On Thursday December 7th, 2006 Friends of Historic Northport moved the 1830 Umbria Schoolhouse to the Northport Community Center Park from the North River Historic Area.
The Umbria Schoolhouse is believed to be the oldest standing school structure in Alabama. The Umbria Plantation was built for the Col. Samuel Pickens family about 1830 near Sawyerville, Alabama ten miles west of the town of Greensboro. A 20’x20’ frame schoolhouse was built at the same time. A tutor held classes in the schoolhouse for the children of Umbria for many years.
In 1973 a fire destroyed Umbria, but the schoolhouse escaped the blaze. Mrs. Elizabeth Spigener, who owned the plantation at the time, donated the building to Gulf States, and the building was moved to the North River Historical Area in Tuscaloosa. The one-room schoolhouse served the community well as a unique heritage asset for over three decades.
After thirty-two years of use, Gulf States gave the schoolhouse to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society (TCPS) in December 2005. Along with the schoolhouse, the 1838 Gainesville Bank building was also given to the TCPS, with a condition of having both building placed within one year. Susan Haynes, Executive Director of the Preservation Society, began looking for new homes for both structures.
Friends of Historic Northport showed interest in bringing the schoolhouse to Northport, and a committee was formed to find a suitable location, secure funding, and determine how the removal and restoration would be completed.
The location would have to provide easy public access as well as fitting in to FHN’s ongoing heritage educational initiative. Tuscaloosa’s Parks and Recreation Authority (PARA) agreed with FHN for placement of the schoolhouse behind the Northport Heritage Museum. This location will work well with the FHN educational initiative, allowing students to tour the Museum and schoolhouse together.
Removal and Restoration
FHN began planning removal and restoration once a location was determined. Evans Fitts of Fitts Architects was called on to complete plans for the new foundation. The City of Northport agreed to pour the foundation
Hendrix Housemovers was secured to move the structure, removing the fireplace and preparing the schoolhouse so that it would stand the move from the North River Historic Area to downtown Northport. The move took twenty minutes, along the New Watermelon Road and down Rice Mine Road. Hendrix also moved the Museum to its current location almost eight years ago.
Once in place, a new roof and shingles were quickly installed. New piers and fireplace were installed, matching almost exactly how the schoolhouse looked from the 1800’s. Painting was completed outside and the new tongue & groove ceiling was finished inside. FHN will begin looking for school desks and chairs similar to ones used in the 1800’s in order to complete the restoration process.
Restoration was followed using photographs from the Library of Congress that were made in the 1930’s.
Special thank you to the following:
A sizable donation was made in memory of Richard Price Holman, by his family, to fund the removal and restoration of the roofing, carpentry work, chimney replacement, painting, and furnishings.
FHN applied to receive funding from the Cecile C. Craig Testamentary Trust that was used specifically for physical relocation.
Hayse Boyd M.D. and Mr. & Mrs. James L. Booth Jr. were benefactors to the project.
Evans Fitts (Fitts Architects) for architectural plans.
The City of Northport for installation of the Schoolhouse walkway and foundation.
Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority (PARA) for placement in the park.Dedication
Friends of Historic Northport and the City of Northport held the dedication ceremony on November 4, 2007.
City Council President Steve Webb was master of ceremony. Dr. Neil Hyche gave the dedication address. Lib Holman Thomson was recognized for the gift to the Umbria Schoolhouse, for her love of Northport, and her life-long support of the community.
The Umbria Schoolhouse Walkway brick paver program will provide support for the educational efforts and upkeep of the heritage structure.
Honor your ancestors, family members, educators, and all of your special friends with an engraved brick on the Schoolhouse Walkway.
One-Room Schoolhouse Center
The American Memory Project