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Historic Huntsville neighborhood Magnolia Terrace to be surveyed

Published on December 8, 2021

Huntsville’s Magnolia Terrace neighborhood could soon join the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) following a historic resource survey funded by the Alabama Historical Commission.

The survey will be similar to one previously conducted at Huntsville’s Edmonton Heights, which was added to the NRHP in June 2021.

“Historic Preservation Specialist Dr. Caroline Swope will conduct the survey, which will begin before the end of the year,” said City of Huntsville Preservation Planner Katie Stamps. “The Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission (HHPC) is always very impressed with Dr. Swope’s work. Her outstanding research skills and attention to detail always produce a thorough and fascinating evaluation.”

A white house with black shutters is shown. A big tree is off to the left.
Magnolia Terrace and surrounding properties were built during the 1950s and 1960s, with a few 1940s minimal traditional-style dwellings.

Swope will give a brief presentation about the survey at the next regularly scheduled HHPC meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, in the 1st floor chambers at City Hall. Members of the community are welcome to attend, ask questions and meet Swope.

This meeting will be broadcast on HSV-TV, streamed live on HuntsvilleAL.gov/HSVTV or available for viewing later on City Video. A community meeting about the survey is also planned.

“Dr. Swope will be interested in hearing from people who live in the neighborhood or have a connection to it, especially if they have historic photographs that show the houses and any other historic information,” Stamps said.

About Magnolia Terrace

Sixty years ago, Magnolia Terrace was home to some of Huntsville’s early Black professionals and middle-class families. It was a popular neighborhood for Councill High School teachers, Alabama A&M professors and business owners. St. Joseph Catholic School, the first integrated school in Huntsville, is also a prominent fixture.

Stamps said the subdivision and surrounding properties were built during the 1950s and 1960s, with a few 1940s minimal traditional-style dwellings. The survey will document approximately 219 properties within a 66.69-acre boundary.

“Magnolia Terrace exhibits several distinctive mid-century architectural styles,” she said. “The area is defined by a large, two-story dwelling on Stanley Drive once owned by Dr. Harold Fanning Drake, the first Black doctor to receive admitting privileges at Huntsville Hospital.”

Community pride

Former and current Magnolia Terrace residents, including Bobby Bradley, Brenda Barley Chunn, Jocelyn Jones-Boustani and Jahni Moore, helped identify Magnolia Terrace as a place of historical significance and are engaged in the survey planning process.

A large two-story home is seen with trees in the background.
Magnolia Terrace is defined by a large, two-story dwelling on Stanley Drive once owned by Dr. Harold Fanning Drake.

Chunn, a retired educator, said being raised in Magnolia Terrace positively impacted her life. To ensure the neighborhood gets the historic recognition it deserves, she will work with HHPC to help inform residents about the survey.

“This is exactly the right time to record and recognize our history and acknowledge the importance of the Magnolia Terrace community to Huntsville,” Chunn said. “I am eager to share my own experiences and training in the social sciences in the fulfillment of this endeavor and to learn new things about the community that I know and love. I applaud Mayor Tommy Battle, Councilman Devyn Keith and all who are supporting this initiative by making it possible.”

About the survey

Funded by a Certified Local Government grant, the historic resource survey is the first of a two-part process to assess Magnolia Terrace’s NRHP eligibility. If the neighborhood is qualified, the City could apply for additional grants to pursue the NRHP listing.

Stamps said the City has successfully surveyed several mid-century neighborhoods, including McThornmor Acres, Blossomwood, Medical District, Mayfair and Whitesburg Estates. She added, however, the identification and preservations of sites associated with the Black community are lacking as many structures were demolished because of urban renewal and downtown expansion.

Listing Magnolia Terrace to the NRHP would not result in any regulations or restrictions on homeowners or require them to make alterations to their properties.

“With this survey, the City will document the historically significant structures and collect invaluable research that will aid in the continued identification of other resources associated with Huntsville’s Black community,” Stamps said. “The City anticipates pursuing a more comprehensive survey of sites associated with Huntsville’s Black history and this survey will be a major asset to support that effort.”

For more information, contact Stamps at Katherine.Stamps@HuntsvilleAL.gov.