Preserving history through buildings

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Crenshaw County Historical Society is working to designate historical districts and structures all across Crenshaw County. The group recently mailed out letters to the owners of the 112 historic structures in Brantley regarding the society’s goal to get signage on the homes and buildings in Brantley.

A survey of the town of Brantley by the Alabama Historical Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office deemed 112 homes and buildings in Brantley eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic places. These buildings met certain structural and archaeological requirements and are now part of this official federal list which contains properties that have significance to the history of their community, state, or our nation and have been deemed worthy of preservation.

According to Pamela Catrett Campbell, corresponding secretary/treasurer for the Crenshaw County Historical Society, the establishment of the historical district in Brantley will help to keep the town’s history alive while commemorating significant architectural styles architectural styles; specifically, Victorians, American Tudors, T-Style Vernacular Cottages and Colonial Revivals.

“The homes and commercial buildings, and their styles, came to be as Brantley grew and saw economic success, particularly from the 1890s until the early 1940s,” Campbell said. “Many people comment on our beautiful little ‘Front Porch Town’ and the signage will provide a way to display the importance of these buildings that lend so much of that ‘Mayberry’ aesthetic. We want to give travelers more reasons to slow down and take in the town and we want to create more opportunities for the town to bring in tax revenue.”

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.”
Experts agree that an important part of what gives a town character and a sense of community is its history and old buildings. Historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods stand as witnesses to the architectural and cultural history of a place and illustrate the lives of those who built, worked and lived in them.

The structures give citizens a sense of place and belonging, connect them to the past, and tell stories about what a place once was.

Preserving those stories, the historic structures connected to them, and the area’s irreplaceable heritage are considered vital tasks by persons seeking to build and sustain a healthy, and beautiful community that exists in the best interest of its citizens.

It is for these reasons and more that Congress created The National Register of Historic Places, authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and initiated a federal effort to save the nation’s historic buildings.
Larry and Judy Mitchell of Brantley purchased one of the signs to display at their historic home in Brantley.

“There is a lot of history in Brantley and there is a lot of history connected to our house,” Judy Mitchell said. “I always loved to hear Mrs.Vera Tisdale talk of local history. She once told me that she spent several nights in our home when she was a teenager and that the very first phone switchboard in Brantley was run out of the little room on the front of the house. There was a separate door to the little room when Larry and I moved here, and we sealed it up. I had always wondered why there was a separate outside door to that small room. I actually lived in this house briefly when I was a little girl. I think we really need to preserve houses and buildings like this and celebrate them and their importance. I am certainly proud to display this sign on my home.”

Signs and plaques that designate historical homes, buildings and historical districts can be seen proudly displayed in nearby cities including Greenville, Eufaula and Union Springs. Promoting the historical value of our buildings and spaces in this way creates a conversation with our past about our future and encourages continuity for future generations.

For more information or to purchase a sign, contact Campbell at 352.406.4732 or

The Crenshaw County Historical society is always accepting new members and continuously looking for local oral and written histories. An open house is held at the museum on Airport Road in Luverne every third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Pamela Catrett Campbell can also be contacted for more information on becoming a member of the society.