Now, a couple of decades later, they’re able to offer brides a beautiful wedding without all of the expense and work. In the meantime, they have saved the historic Silver Run schoolhouse from falling into disrepair, turning it into the Silver Run Wedding Chapel.
The sisters are businesswomen, co-owners of R&R Travel Service in Oxford. Both live in the Silver Run community between Oxford and Munford, where for years they drove back and forth by the former one-room school, which is on Alabama 21 near Silver Run Road. The land where Robbie lives, in fact, is adjacent to the property where the school sits. They noticed the building and the rocks that precariously held it up. Then they went inside and saw how rain had leaked in and damaged the chimney. The wooden floors were black with grime, and the restrooms, well, two of them were outside. Both were three-seaters, but one had no walls. That was the boys’ toilets, the twins said laughing together.
The Silver Run school was originally built in 1850 and then rebuilt in 1907 after a fire. In 1940, when attendance at the school grew to around 100 students, the state added another room, which the twins knew would be a great reception room for a wedding chapel.
As they planned their business, the two looked closely at the bowed floor and they knew someone who could level it — a longtime friend, Rodney Minton, owner of Minton Home Center in Oxford. They knew others who could help with the renovation, so, about six to seven years ago, Robbie and Renee bought the school. Now they hold not only weddings there but also anniversary and birthday parties and other celebrations. Their customers love the place.
“The biggest problem out there,” said Robbie, from her office at R&R, where telephones rang and brochures spilled over from racks, “is that everyone enjoys it so much they want to stay and visit and never leave.”
Jerry Gill of Jerry Gill Construction in Oxford replaced the foundation rocks with brick, added vinyl siding, sanded the floors to a lovely brown, and reworked the original light fixtures. Robbie and Renee kept the school bell and left intact an electrical cord tied to it. Now, couples ring the bell to signal the moment their wedding begins.
In addition, Gill expanded a ramp for handicapped guests, improved the porch, added restrooms and a bridal suite complete with a closet for “the dress” and prepared a restroom for the bride.
Their customers appreciate their restoration efforts.
Elderly visitors to the chapel have told Renee and Robbie stories about attending the school, such as the time when a teacher drove to work in a brand new pink car. The entire class went out to see it. Others tell them about special teachers they once had at the school, and the twins know relatives of teachers who once taught there.
Contrary to a myth, the school was never a church. However, it was once a place to vote and a place that Silver Run residents could rent for $15 for meetings.
The sisters continue to have dreams. They would love to add an outdoor pavilion with a fireplace and ceiling fans.
“We have an original sign from the Silver Run School,” said Renee, adding that they want to “touch it up” and use it one day.
The twins have furnished the wedding chapel with furniture, punch bowls and cups, and silk flowers. The main chapel is set up and wedding-ready. The basic cost for a small wedding party is $350, and a party of up to 120 guests can rent the facility for $1,000, which includes use of the building and all the amenities for four hours. All a bride has to do is hire a minister, a caterer, and BYOB — “bring your own bouquet.”
Renee and Robbie often provide references, too, for tents for an outdoor reception and photography services.
The sisters stay busy at their travel company and have families and church activities to balance out their lives, but they love their wedding chapel.
“We want to keep it going,” said Robbie.
Star staff writer Sherry Kughn: 256-235-3548.