The Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society was formed in 1971 after losing the Wilby Theater, the Gill House and the Hotel Albert. Replacing this block with City Hall, the Convention Center, and the Selma-Dallas County Public Library could not fully compensate for the loss of these irreplaceable historical treasures.
With no funding except for annual dues, we started Riverfront Market to call attention to the antebellum buildings on Water Avenue. Carol and Sam Sommers were responsible for Water Avenue’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places, and it became our first Historic District. We also did survey work and nominated the Riverview and Ice House Districts to the National Register, making Selma home to the largest contiguous historic district in the state of Alabama. We started, and still host, the Annual Historic Selma Tour of Homes as a fundraiser.
After it was threatened with demolition, we moved the Riggs-Morgan Doctor’s office, where the Alabama Medical Association had its beginning, to a vacant lot given to us by the City of Selma. This vacant lot was transformed into Heritage Village, an outdoor historic park which now boasts an antebellum lawyer’s office, a servant’s house, a dove cote and the Gillis House, an antebellum dwelling that was also threatened with demolition. The donation of Miss Minnie Sue’s Cottage to the SDCHPS in Chris Vaughan’s will completed Heritage Village which is a local jewel of historical and architectural importance.
The Kenan family generously gave us Kenan’s Mill in Dallas County in order that the historic gristmill be preserved for posterity and opened periodically to the public. We bought the First YMCA building on Broad Street and mothballed it to stop its demolition, and we have replaced the roof and stabilized Tremont School, the old Selma High School on Tremont Street.
All of these historic properties require maintenance and upkeep, and we face significant new challenges in the coming years. With support from our Selma, Dallas County, and Alabama partners and SDCHPS members, we hope to continue our mission to protect, preserve, and restore for many years to come.