Tuscumbia History in Peril

By Mary Carton

For The Tuscumbian

While driving around Tuscumbia taking pictures of some of the historical homes in Tuscumbia for the calendars and note card series I’m working on, I couldn’t help but noticed a few of our old homes are in sad shape. Some of these old homes survived Sherman’s burning march to the sea, but may not survive modern neglect.   Being around the area history, whether architecture or musical daily, one tends not to realize how much richness we have. 

It is my hope in 2013 that at least these will be preserved for future generations.

4th ST Tuscumbia IMG_4989










Hunt House IMG_9881










Tuscumbia Railway Co. also called the Hunt house. This house is on 4th street just west of  Hook St. The Hunt house is an 1870’s Greek Revival farmhouse.  of Hook Street. Once owned by the Tuscumbia Railway Co., the home’s attributes include “boxcar” siding which is partially removed or covered in insulation wrap, and a columned portico which used to have a second floor landing.   When I was a child we used to deliver milk at this house, and it was a grand home. Some one started remodeling the house years ago and abandoned the project when the owners decided that they didn’t want to live in town.  This home was featured in This Old House segment “Save this old house” in April of 2004.   Seven years later it’s still in grave peril.

January 2018 restoration was started by new owner.

Coons Steele Armistead IMG_8700

Coons Steele Armistead IMG_8714


Coons (Steele-Armistead) House — this house is located at 406 Main St.   It is a raised cottage style home, a type normally found along the coastlines of the southeast. During the Civil War Jeffrey Forrest, brother of Nathan Bedford Forrest was brought to the home after being wounded in the battle of Tuscumbia. It is featured  on some of the historic Tuscumbia walking tours each June.  

This home is currently undergoing restoration by new owner.




House on Main Street — this house is next door on the north side of the Coons House.   The home was almost saved as the owners started remodeling and the husband fell off of a ladder while working on it and suffered many injuries. Work ceased after the accident.



House on Fifth St. – I don’t know anything about this house.  It is a half block west of the Tuscumbia Depot.  It was a darling little house at one time. Again it looks like work started on the home and stopped.  Two work horses can be seen on the front porch and a clump of plastic paper on one of the valleys.

There are others, but these are just a few that really stood out through my camera lens.  Check out Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook for more history of our unique  town.

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36 Responses to Tuscumbia History in Peril

  1. Janice M. Williams says:

    It is sad to see these houses fading away. It’s difficult to understand why the owners did not sale them before they began to fall in!

  2. Steve McAnally says:

    Mary, you did amazing work. We all remember these old houses.

  3. Patricia Harrison says:

    I have always wanted to live in an Antebellum home, I’d move in one in a minute !!!

  4. The blue house with gingerbread trim is my birth home — Oct. 13, 1940. It is owned by a gentleman who lives on North Hook Street.
    Dean Cantrell McCormack

  5. The Tuscumbia Historical Association needs re-activating.

      • It would take a group addressing the City Council …. Actually, the city did not have authority to disband the Historical Board. It needs to be addressed before we lose more historical value such as the paloma tree which stood on corner of W. 5th & Water, giving shadow to the memorial picnic table honoring the late Donald Beard, long-time city employee and member of the city council.
        Many of the trees that were cut down only needed “cutting back,” or attention from knowledgeable tree trimmers.

        • Do you have a picture of the tree?

          • It is so sad to see these houses going to ruin,wish I could buy just one and restore it and maybe that would start a tren for more to be bought. I know this would be too large an undertaking for one person.. I also think that Tuscumbia needs to re-activate a historial association or start a new one.

            • Dean McCormack says:

              Carolynn is right on the need to reactivate the Historical Board! The bylaws, rules, etc. are state sanctioned as is the Historical Board that Gann and then Shoemaker have abolished and refuse to adhere to. Thus the decline is property upkeep and property value in the so-called historical district. Shame on such a disastrous lack of leadership from city officials! Drive through the area around Ivy Green and you’ll see what I mean just the same as the tourists see when they come here. We’ve talked with many of them and they cannot believe the lack of maintenance in this community that once had a tennis court which was used every day of the week — year around. Sidewalks are in dis-repair and some are making a habit of driving across the sidewalks and parking in their front yard! Others park streetside and traffic has to halt when meeting other cars. You name it, the historical district sports it. We have no representation on the city council for this district at all.

          • No – The Beard family (Tim or sister Jackie Beard Nix) may have a photo since the concrete picnic set is a memorial to Donald (their dad). I’ll talk with Jackie about it.

        • I did not know that Tuscumbia did not have a Historical Board.
          I can’t believe it.

          • With new mayor coming on board, hopefully we can re-activate it. After all Tuscumbia has one of the largest historical areas in the country.

            • Claude Hester says:

              There are many valuable structures that need preservation.

            • I think it is about to be re-activated. This is a wonderful start in the right direction for Tuscumbia’s historic preservation. Historical places are to precious to be lost.

              • Dean McCormack says:

                THANK YOU, MR. HESTER! Since the city ordinances pertaining to the historical area of our city were not enforced by the code enforcement officer and the past two mayors AND the (what we knew as the Historical Board) board overseeing any actions such as new buildings, renovations, etc. was dissolved (became inactive due to failure by those two mayors to agree to keep the board, our Ivy Green neighborhood has become a sore spot!
                Code enforcement officer allowed and issued permits that were illegal according to city ordinances pertaining to this area, and the mayor upheld that decision by stating that it was the property owners right to do whatever he wanted to on his property, we have braved complaints from residents who agree that something should be done and should have been done prior to allowing this neighborhood to become an eyesore. It is our hope that Mayor Underwood and council will reinstate the Historical Board to oversee keeping a rein on things or actions that demean the beauty of Tuscumbia residential historical properties.

            • What is the status on the reactivation of the historic board?

              • I haven’t heard anything yet.

              • Dean McCormack says:

                If they reinstate that board, I surely hope they make appointments from those living within the historic district to serve on it.  After all, it is those of us who live within those boundaries who observe it every day and try our hardest to keep the area looking its best.   But first, look at the potential board appointee’s own house and property before making that decision.  If one doesn’t respect their own property and abide by city codes, they should not be appointed on that board.  Simply abiding by city ordinances helps tremendously.  Those who don’t, you can tell by the way their property stands out like a sore thumb.  And remember, the historical district is what draws tourists to our city.  Dean C. McCormack

            • CLAUDE HESTER says:

              Has it been activated yet?

          • Dean McCormack says:

            I, too, am peeved about the tree being taken down on corner of Water & W. 5th. The family of the late Donald Beard paid for the concrete pad and picnic table/benches as a memorial to him — he served on the Tuscumbia City Council and retired from the Tus. Utilities Water Dept. A very good friend who devoted much time to the Tus. Little League programs.
            The Historical Board was sanctioned by the state and did a great job under the leadership of Ninon Parker, Ann Christopher (deceased) and I forgot the others.
            Wade Gann took office and illegally abolished the Historical Board. Bill Shoemaker took office and refused to reinstate the Historical Board. This was done so that Harvey Robbins would not have to go by the rules and he could do what he wanted without purchasing a building license nor a building permit.
            The Historical District surrounding the Ivy Green community – as well as the rest of the area, has gone to pot over the past 16 years. Gann and his council also gave away Ivy Green — the one money making thing the city had going although that board hid the income and never turned it in as was required by law. (LOL – I got voted out over this fiasco)
            My husband is running for District 3 on city council and one of his opponents, William Foster and he agree on reinstating the Historical Board if either is elected. Their 3rd opponent has violated every ordinance as you can see by his house/fence next to our home.
            We ignore him and if he were to be elected, I pity the mayor and council he would serve with and I pity what it will mean for our historical district …
            my opinion

          • nope, disbanded way back

      • The first house is this series of photos was home of the Hunts — children Jimmy Hunt and sister Sara Hunt Flack were close to our age. I believe Lyn and Lynn Landers own it now but I’m not sure.
        The 2nd (yellow 2-story) house belongs to Cathy McCrory Chambers (it was the home of her late parents – Ann & John McCrory who also owned and operated Baker’s Cleaners on Dickson St. for many years. There’s a florist there now.

  6. Pingback: Tuscumbia: Destroyed by a tornado - the town was debt free - in ruins and hundreds of people without homes - Alabama Pioneers

  7. Julie Adams says:

    I am looking for any information about the abandoned lustron home in Tuscumbia

  8. Great photos, Mary. I enjoyed your posts.

  9. Two photographers and historians from Georgia who had seen photos of Tuscumbia and had been studying the history of North Alabama contacted me and requested a tour of the city and surrounding landmarks specifically to photograph historically important structures. They were pleased to find so many preserved structures within the city limits, but they were concerned about many important places that seem to be slipping away due to neglect or lack of sensitive city planning. We have an important heritage that people from other states recognize as rare and beautiful. I hope more local people can become aware of what is a stake if more buildings are destroyed.

  10. CLAUDE HESTER says:

    How’s the reactivation of the historic board progressing?

  11. Haven’t thought to ask the Mayor lately.

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