Work to restore historic home worthy of recognition

Published 5:29 pm Monday, August 5, 2013

Word tends to travel fast in a small town, but not always when it’s about something positive.

People’s efforts to improve their communities can slip under the radar, especially if the changes they make aren’t readily noticeable or publicized.

Look at the historic Foshee house in Maplesville and the group responsible for slowly saving it from perishing.

For more than a year now, a handful of ardent Maplesville residents known as the Maplesville Historical Society has campaigned for preservation and full restoration of the house—one of the town’s few historic structures still standing.

The house, which dates back to the 1800s, was so heavily damaged during the January 2012 tornados that former owner Ovid Merchant was at a loss on how to finance its repairs.

Merchant approached the town council after the storms, asking for help in saving the house, a long-time landmark on the main thoroughfare running through the heart of downtown Maplesville.

Merchant expressed his hopes that the town would take on ownership of the home and fix it.

No one blamed Merchant; after all, an aged structure facing multiple structural and cosmetic repairs that could total more than $40,000 by the end was no simple matter.

The historical society could see the potential of a successful Foshee house restoration project, if only the council saw it as well and voted in favor of town ownership.

After much thought and discussion, the council agreed to assume ownership of the house from Merchant, keeping in mind the historical society’s offer to raise money needed to cover costs of restoring the residence to its former glory.

Clem Clapp, Joel Atchison, Wayne Arnold and other historical society members have, and plan to continue to, funnel as many resources as they can into fundraising, repair projects and general support for the house.

They, along with council members and town employees, are responsible for the “grassroots” effort to revitalize the house, a structure some might have discounted as a waste of time and money.

It is far from that. One historical society member told me he could envision the house being used as a family’s full-time residence, or even a bed and breakfast, once it is finished.

The historical society has already raised about $17,000 worth of funds used to cover repairs.

After receiving a series of temporary patches and donning a blue FEMA tarp for months, the house was capped with a brand-new roof last month.

I say all of this to say these people deserve credit for the work they are doing to save something they hold dear.

Progress might be slow and changes not immediately evident in passing, but they are doing their community a great service by giving it back a house that has become part of their town’s heritage and identity.

Emily Beckett is a staff writer for The Clanton Advertiser. She can be reached at