to conduct a workshop with members of the city’s historic preservation commission. The speaker, Paige Thomas, has been with the Alabama Historical Commission for the past three years. She had previously worked with city governments in promoting historic preservation.

“She is here to offer us advice on historic preservation,” explained preservation commission member Ed Yeargan. “She is the ideal person to tell us what we can and what we shouldn’t be doing in the way of historic preservation.”

The main area of concern in LaFayette is the courthouse square, which has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

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All buildings in the historic district must have approval from the Alabama Historical Commission when it comes to any architectural changes and signage that are planned to take place.

“We just want to catch up today on what we can and can’t do,” Yeargan said.

Other members of the Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission include David Ennis, Terrence Holloway. Shameka Story and Merilyn Vines.

The Alabama Historical Commission is the historic preservation agency for the State of Alabama. The agency was created by an act of the state legislature in 1966 with a mission of safeguarding Alabama’s historic buildings and sites.

Thomas told the group that a local historic preservation commission can have wide latitude in protecting the city’s architectural integrity.

“You can operate as a nonprofit,” she said. “You can have bylaws and govern meetings with something like the Roberts Rules of Order. You conduct meetings by what your ordinance specifies.”

For a building to have preservation protection, it must be at least 50 years old. To be on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Historic Buildings, the landmark or building must be at least 40 years old.

Almost every building in downtown LaFayette would easily meet that standard. The Hightower Building, for example, located across Alabama Avenue from the Courthouse, has the date 1901 emblazoned at the top. Much of the courthouse was built in 1899. A newer portion is less than 20 years old.

One area that can be highly specific in the way of historic preservation includes windows.

“It’s a big issue in preservation,” Thomas said.

Forts, battlefields and archaeological sites protected by the AHC include Fort Mims in southwest Alabama, Fort Morgan near the mouth of Mobile Bay, Fort Toulouse/For Jackson near Wetumpka, Confederate Memorial Park in Chilton County, Old Cahawba, the Bottle Creek Indian Mounds, and the Forks of Cypress in Florence.

Historic houses in the state that are protected include the Belle Mont Mansion, Fendall Hall, the Freedom Rides Museum, Gaineswood, Magnolia Grove, Pond Spring (the home of General Joe Wheeler in Lawrence County) and the Mobile Bay Middle Lighthouse.