“The last time I saw Mrs. Bridges, we were sitting in her garden. She put her hand on my knee, and she said, ‘I want you to be the one to write the history of my house.’ And I don’t want that story to end in ‘We razed it,'” Martha Jones said.
Yet impending destruction looms over the Homewood residence, known as the pink house and secret garden. Developer and current owner Patrick O’Sullivan plans to raze it in 2019 and build five new houses on 60-foot-wide lots, feeding the demand of Homewood’ housing market.
That is, unless, the newly formed Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society, including Jones, four other board members and an army of volunteers, manages to present a credible offer to purchase the property from O’Sullivan by July 13.
Jones, now 65, was in grammar school when she met the illustrious artist Eleanor Bridges, who built the Italianate stucco home with her sculptor husband, Georges, in 1921. She recalls watching the artist at work on one of her dog portraits and being mesmerized by a great coat of arms on the first landing of the stairs.
Fast forward to a Sunday in June 2018. Jones and her husband were coming home from church when they saw the sign at 214 Edgewood Boulevard announcing a public hearing to divide the six-lot estate into five lots for new homes.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘That’s not going to happen.'”—Martha Jones, president, Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society
The community rallies behind effort to save pink house and secret garden
Since the Homewood Planning Commission voted on June 5 in support of O’Sullivan’s plans, the community and local businesses have rallied behind the effort to save the house. Pink bows have popped up along Edgewood Boulevard and all over Homewood to show support.
Purchase a pink bow in support of saving the pink house and secret garden at Piggly Wiggly in Homewood, Homewood Antiques or Smith’s Variety in Mountain Brook.
Millions of dollars are needed, and July 13 is fast approaching. Can the house be saved? Jones and the Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society don’t intend to give up. And the support keeps coming in.
On July 4, the Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society announced it received a $10,000 pledge from the Heimbuch Family Foundation.
3 ways you can help save the pink house and secret garden in Homewood
The Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society encourages you to help in the following ways.
- Donate or make a pledge. Email your pledge to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail checks to 904 South Forest Drive Homewood, Alabama 35209. (Make checks out to Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society, and designate it for the pink house.)
- Sign the online petition here.
- Display a hot pink bow to raise awareness.
Checks will not be cashed until the Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society is very close to meeting its goal, Jones said. If the goal is not met, checks will be shredded.
“We’re getting a lot of publicity, but we need for more people to open up their arts and their wallets.”—Martha Jones, president, Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society
Bham Now Commentary
The July 13 deadline to save the pink house and secret garden coincides with another significant date—the last day of Birmingham Innovation Week, July 9 to 13. The week is about showcasing Birmingham as an emerging tech hub as well as a city of diversity and inclusion. It leads directly into the Sloss Music and Arts Festival, and that’s intentional.
These city events are not about undirected growth determined by market forces. They are planned and led by people who have a vision for Birmingham.
Saving the pink house and secret garden for posterity may not be easy or practical. But let’s remember that the Bridges had a vision for Birmingham too.
They were artists, civil servants and community leaders who helped bring many of the Magic City’s cultural and arts organizations into being. During the Depression, they believed it was a moral imperative to share their wealth, and they took in children of miners who desperately needed their help.
What is Birmingham Innovation Week if not the continuation of the progress brought about by people like the Bridges decades ago?
So what will win: the demand of the Homewood housing market, or the desire to preserve the positive aspects of Birmingham’s history that inspire us to be better? Whatever the answer, it’s on us.
For updates and more information, visit the Homewood AL Historic Preservation Society’s Facebook page.