Verbena’s iconic gazebo in need of repairs

The gazebo in Verbena was built in the early 1980s. Caretakers say it's in need of repairs they're unable to make.

The gazebo in Verbena was built in the early 1980s. Caretakers say it’s in need of repairs they’re unable to make.

The iconic gazebo in Verbena was built in the early 1980s, though it looks as if it has been there much longer.

That’s not a slight against the folks who built the gazebo. In fact, it has held up remarkably well over the past 30 years, but time and the elements have taken their toll and the folks interested in preserving the town’s history are worried they don’t have the resources necessary to make needed repairs.

“Any structure like that that is exposed is ultimately going to deteriorate,” said Chuck Rice, president of the Verbena Historical Society. “We’ve done repairs to it continuously. We’ve done the best we can over time, but we just don’t have the resources.”

The gazebo was meant to look old. Its builders wanted the structure to seem like it had always been there, back to the town’s fascinating founding as a sanctuary from yellow fever for wealthy Montgomery residents.

There isn’t much left in town that dates back to those earlier times. The Verbena Historical Society was founded in 1975 as an effort to save a historical store and academy.

Both of those buildings are gone, but the Society managed to get the community on the National Historic Registry and start Verbena Trade Day as an annual fundraising community-building effort.

Bob and Mary Kate Weir at the time were among a group of residents eager to preserve the town’s history.

“We loved the history so much that we wanted to re-create the feel that we all have for the community,” said Bob Weir, who serves as vice president for the Historical Society.

Their efforts focused on building a gazebo as a center of the Trade Day festivities–and the community.

None of those involved had a background in construction. They were accomplishing their goal through sheer willpower.

“We’re pulling in the people in the community, and everybody is contributing something,” Bob Weir said. “It had to be like it had always been there. I think we accomplished that. Nobody realized it was new.”

But Trade Day faded out in the late 1980s, the Historical Society’s membership dwindled and the gazebo deteriorated.

“The structure itself has really become kind of a symbol of Verbena,” Rice said. “It would be nice if we could shore it up and make sure it lasts for other people as time goes on. Our community is in need of trying to maintain that symbol if we can.”

The floor needs to be replaced, the railing re-done and a new coat of paint applied, among other things. The problem is the Historical Society doesn’t have enough money in its account to hire someone to do the work, and time has taken its toll on the Society’s members just like it has the gazebo.

“Where we are is we’re crumbling,” Weir said. “Thirty years of time and age have taken their toll on the gazebo and the people that built it.

“We built it with a lot of hard work. We need that spirit to come from somewhere.”

Anyone interested in helping the Historical Society can contact (251) 213-0594, (205) 755-1484, marykateweir@gmail.com, bobweir@netscape.com or (205) 294-9201.

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