City of Huntsville holds public meeting to put Magnolia Terrace neighborhood on National Register of Historic Places

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 4:03 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2022 at 8:58 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - One significant neighborhood in Huntsville is set to get some recognition. The Magnolia Terrace neighborhood may be put on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

On Feb. 17, the City of Huntsville’s historic preservation department will hold a public meeting to hear what neighbors think about putting the area on the registry. It will happen in the heart of the neighborhood at St. Joseph Catholic Church (2300 Beasley Ave.) at 7 p.m.

Magnolia Terrace is north of Holmes Avenue and west of Pulaski Pike. It’s a place where many Black professionals moved in the 1940s and 1950s after being pushed out of Huntsville’s city center.

“The streets, we are told, are named after a lot of prominent Black business folks, professionals in the community, said Katie Stamps, the Preservation Planner for the City of Huntsville and lead of the project. “We haven’t even scratched the surface about finding out about that information but we know that there was a lot of professionals, business owners, teachers, people that were very significant to the African American community in Huntsville.”

Many of the homeowners today are the children and grandchildren of the people who built the original homes in the area. Tim Brown is part of this legacy. His grandmother built a house in the neighborhood in the 1950′s and his mom lives there today. He says he’s renovating it now for his kids, their kids, and so on.

He says he enjoyed being a part of this community. “When you’re surrounded by individuals who are striving to do better themselves and make an honest living for themselves it helps fuel the fire on the inside of you and help motivate you to do better yourself, said Brown.

Magnolia Terrace gets historic recognition

Brown’s family home is included in the project, but the plan doesn’t technically include the entire neighborhood according to the lead of the endeavor, Katie Stamps.

She said the City of Huntsville received grant money from the state’s historic preservation office to survey the area for the historic registry.

She wanted over 600 homes to be included. However, each house costs $50 to $60 dollars to be surveyed for the national historic registry. The state didn’t give enough money to the City of Huntsville to include the whole area so they ended up including 219 houses.

The surveyors will look at the homes within University Drive, Pulaksi Pike NW, Stanley Drive and Wilson Drive.

Area to be surveyed
Area to be surveyed(City of Huntsville)

Dr. Caroline Swope with Kingstree Studios will be surveying the area. She’ll be taking pictures and writing notes on all the houses in the neighborhood for the next few months. Stamps says she expects it to be done by summertime.

After that, the survey will be reviewed and leaders will decide if the area is eligible for the registry. Stamps say they expect an answer by September.

If they are deemed eligible, Stamps says her team will work with the neighborhood to see if this is something they want. If they want to pursue the registry, the city has to apply for another grant to officially be a part of the registry.

Stamps says many people are worried about having to follow strict guidelines if they’re a part of the registry. She says that’s only if a neighborhood becomes a historic district and they are not pursuing this route with Magnolia Terrace.

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