Sunday, April 19, 2015

April Walking History Tours Continue

Fairhope, Alabama. (

Barrett, Page and Palette store

Local historian Donnie Barrett conducted a tour of historic buildings on Section St. Saturday: the third of four Saturday tours scheduled this month.  (video below)

Barrett said the first building at the southwest corner of Dela Mare was a private residence -- later converted to a men's clothing store.

In the 1920s Bessie Montgomery acquired the property; in 1946 she demolished the old wooden house and built the current 2 story masonry building using imported polished bricks.

The building next door, the third oldest in town, was built in 1905 by the "Crane sisters" -- chiropractors who operated a medical clinic there; Montgomery's family also acquired that property and established the 'Town and Country' clothing store there.

'Crane' house, Town and Country store
About the same time, the family also started an (art) paint supply business in the old Crane house called the 'Page and Palette'.

In about 1984 the two businesses switched places, to as they are today: the 'Page and Palette' on the corner.

The small connection in between was constructed then as well.

At age 94, Barrett said Bessie Montgomery is "still going strong."

She founded the adjacent 'French Quarter' in the mid-1990s as well.


Barrett has been warning of the lack of official preservation policies to discourage destruction of historic structures; but for the past 15 years city leaders have failed to act -- due to stiff opposition from the influential realtor/developer community.

City council members have the most recent proposal from the city's Historic Preservation Committee; but some concede privately they haven't even read it yet.

It sets up the framework for a Historical Commission that would facilitate tax incentives, grants, etc  -- to help owners restore and repair qualifying properties. - as alternatives to demolition.

Mayor Kant indicated his support for the committee's efforts last year -- click.

"I'm not real sure where we have to get, but not doing anything, I don't think is a good thing, I think it will take a year. Fairhope citizens, they want to think about it, debate it and kick it around for a little bit. If you don't take the time to do that, it's not going anywhere," he said.

(Publisher's note: The Page and Palette area property has never been mentioned among those at risk)


Historical preservation is a major aspect of qualifying for the Alabama Communities of Excellence status the city began seeking in 2013.

 "The community supports downtown enhancements and preservation of historic neighborhoods and buildings with local incentives and/or regulations.

Historic properties are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks or Heritage and/or on the National Register of Historic Places."

Their Alabama Main Street program advocates preserving significant buildings as a way to save small, locally-owned  businesses and town-character; new buildings are often of generic design, leased by national chain stores because of higher rents required to finance them:

"Main Street Four-Point Approach® is the foundation for local initiatives to revitalize their districts by leveraging local assets—from cultural or architectural heritage to local enterprises and community pride.  The four points of the Main Street approach work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort."


Anonymous said...

Ironically enough, Ms. Bessie is retiring after almost 75 years in the business. She will be missed.

Anonymous said...

what will happen to her property?

Anonymous said...

Oh, she's not 6 feet under yet. She is just retiring from running her own dress shop. Besides, she has family.