Old Decatur Historic District

A walk through the past

Old Decatur Historic District

Decatur, Alabama 35601, United States

Created By: Historic Decatur Association

Tour Information

A ferry crossing over the Tennessee River was established by Dr. Henry Rhodes around 1818. The community that developed around the ferry was known as Rhodes Ferry until 1823, when it was renamed Decatur for the U.S. naval officer Stephen Decatur. The City of Decatur was incorporated a few years later in 1826, by the Alabama Legislature. Its fertile river valley soil and relatively easy river access to other cities drew many settlers to the community at that time.

In 1833, the State Bank of Alabama opened in Decatur, its building being an impressive edifice in pre-Greek Revival style. Decatur was a much disputed objective during the Civil War, with the result that the Old State Bank was one of only three or four buildings still standing at its conclusion. The Decatur Land and Development Company promoted a new city called New Decatur to the southeast of Decatur around 1886. The new city, named "Albany" was incorporated in 1887. In 1927, Albany merged with Decatur to become a single city.

During the early 1900s, many new homes were built and civic improvements were made as the city focused on providing a better quality of life for its citizens. A livery stable was renovated to become the Princess Theater in 1919. The city’s first traffic lights were installed in 1929.

Decatur is located on the banks of Wheeler Lake, which was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority when the agency dammed the Tennessee River with the Guntersville Dam. Across the lake is the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

excerpt from www.u-s-history.com


Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

1
Old State Bank Building

Through over 175 years of often turbulent history, the Old State Bank has survived as a proud monument to Decatur’s past and the development of banking in Alabama. The decision to build a branch of the Alabama state bank in Decatur was ... Read more
2
Bank Street

A good place to start the tour is on the north end of historic Bank Street with the Old State Bank at your back. The first block of buildings on the east side of Bank Street dates to the reconstruction following the Civil War in the late 18... Read more
3
Simp McGhee's - 725 Bank Street

On the west corner of Bank and LaFayette Streets, you’ll see Simp McGhee’s – a restaurant named after quite a character from Decatur’s history. Simp was a riverboat captain in the 1880’s who is renowned for having a beer-swilling ... Read more
4
Old Hargrove & Murdock Grocery - 502 Bank Street

On the corner of Bank and Cherry Streets is a charming building built in 1897 on land owned by the Decatur Mineral and Land Company. For “old timers” it is best remembered as the location of Hargrove & Murdock Grocery circa 1925 unt... Read more
5
The Hamil House -422 Oak Street

Striking with its brick and stone arched doorway, this house was built in 1929 by J.Y. Hamil. With its steep roof, gables and tall, tapered chimney, it is typical of several English Cottage style houses built in the 1920’s in the Old Deca... Read more
6
John T. Banks Building -402 Oak Street

Civil War veteran, druggist and early city leader John T. Banks built the brick structure in 1887. The building was at the center of a political storm in Morgan County in 1891. When a vote declared Decatur as the county seat, residents move... Read more
7
Shadowlawn -504 Line Street

The stately white frame house surrounded by towering oaks that inspired its name is Shadowlawn. It was built around 1874 by Dr. William Gill. One of the oldest practicing physicians in the State of Alabama at the time, Dr. Gill died attendi... Read more
8
Japanese Garden at Frazier Park

To the south side of Shadowlawn is a wonderful place to take a break, Frazier Park, named for a Decatur business leader who was instrumental in restoring Old Decatur. On the west end of the park is a traditional Japanese garden made possibl... Read more
9
The Leadingham House 501 Line Street

The small cottage with a charming ground-level porch was built prior to 1875 for two maiden sisters. Rebecca Leadingham operated a private school there while sister Louise was librarian at the nearby Carnegie Library.
10
The Collier Home 511 Line Street

The Collier Home was built after the town clerk, E.W. Collier, married a sister of the Leadinghams in 1885. This two-story house shows Queen Anne influences.
11
Judge Seybourn Lynne Home 503 Ferry Street

This comfortable home with a wrap-around porch was built in 1925 and was home to one of Decatur’s prominent leaders, Judge Seybourn Lynne. He was appointed to a federal judgeship in 1945 by Harry Truman and served for 55 years on the benc... Read more
12
The J.T. Jones House 601 Ferry Street

The J.T. Jones House, or as it’s often called, “The Gingerbread House,” was built in 1899 by a cotton broker. The home is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style of Victorian architecture. A New York artist was commissioned to ca... Read more
13
The Wert-Martin House 602 Line Street

This home has been bricked and remodeled several times since being constructed in 1886. The hitching post, placed out front for Judge Thomas Wert’s horse and buggy, remains. The home and quarter-block lot were later bought by Ben F. Mart... Read more
14
Fort Nash -522 Oak Street

This house is known by its nickname “Fort Nash” because of its rare International Art Deco design. The house was designed in 1939 by the head of the Architecture Department at Auburn University and given as a wedding gift from Mrs. Nash... Read more
15
The Harris House -701 Line Street

The Harris House shows evidence of the Edwardian influence popular when A.J. Harris, son of lawyer-Congressman C.C. Harris, built this house in 1905.
16
The Moseley House 618 Line Street

The best example of the Second Empire style in Decatur, the Moseley House features a Mansard roof, handsome double walnut doors and floor-length windows. Note the Victorian detailing around the porch and upper roofline. The house was built... Read more
17
Sears Kit Homes 306 & 312 LaFayette Street

In the middle of the block on the right are two single-story houses. If you look closely, you can see that they were identical. They are Sears Kit houses and were purchased in 1910. The kits, delivered by rail car, included everything: flo... Read more
18
Gibson House 305 LaFayette Street

This truly Victorian style home that was “House Plan of the Year” in 1900 for Home and Garden Magazine was built in 1901. For many years the house was vacant and suffered from neglect and vandalism, but survived due to the quality of ... Read more
19
The Todd House 215 LaFayette Street

The Todd House is one of only four surviving buildings from the Civil War; it was used then as a storage facility. Dating to 1836, it was originally a two-room Georgian house. The front door and sidelights are original. Several additions h... Read more
20
First United Methodist Church -805 Canal Street

The sanctuary you see now at First United Methodist Church was dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1899. The three large, stained glass windows cost $450. The Methodist Episcopal Church – South, as it was then known, raised a sanctuary as early... Read more
21
The Carnegie Visual Arts Center 207 Church Street

Completed in September of 1904, the Carnegie Library of Decatur was one of the 2,509 libraries built by the railroad tycoon and millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At the turn of the century, Carnegie began donating money to non-pro... Read more
22
Rhodes Ferry Park

You may want to visit Rhodes Ferry Park, a beautiful public park on the Tennessee River. Oak Street – at the Carnegie – crosses Highway 20 to take you directly to the park.

 

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