Saturday, March 19, 2005

Here's a municipal map of Tuscaloosa from the 1880s. The original street names are on it so you can see that University Boulevard was Broad Street. 6th Street was called Cotton Street. 7th Street was called Union Street. 8th Street was Pike Street. 19th Avenue was Bear Street. 20th Avenue was York Street. 21st Avenue was College Street. 22nd Avenue was Madison Street and 23rd Avenue was Monroe Street.
Before ya'll condemn these people's property, tear down their businesses and sell the land to someone else, it would be a good idea to commemorate these old street names in the urban renewal district. The numbering system for the streets was adopted during the 1904 administration of Mayor Frank Blair.

Here's a close up of the same map. As you can see, Big Gully extended all the way up to University Boulevard. According to former Tuscaloosan News editor Ben Green in A History of Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1816-1949, after the 1866 flood, Big Gully extended all the way to the present-day Alta Apartments and the only through street downtown was 7th Street. Mr. Green devotes an entire chapter of his book to Big Gulley and in the conclusion to his book he lists Big Gulley as the first of the five greatest barriers to Tuscaloosa's growth because it "threatened to knife the very heart of this town."

On page 71 of Mr. Green's book he describes the 1893 fire which fatally burned two children during a performance at the old Academy of Music on present day 7th Street near where the Elks Theatre(Alta Apartments) was constructed in 1905.

According to Green, Sam Friedman inspired the paving of downtown street in 1911 and major paving projects continued during the twenties. Please notice the granite curb stones near the Alta Apartments.

65 years ago 6th Street was a lot busier than it is today. According to the 1938 Tuscaloosa City Directory, 32 businesses were located along the three blocks of 6th Street between 20th Avenue and 23rd Avenue. Please investigate the old city directories and also consult the old insurance company fire maps. Carl Adams of Adams Antiques has an old one in his place of business.

Old foundation stones were uncovered and discarded when the south side of 6th Street between 23rd Avenue and Greensboro Avenue was demolished after the recent fire. Something could have been learned from this stone work. Also make sure all the wells you uncover are excavated.Also look at that old aerial map of Tuscaloosa from the 1880s. All of the buildings pictured on this "bird's eye view" are apparantly accurate.

Last but not least(and this will be my last post before the March 22 deadline),


Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Really love your organization. The Conde-Charlotte Museum House in MobileÉ is one of my all time favorites.
I'm sure you know that a Revolutionary War soldier is buried at Big Creek Methodist Church below Rehobeth and that the Baptist Church in Campbellton is about the oldest in Florida but there's a lot of early American History in the Wiregrass.

When Professor Barnard from Bama came down there to investigate the line in 1846 he met men who worked for Ellicott in 1799.

I could go on and on. You could do a planetarium show at Landmarks Park about Ellicott's Observatory on the Chattahoochee. John Steensland was with us when we located it. Ellicott Mound # 381 near the Chattahoochee on Ansley's property stands today as tangible evidence of the greatest accomplishment of Washington's presidency: Pinckney's Treaty, the treaty that extinguished all of Spain's claims to the land on this side of the Mississippi to the north of the 31st parallel and west of the Chattahoochee.

Ellicott's Mound #381 was the last of the survey mounds built by Spain and the U.S. These mounds were erected a one mile intervals between the Mississippi and Chattahoochee Rivers.

In his last days, President Washington focused his attention on The Wiregrass. In September of 1799, three months before his death on December 14, he wrote the following to Alexander Hamilton:

General Wilkinson, in speaking of Posts along our Southern Frontier, is general; and you only notice Fort Stoddart. But, on an inspection of the maps, a place presents itself, [to my view], as very eligible to occupy; provided the Creek Indians would consent to it. I mean the Apalachicoli, at its confluence with Flint River,[where the line of demarcation strikes it].
But, in my opinion, if we had, or could obtain an Engineer of real skill, and attached to the true policy and interest of the United States, he ought to devote his whole time to the investigation of our interior Country; and mark, and erect its proper defences; for these, hitherto, have been more the work of chance and local consideration, than National design....
Of course at the same time Washington was writing this letter, the Indians were plundering Ellicott\'s camp near the confluence with the Flint River on a hill inside the present-day city limits of Chattahoochee, Florida, thus ending the boundary survey.\r\n A few years later the U.S. built an arsenal at present-day Chattahoochee, Florida and named it Mt. Vernon. Another arsenal in Alabama near Ft. Stoddart was also named Mt. Vernon so confusion at the post office caused them to rename it Chattahoochee. The Florida Insane Hospital was established in the federal arsenal at Chattahoochee and Alabama's insane asylum for colored people was established at Mt. Vernon.
Like I said, I could go on and on but just wanted to remind you of some the roots of the Wiregrass go all the way back to our Founding Fathers. best,

Monday, March 14, 2005

Dear Ms. Breithaupt:
I'm a working man; not a professionist, however, I do have a mechanical incline so before ya'll blow downtown Tuscaloosa to bolivia, I would like to contribute some information.
They are talking about building this new federal courthouse in the middle of 6th Street(originally Cotton Street) near the point where the Big Gulley was filled between the years of 1837 and 1885. That seems like some mighty shakey ground to be building a courthouse on.
The large storm sewer near there on 21st Avenue gave rise to the legends about a tunnel through which slaves escaped to the Underground Railroad. Well, that sewer is still giving the City of Tuscaloosa fits.
This plan will close off 6th Street between 20th Ave. and 21st Ave. It will also close off 22nd Avenue between 6th St. and 7th Street. These streets have been open to traffic since 1821 so this is a big change. I decided to write a text for a hysterical marker concerning this 1821 street layout:

On October 4, 1816, the Choctaw Indians extinguished their title to this property when they signed a treaty which ceded all of their remaining land east of the Tombigbee River to the United States. On March 3, 1817,the U.S. Congress reserved from public land sale this Fractional Section 22 of Township 21 South, Range 10 West(Huntsville Meridian) Queen City Avenue runs north to south along the eastern margin line of this land section.

This building at 2127 6th Street now houses the Alta Apartments. The stage elevators for the opera house are still located on the roof.

All manner of entertainers performed here and ,as far as I know, noone has ever investigated the famous people who appeared on the ELKS HOME stage.[the FBI made my Daddy close both Elks Clubs in Montgomery and ya'll ain't had one since]

This is the building right behind the Alta Apartments at 2124 7th Street. Olan Mills Studios began in Tuscaloosa and Selma. Olan Mills Jr. grew up here and his company has consumed more Kodak paper than any other entity on Earth.

There's lots more I can share: An original Studebaker dealership and an Oldsmobile dealership still standing with business papers in storage.
I don't have a lot of time to spend on this mess but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Best wishes,
Robert Register

P.S. I know the State of Alabama is strapped for cash but please get Lee Warner's name off your stationary. If nothing else, use some White Out or plain typing paper.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Chester Cunningham died twenty five years ago in Las Vegas at the age of 38. He is buried in Headland.
Below you will find photographs of his hand lettered signs from the Dothan area. He is considered to be one of the most influential outdoor sign painters who ever lived and he also drew graphics for Channel 4 so some of his work may be located out in Webb and some of his work is probably found in old print advertising from the Wiregrass.
Check Chester out on the Web
and keep an eye out for his work.