That said, consider what could be standing today if more people in Calhoun County had felt the urgency to protect and preserve the county’s historic sites: the Davis Farm in Oxford; the L&N Station in Anniston; the Native American mound in Oxford; and the Anniston City Land Co. building, which was torn down this summer to make way for the city’s new justice center. And that’s hardly all of them.
It’s with those thoughts that we applaud the formation of the Model City Preservation Coalition, which was highlighted in Sunday’s Star. The commission is a resident group whose aim is to educate the community about the city’s historic sites. We wish them much success.
We also warn them that their task is great.
In these parts, historic preservation isn’t merely an Anniston problem; most of the county’s cities have squandered too many opportunities to preserve their historical buildings and sites. Whenever these discussions arise, we can’t help but refer to a comment made by Robert Gamble of the Alabama Historical Commission, who, after the Davis Farm fire two years ago, told The Star that this county often has only itself to blame.
“Calhoun County has a terrible historical preservation record, by and large,” Gamble said. “There’s a lot of history there, but there doesn’t seem to be an emphasis to preserve it.”
In March, as the Anniston City Council was deciding the fate of the Land Co. building, David Schneider, executive director of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation, wrote an op-ed for The Star that painted an extremely bleak picture for the city’s aging sites.
“In my 12 years in Anniston, I have heard nothing but lip service and excuses from successive councils and their staffs when it comes to historic preservation.”
In other words, the Model City Preservation Coalition has its work cut out for it.
(One thing must be noted, again: Anniston desperately needs new digs for its police department, and the Land Co. site is prime downtown real estate. Losing the building, which was in bad shape, was terrible because of its historical significance; improving working conditions for the city’s police officers is a must.)
The emergence of this grassroots preservation group could be the start of a new day in Anniston. Sites remain that deserve preserving. But these residents face the task of creating a culture change within the Model City and convincing a populace and a government that by and large has ignored the value of historic preservation.