Sturdivant Hall, the site of the barbecue. -- Courtesy

Sturdivant has barbecue

Published 11:39pm Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sturdivant Hall is one of the most popular attractions in the civic and tourist life of the community, each year opening its doors and gardens to thousands of visitors, who

enjoy the beauty of the architecture, the finely crafted interior woodwork and fireplaces, the interesting panels in the entrance hall, the handsome and authentic antique furnishings and the fine collection of artwork of local artist and Tiffany designer Clara Weaver Parrish..

The historic antebellum structure is often the site of weddings and receptions, private parties and dinners, receptions and teas as well as other formal social affairs. But all is not formal in the line-up of Sturdivant activities. One of its most popular community events, also a funds-raiser, takes place in the outdoor gardens, near the beautiful fountain.

The annual Sturdivant Barbecue on the Green is scheduled this year on the evening of September 30 from 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and should be purchased in advance. Ticket sales are limited so the Barbecue on the Green committee officer Marian Carter suggests not waiting to purchase them.

Director Manera Searcy, preparing for the festive evening, said “we want everybody to have a good time, enjoy the food catered by Golden Ranch, and keyboard music by Darriket Givan . The gathering will be casual and fun and we think will attract people who have never enjoyed an evening at Sturdivant.”

The menu includes hickory-smoked barbecue, special cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, crusty bread and rolls and iced tea.

Joyce Rylee of Rylee’s Catering, located adjacent to Sturdivant in the historic White-Force Cottage, will serve her popular sand tarts with rich chocolate dip, lemon squares and brownies for dessert.

The history of Sturdivant Hall really begins in 1852 when Edward T. Watts purchased a spacious lot (292 feet 6 inches on Mabry and Union Street and 408 feet 9 inches on McLeod Avenue), paying $1,830 at public sale from A.J. Campbell, Register in Chancery. The following year a neo-classical mansion, designed by Thomas Helm Lee, was erected on it, and the Watts family moved in, occupying the handsome structure until 1864, when the property was sold to John McGee Parkman for $65,000.

Parkman’s tragic history is well-known, as are the ghostly tales surrounding the family’s occupancy. In the 151 years since the Watts family occupied the building, the ante-bellum mansion has endured both good times and bad. Watts was a member of the Selma City Council in 1857. In 1864, doubtless a result of the Civil War, he moved his family to Texas, where legend has it that he erected a mansion identical to that in Selma. The new owner of what became known as Sturdivant Hall (in 1957) was John McGee Parkman, who paid $65,000 for it.

Parkman had progressed to the office of president of First National Bank of Selma, which speculated in cotton futures after the Civil War, a common procedure that unfortunately created financial difficulties at the bank. The commander of Federal forces in Selma District took possession of the bank, which had large deposits belonging to the Federal Government, arrested Parkman and imprisoned him at Cahaba, where he was shot while trying to escape.

In 1870 the property was conveyed for $12,500 to Emile Gillman, and it remained in the Gillman family until 1957, when it was purchased by the City of Selma for $75,000. Of the funds $50,000 came from the estate of Robert Daniel Sturdivant. The City Council and the Dallas County Board of Revenue provided $12,500 each.

Since that time, the mansion has undergone extensive renovation and restoration and is considered one of the finest Greek revival mansions in the country, according to officers of the National Trust of Historic Places. The Sturdivant Museum Association, organized by a group of interested citizens, has the responsibility for the operation of Sturdivant Hall.

Officers of the Board of Directors are Edie Jones, president; Edie Delp, 1st vice president; Tamara Hanning, 2nd vice president; Martha Jackson, secretary; and Margie Swift, treasurer. New board members are: Peggy Allison, Jana Garner, Robert Gordon, Myrna Morrow, Michele Scheer and Greg Bjelke.

Presenting an almost perfect profile of an antebellum Southern mansion the structure is surrounded by manicured gardens, with its rear courtyard centered by a memorial fountain. Sturdivant is in almost daily use by out-of-town guests, tourists and Black Belt residents who reserve the Hall for weddings, receptions and other festive occasions.

Editor's Picks