Restoring history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The Hardee house at the corner of Lapsley Street and Dallas Avenue doesn’t just concern Selma &045;&045; it concerns all of Alabama.

Patty Sexton, with the Selma Community Development Office, spoke before the Alabama Historical Commission Tuesday morning about the building, which until recently was falling into disrepair.

According to Sexton, laws recently passed have paved the way for restoration of the home, which was originally owned by Confederate Col. William J. Hardee.

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Prior to passage of the laws, a municipality could only demolish a house and then put a lien against the property if it were structurally unsafe. The municipal improvements law now allows municipalities to stabilize a building and then put a lien against it.

The lien redemption law gives entrepreneurs more incentive to purchase property at a tax sale. According to Brandon G. Brazil, preservation issues coordinator with the Alabama Historical Commission, owners will now see a 12 percent return on any preservation improvements made to a building within the first three years of purchase if the property is redeemed.

Previously, property bought at a tax sale was typically left unattended for three years. That was because the original owner could redeem his property before three years had elapsed and any improvements made would have been a financial loss to the buyer.

Brazil, who played a major role in getting the laws passed, said Birmingham was tearing down about 400 buildings a year. However, Brazil added that the commission wanted to assist all Alabama municipalities.

Elise Blackwell, with the Community Development Office, said the Hardee home wasn’t picked for stabilization arbitrarily, but was instead chosen for its visibility, size and historic nature.

The Selma City Council approved using the municipal improvements law to stabilize the home earlier this year. However, Jim Allen Randall purchased it at a tax sale shortly thereafter, according to Sexton.

Selma has not used any of its funds to stabilize the home, Sexton added.

Sexton said stabilization of the home was complete. Blackwell added that renovation of the home would begin once one of three possibilities had occurred.

The lien redemption law would allow Randall a 12 percent return on his stabilization efforts if the property were redeemed by its previous owner, the property could be purchased outright from the previous owner or the City of Selma could use the municipal improvements law.

In the latter case the property would return to the city.

According to Bob Hubert, Selma historic districts compliance monitor, Hardee moved to Selma after the Civil War and became a plantation planter. Bob Gamble, senior architectural historian with the Alabama Historical Commission, said the home was built by Hardee in the 1860’s and its Victorian aspect was added in 1907.

Hardee is known for writing &uot;Light Infantry Military Tactics,&uot; a manual used by both sides during the Civil War. He is buried in Old Live Oak Cemetery.