Tag Archives: tornado

Hometown Salvage Mission

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques We are getting ready to begin our next salvage project… one that is practically in our own back yard. Work will begin this week salvaging architectural elements from the historical Luther Hays house in Cullman, Alabama.

The house was built in 1901 by Dr. Luther Hays and his wife Ethel, affectionately called “Dolly”, by her loving husband. Dr. Hays moved to Cullman with his parents in 1878. Upon graduating from the University of Alabama Mobile Medical School, Luther entered the US Army Hospital Corps and served in the Spanish – American War. He then furthered his education at Grant Medical School, returning to Cullman in 1901 to establish his medical practice. Dr. Hays initially set up an office above the old People’s Drug Store, eventually moving it to an upstairs room in his home. When not seeing patients in his home office, Dr. Hays would travel by horseback and treat patients in their own homes.

The Hays house was acquired a few years ago by the Cullman County Historical Society who began renovations in an effort to preserve it. The Historical Society dedicated the house as their new headquarters in November of 2010. A short six months later, the house was severely damaged by the devastating tornados that ravaged downtown Cullman. The F4 tornado that ripped through our community in April of 2011 destroying many homes and businesses, took its toll on the Hays house. The amount of damage done was insurmountable and the cost of restoring the house not financially feasible for the Historical Society. The Society, in an effort to save the house, attempted to sell it, but there were no takers. The house was donated back to the County Commission earlier this year. Sitting on county property, the house must be removed and has been slated for demolition.

Entering the front door, this beautiful staircase is the first thing to catch your eye.

Entering the front door, this beautiful staircase is the first thing to catch your eye.

This is a lovely old house with many charming features. The house has beautiful wood flooring throughout. It is filled with solid wood doors equipped with brass and porcelain knobs. There are several large newel posts and dark wood spindles from the stairwell that connects the living and dining room. The house has many diamond-paned windows, interior wood trim, and a lovely wrap-around porch, a true Southern tradition.

Southern Accents mission statement is to rescue, restore and protect architectural elements of historical significance. As with every salvage mission, we are often asked, “Why are you tearing down this lovely old house?” It is never our mission to tear down or demolish any historical structure. We only come on the scene after a structure has been scheduled for demolition by the property owner. We are the guys you WANT to see before the bulldozers move in. As we have done with past projects, we will enter the Hays house and remove any and all architectural elements that can be re-purposed and recycled. We view this as a rescue mission. Although the house can not be saved, many elements from the interior and exterior can be saved and given a new life. Preserving a piece of this local history for future generations is a mission that we take seriously.

You can follow our current salvage mission on Facebook as well as on our Blog. We will be posting salvaged items on our New Arrivals page as they are made available.

This old black and white photo shows the Dr. Luther Hays house in it's prime!

This old black and white photo shows the Dr. Luther Hays house in it’s prime!

Who doesn't love a red door? This one was a beauty.

Who doesn’t love a red door? This one was a beauty.

This chandelier hung in the front room.

This chandelier hung in the front room.

Two full and two half columns divided the front of this house in to two rooms.

Two full and two half columns divided the front of this house in to two rooms.

Every piece of this gorgeous staircase was salvaged.

Every piece of this gorgeous staircase was salvaged.

All of the beautiful solid wood newel posts were saved as well.

All of the beautiful solid wood newel posts were saved as well.

The doors and hardware were one of the first elements removed from the house.

The doors and hardware were one of the first elements removed from the house.

Unusually small doors led to small closets and storage rooms upstairs.

Unusually small doors led to small closets and storage rooms upstairs. All of the wide baseboards throughout the house were salvaged.

All of the spindles and columns from the wrap around porch were salvaged.

All of the spindles and columns from the wrap around porch were salvaged.

Several of the windows contained lovely diamond shaped panes.

Several of the windows contained lovely diamond shaped panes.

This picture was taken in the cellar. The ferns growing underneath the house, set against the rock foundation, were beautiful.

This picture was taken in the cellar. The ferns growing underneath the house, set against the rock foundation, were beautiful.

Written By: Lisa Jones
Photos By: Lisa Jones


Alley Party 2013 – You Are Invited!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques Mark your calendars for Saturday, JULY 20th! Southern Accents presents the BANDITOS at our 2013 Alley Party and YOU are invited!

Festivities get underway at 6:30 pm in the Alley behind our showroom. The band Banditos will take the stage around 7:15 entertaining us with their eclectic style of boot stomping music… a mix of honky-tonk, rock-folk Americana! The Banditos are an up-and-coming, Nashville based band, originally hailing from Birmingham, Alabama. Banditos You’ll hear familiar tunes with a welcome mix of original music that well defines this talented mix of musicians. We think the Banditos will be one of the next big names emerging from the Nashville scene. Do not miss your opportunity to experience this band on the rise!

You will want to come hungry! Our good friend Bill St. John will be handing out slices of his gourmet pizza to early arrivers. Soft drinks and bottled water will be available, along with one of our take home koozies, but you are also welcome to bring your own cooler. To further whet your appetite, there will be a fantastic menu offering available from Shindigs Catering food truck out of Birmingham, Alabama. Shindigs mouth watering menu is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients with detailed attention to unique flavor combinations. Their delicious cuisine is an experience your taste buds will not soon forget!

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesSouthern Accents 2013 Alley Party t-shirts will be available for purchase during the day as well as that night at the party. Don’t miss your chance to pick up one of these sought after, collectible tees! There will be a limited number available… once they’re gone, they’re gone!!

Our Alley Party is a yearly event that began after the 2011 tornadoes. It is our way of bringing folks together to celebrate friendship and community. It is also our way of saying thanks to our customers for your continued business and support that allow us to do what we love… we save old stuff!

Stop by our showroom any time during regular business hours and enjoy a glass bottled Coca-Cola or a cold bottled water while you browse our showroom, warehouse and outdoor lots. We invite you to take your time and hang out and visit with us for a while! We’ve got plenty of stories to tell and we would love to hear a few from you as well!!

Please consider this your OFFICIAL INVITATION! Whether you are a long time customer or new, friend, neighbor or have always wanted to pay us a visit… you are invited to attend this celebration. Make plans now to join us on Saturday, July 20th, 6:30 pm in the Alley! Bring a friend, admission is FREE. Food and t-shirts will be available for purchase. Please feel free to bring a lawn chair and your own cooler. Hope to see you here!!

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques


2 Years Later…

April 27, 2011… a day long to be remembered and often discussed by those of us who bore witness to the utter destruction that nature leashed upon us. We had several days warning of the impending storms. The news media had tagged the weather forecast for that day as a set up for ‘the perfect storm’. No one in our town was immune. By day’s end, if you had not suffered some form of property damage, you knew someone who had. Hundreds of businesses across the city alone had been damaged, dozens within a four block radius destroyed. A greater number of homes, many over 100 years old, heavily damaged or completely obliterated. No favoritism was shown by the twisters that day as churches were reduced to rubble. Our streets were lined with ancient hardwoods that once faithfully took on the colors of each passing season creating a picturesque scene likened to a Thomas Kinkade painting. Folks across our city have mourned the passing of so many of our beautiful trees as our landscape was forever changed by an F4 tornado.

Southern Accents - damage following the tornado and weeks later.

Southern Accents – damage following the tornado and weeks later.

Southern Accents - 2013

Southern Accents – 2013

Downtown Cullman took a direct hit that day during a second wave of tornadic activity. The destruction was like nothing any of us had ever seen before. A war zone was the only proper description for the piles of rubble, scattered debris and unrecognizable terrain in the downtown area. As soon as the storms passed, the streets were filled with people. Friends and strangers alike immediately took action checking on the health and safety of everyone that was passing. The buzz of chainsaws filled the air as the many felled trees were quickly cut away in an attempt to clear a path for emergency and rescue workers. Strangers showed up to help business owners gather scattered goods. Storm warnings continued in to the night as word began to spread of the unimaginable destruction that was being levied across our state.

The days and weeks to follow showed proof of what we had known all along; our community spirit came together like never before. Our resolve was tested and we passed with flying colors. Those who managed to escape the storms unscathed worked side by side with those who had lost everything. It has been a long journey, but two years later, our city and the people who call it home is better for having weathered the storms. Although the landscape is forever changed, the downtown is coming back stronger than ever. After the storms, the City Council established design guidelines to help preserve the historical aesthetics of downtown Cullman as well as offered incentives to business owners to encourage revitalization. The revitalization effort, which was started well in advance of this fateful day, was actually jump started by the storms.

The Little Bit shop - a total loss

The Little Bit shop – a total loss

The All Steak opened the doors of it's brand new restaurant in March of 2013. The restaurant was built in the former location of the Little Bit shop.

The All Steak opened the doors of it’s brand new restaurant in March of 2013. The restaurant was built in the former location of the Little Bit shop.

Many businesses that were destroyed, like the Busy Bee Café, have rebuilt and reopened. Some, for various reasons, chose not to rebuild, giving way to new businesses in the downtown area. The Little Bit store, which suffered a complete loss, was one business that chose not to rebuild. Just last month, the All Steak restaurant opened it’s doors in Little Bit’s old location. The All Steak incorporated brick and other materials salvaged after the storm into it’s beautiful new building. Eastside Baptist and Christ Luthern Churches both suffered total losses on April 27th. Their rebuilding process is quickly coming to a close as both facilities are nearing completion and will be reopening their doors in the coming months. Although boarded up windows and blue tarps can still be spotted in the area, recovery efforts are around 95% complete.

Christ Lutheran Church - reduced to rubble

Christ Lutheran Church – reduced to rubble

Christ Lutheran Church - Re-construction process nearing completion 2 years later

Christ Lutheran Church – Re-construction process nearing completion 2 years later

As the two year anniversary draws near, still vivid memories will prompt stories that will once again be shared, stories of courage, kindness, sacrifice and perseverance. The face of our town looks different, most would say even better. As recovery efforts continue we are reminded that it is the people of Cullman, not the buildings, that make this a very unique and special place. We would not want to be anywhere else!

This pile of rubble was all that remained of Lee Powell Insurance Agency after the storms

This pile of rubble was all that remained of Lee Powell Insurance Agency after the storms

Lee Powell Insurance Agency  - 2 years after the storm.

Lee Powell Insurance Agency – 2 years after the storm.

Barkley Plumbing was one of the businesses on this block that was reduced to rubble.

Barkley Plumbing was one of the businesses on this block that was obliterated.

Barkley Plumbing rebuilt in the same location. The lot next door remains empty

Barkley Plumbing rebuilt in the same location. The lot next door remains empty

The Busy Bee Cafe reopened it's doors on the one year anniversary of the tornado that destroyed the original location.

The Busy Bee Cafe reopened it’s doors on the one year anniversary of the tornado that destroyed the restaurant.

The historical "Green House" suffered significant damage but thankfully was not a total loss

The historical “Green House” suffered significant damage but thankfully was not a total loss

"The Green House" was repaired and became the new home to The Candle Garden a year after the storms.

“The Green House” was repaired and became the new home to The Candle Garden a year after the storms.

Eerie reminders still remain 2 years later - buildings were marked as rescue workers went from building to building searching for survivors. No lives were lost in downtown Cullman.

Eerie reminders remain 2 years later – buildings were marked as rescue workers searched for survivors. No lives were lost in downtown Cullman that day.

Although blue tarps and boarded windows can still be found downtown, recovery efforts are 95% complete!

Although blue tarps and boarded windows can still be found downtown, recovery efforts are 95% complete!

Written by: Lisa Jones

Edited by: Garlan Gudger, Jr.


Hidden Treasures

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesOn a regular basis we have the opportunity to salvage materials from a home that is scheduled for demolition. We survey the property, determining what items can be reused or re-purposed. We then have the humbling task of tearing it all apart. Once we leave, a demolition crew comes in to finish the job. Quite often as we are tearing out walls and windows, someone will stop by and share with us their memories of the property. Sometimes it is a neighbor stopping out of curiosity. More often, it is a family member that had spent time in the property. They usually hold a sentimental attachment to the fond memories of the property and are often seeking a remnant of their past.

Southern Accents Architectural AntiquesThis was the case with a home that we salvaged in Hanceville, Alabama recently. The home, dated around 1907, had seen better days. It was badly weathered and neglected. The tornados that passed through this area in April 2011 did further damage, leaving the home in irreparable condition. As we began our salvage work, we were approached by a lady who told us that the home once belonged to her grandmother. She shared her memories of better times when the house was full of life and asked if she could purchase the front door. The door, decorated with beautiful multi-colored stained glass panels around the window, had already been sold. Knowing the sentimental value the door held to our new friend, we contacted the buyer, asking if she would consider relinquishing the door to the granddaughter. The buyer was very gracious and agreed to pick out a different door for her own home.

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques When salvaging a home we also, at times, uncover unexpected hidden treasures. Most often these treasures are found behind the mantel. Letters, photographs, coins and cards, typically small items that were once placed on the mantel and somehow found their way behind it, forever trapped. This home was no exception. As we tore out the mantel we discovered an empty space in the wall around the fireplace. It was filled with all sorts of trash. Among the trash and rats nest there was an item that stood out; a child’s shoe. We hurriedly grabbed several items and threw them in the back of the truck. The home was scheduled for demolition so we had a limited amount of time to take what we could and leave. The little girls’s shoe remained in the back of the truck, forgotten, for several days. Southern Accents Architectural Antiques We remembered the shoe and out of curiosity, took it to the local cobbler who dated the girl’s leather high top from the 1920’s to 30’s. As he explained, these handmade shoes were typically passed down from one child to the next. From the condition of this shoe we can only imagine that it had seen a lot of play on multiple little feet. We had the shoe cleaned, oiled and stuffed. We shared our treasure with the granddaughter who then brought us a picture of her grandmother’s house as well as an old family portrait. Low and behold, there on the back row is a young girl wearing a strangely familiar looking shoe!

We love hearing stories and shared memories which give us a unique glimpse into a home’s history or provenance. We also understand the value, though sometimes only sentimental, that personal artifacts and architectural salvage can hold for a family. We delight in being able to preserve a piece of history and perhaps a memory or two. It gives us another story to tell and we love to tell stories. Stop by our showroom. We will have the shoe on display for a short time. It will then be given to the granddaughter to preserve for future generations.


We call it the Green House

Cullman was hit by the tornados on April 27th, 2012.  A lot of lives were spared in our city. Buildings and homes did not fare so well. There are many houses that had to be demolished or just had to be scooped up and taken to the dump because of damage. Our little green house got pretty lucky. I wish I had an aerial view of how the tornado came through downtown Cullman. We saw it coming. We were warned. We heard about the one that came through Hanceville that morning. We were lucky. Most everyone decided to go home early that day. Schools were starting late and then decided not to go in at all. We saw what might be headed our way. We took cover.

We are building back. We are a fairly small community. Everyone helps everyone around here. All the time. This little green house was unoccupied during the storm. It was right on the outside edge of the tornado. Everything in front of it was destroyed. Everything. There was a little roof damage. We had to cover it with tarps quickly. Another storm was coming through days later.

It takes awhile to get through all the paperwork. It takes awhile to decide what you want to do. We are ready. We have been working on renovating. As you can see, it was a beautiful house.  It sat there with a story to tell. It had so much character and everyone knew exactly which house you were talking about when you said, “the green house”.

Now, we know it will never be the same. It will have new stories to tell. The siding is new, the windows are new.  A lot of the inside will be different. We are refinishing the doors to put back on. We have a great carpenter that loves Cullman. He takes a lot of pride in his work and pride in community. We are lucky to have him working on this project. Thanks Jim Burke!

This is what we do.  Most of the time, the houses we find can not be revived. There is too much damage or not enough money to restore the house. If ever we can make it what it once was, we always want to do that. We have customers come in all the time that are looking for a doorknob to match or a keyhole like they remember from their Grandma’s house. We are lucky to have those pieces. We are blessed when we can help them find the right match. I hope to continue with updates on our Green House. I have another post coming with the history behind it. Dr. Gudger gave me plenty of information! If you aren’t in love with it…..believe me, you will be!


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