Their home, built by Duncan Parker in 1889, boasts seven fireplaces, original woodwork and plaster molding. Megan points out the chandelier in the living room, which, she said, is original to the house and was converted from gas years ago. A stained-glass window rises above the first landing of the staircase filtering the sunlight through its colorful panes.
“I walk down the stairs in the morning and this is what I see,” she said. “I feel like I’m kind of a caretaker of a treasure.”
The Brightwells among 14 property owners in the Tyler Hill neighborhood, the majority of whom have signed a petition to have their neighborhood declared a historic district. The designation would require all exterior alterations be approved by the Anniston Historic Preservation Commission, who would evaluate the designs to ensure the character of the neighborhood remains intact.
The Commission held a public hearing on the designation and just a few neighbors showed up to hear the presentation. David Schneider, vice chair of the commission and one of the property owners, said he had contacted nearly all the homeowners who would be affected by the change and had run into no opposition. It was a surprise. He’s been through this process before in Anniston.
“For there not to be some vocal opposition is rare,” Schneider said at the meeting.
There are currently two historic districts in Anniston – one near Zinn Park and the Post Headquarters District at McClellan.
The homes at Tyler Hill are the largest remaining concentration of Victorian Homes in Anniston. The neighborhood was once home to some of the most prominent citizens in Anniston, people whose names are still recognizable to residents: Duncan T. Parker, Susie Parker Stringfellow, John B. Knox.
The neighborhood was listed on the National Historic Register in 1985. Despite the listing three of the homes that contributed to the historic designation have been demolished. Only about one-third of the homes retain as much historic value as they had in 1985.
The Brightwells’ home on East Sixth Street, Duncan Parker’s former home and arguably the most grand house in the neighborhood, sidles up to the square on Tyler Hill. It is already listed on the National Historic Register and bears a plaque announcing its status as a landmark. But they realize there is no protection for the house and the other historic homes in the neighborhood right now.
“We don’t know in Anniston what we have,” Megan Brightwell said. “We’re from Atlanta where we could never buy – we could never afford to move into a historic building like this because the property values of the historic buildings are so high; because people respect historic homes.”
A historic house isn’t easy to keep up. It takes commitment. The two have spent most weekends on projects at the house. Right after they moved in they had to replace the roof.
“It’s definitely a lot of house to keep up,” Scott Brightwell said. “It’s drafty. It’s very drafty.”
“But it’s worth it,” Megan Brightwell said, pulling her green sweater tightly around her, warding off the moist chill in the air with resolve.
They eventually want to open some of their bedrooms to guests as a bed and breakfast.
Scott Brightwell said the couple signed on to the Anniston Historic Preservation Commission’s petition to name the neighborhood a historic district because they want to protect the neighborhood for future generations.
“It gives potential buyers an (assurance) that the historic neighborhood they’re moving into stays historic,” he said.
Nobody likes to have more rules to follow, but the added annoyance is worth the knowledge that their home and all its neighbors will retain their character, they said.
Other residents of the area aren’t sure how they feel about the neighborhood distinction.
Jennifer Smith, who lives in an 80-year-old house on Goodwin, doesn’t think hers is one that would be included in the district. It isn’t. Smith, a history buff, has lived in the home for 30 years, drawn by the character of the neighborhood. She would love to see some standards for the neighborhood, for instance, keeping yards picked up and old cars off the road. But she’s not sure how the designation would affect the neighborhood.
“I’m not real sure how I feel about it,” she said. “It depends on what sorts of – how would it be beneficial?”
The next step for the neighborhood to be declared a historic district is for the Commission to meet and discuss the comments it received at the public hearing, said Joan McKinney, president of the commission. They meet this morning to decide whether to make a recommendation to the Anniston City Council to create the ordinance naming the neighborhood a Historic District. Then it’s up to the Council to make the ordinance.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.