May is Historic Preservation Month. With this year’s campaign “This Place Matters,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation encourages preservation of historic places because these places make our communities special.

When it comes to homes with history, perhaps no one sets a better example in answering the preservation call than Lance Turner, owner of the Clardy Mansion at 621 College St. in Oxford.

Lance and his wife, Trudie Anne, purchased the Victorian home in 2005, saving it from demolition. Since then, it has been fully restored. Now it is being used as an events center, and its features are a conversation piece.

“I was impressed with the way the house was constructed,” Lance Turner said. “The outside walls and interior walls are each three rows thick with bricks. It is a sturdy house.” This was largely due to the expertise of the builder, Zedekiah H. Clardy, who built the house in 1880. Clardy, an Oxford resident, was a brick manufacturer and a building contractor.

 Turner re-finished the floors, re-wired the home, put in central heating and air, provided light fixtures and refurbished the woodwork, with special care in keeping the original decorative carvings.

The turn-of-the-century furnishings purchased by Turner help one imagine a slower-paced lifestyle. He is quick to point out a plaque in the front hall that celebrates the mansion’s listing on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

When the house was built, transoms and large bedrooms were part of the residents’ natural world. Transoms provided ventilation for rooms when the doors were closed. Families were usually large, and bedrooms accommodated several people, sometimes parents with small children or extended families. Instead of closets, large armoires were used to store clothing.

Oxford people know of the Clardy Mansion, but what they may not know makes the dwelling even more fascinating. Ruth Elder — who at age 23 became known as the first woman to attempt to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean —  lived here in 1922, according to the Oxford City Directory, and attended Oxford High School. The Elders moved into the house so that Mrs. Elder could work as a lunch server at Oxford High School, which was located at the top of the hill on College Street.

Before the site was Oxford High School, Oxford College occupied the property. The college was a Gothic Revival-style, co-educational institution built in 1868, and existed for 31 years, according to an article in Oxford Access magazine by Hunter Gentry.  The College Hill spot (just up the hill from where the Clardy House sits now) was not only popular for its beauty but for its giant oak tree.

Under the oak’s limbs, Gen. John T. Morgan mustered soldiers and established the 51st Alabama Infantry (known as the Dudley Snow Rangers) on Aug.11, 1862. More than 1,300 men stood in ranks, and the lines stretched from College Hill down to Choccolocco Street.

A hand-sewn flag from the women of Selma was presented during the ceremony. Sadly, the tree was destroyed by fire in 1932, but remains in Oxford history as the “beloved Morgan Oak,” according to an article by Marilyn Clark of Oxford.

Oxford College and the oak would have been practically next door to the Clardy Home. “Thinking of these events keeps Oxford’s past and my home’s heritage very real to me,” Turner said.

Last chance for ‘Back to the ’80s’

This afternoon’s matinee marks the final production of “Back to the ’80s” by CAST community theater. The 2:30 p.m. performance is at McClellan Theatre with a cast of 29.

Actors are from Anniston, Jacksonville, Piedmont, Talladega and Pell City.

Directed by Glenn Davenport, the musical features popular songs from the 1980s with some dancing and lots of comedy.

“The ’80s had its own style in music with keyboards and synthesizers,” Davenport said. “The production should bring back some recent musical memories.”

Roles in the cast include The Narrator, The Regular Kids, The Popular Girls, The Cool Guys, The Nerds and Outcasts and The Teachers.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students.

Anniston City Manager to speak at historical society

Kent Davis, city manager of Anniston, will speak on “Anniston Plans and Progress” Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Calhoun County Historical Society. The meeting and program will be in the Ayers Room at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County.

Davis joined the City of Anniston as director of economic development and external affairs last year. He became city manager in November.

A native of Alabama, Davis grew up in Atlanta and New Orleans. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Louisiana State University and a Juris Doctor degree from Georgia State University.

He also received a certificate in Comparative Dispute Resolution from Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. His resume includes a history of extensive military and civilian careers.

Everyone is invited to the hospitality mixer at 5 p.m., followed by the meeting and speaker at 5:30 p.m.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.

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