Homewood’s historic Pink House gets reprieve through February 28

Birmingham, Alabama, Homewood, Pink House, Secret Garden
A glimpse through the hedges at the Pink House at 214 Edgewood Blvd in Homewood. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Since Bham Now first reported on the Pink House in July 2018, the gracious home has been granted a reprieve through the end of February. Find out where efforts stand to save the home before it’s razed to make way for five new homes in Homewood’s highly sought after Edgewood community—and how it connects to the iconic home we lost to the Red Mountain Expressway in the 1960s.

The Update

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Pink House formal gardens. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

On January 1, 2019, the Homewood Alabama Historical Preservation Society—an organization formed last summer to save the Pink House—announced it had raised about $34,000 toward the approximately $2 million needed. At that time the deadline was February 1.

Birmingham, Alabama, Homewood, Pink House, Secret Garden
Sculptor Georges Bridges, who built the Pink House with wife Eleanor, a painter, in 1921, created the sculptures that grace the home’s gardens. Photo via Homewood Alabama Historical Preservation Society’s Facebook page

The organization also updated the community on its strategy, which has expanded beyond grassroots efforts to include working with local investors and national organizations in order to buy the property and convert it into a community space.

With that news, the fundraising effort picked up steam in Homewood and Birmingham (though there is still a huge gap to fill). Then, another ray of hope. Developer Patrick O’Sullivan moved the deadline from February 1 to February 28.

Birmingham, Alabama, Homewood, Pink House, Secret Garden
The Pink House gardens are often called Homewood’s “secret garden” because of the thick hedges of native shrubs and plants that surround it. I spotted these blooms street side among the hedges last summer. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

“Since January 1, we’ve had 48 donors give $2,222. Overall, we’ve raised $36,339 by 149 donors. There are new donations rolling in every 30 minutes or so right now.”

Dylan Spencer, board member, Homewood Alabama Historical Preservation Society

“We don’t believe that growth and change are bad. We just believe this is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime property worth saving—and we are doing our best to save it,” Spencer said.

The House that Red Mountain Expressway Ate

Antique postcard of the former Richard Massey residence in Birmingham

So, how does the Pink House story relate to an iconic Birmingham home lost to the construction of the Red Mountain Expressway?

Eleanor Bridges, daughter of Birmingham businessman Richard Massey, grew up in the home. After architect Joseph Clifford Turner designed and built it in 1904, tragedy struck his family. Massey purchased it soon after and hired European gardeners to maintain the vast Italian garden.

Once the toast of Birmingham, the beaux-arts Southside estate graced postcards of the era. In fact, I found the postcard pictured above last year in an antiques shop while visiting the Georgia mountains. Here’s another showing the gardens:

Antique postcard of Massey residence. Photo via Homewood Alabama Historical Preservation Society’s Facebook page

The Massey home was located on 21st Way South. If you’re trying to place it, that’s the general vicinity of the historic home occupied by Galley & Garden today, as well as the 1938 art deco strip mall Highland Plaza.

Most of us recognize Highland Plaza as part of Birmingham’s Southside scene, though that too is changing.

Built in 1938, Highland Plaza would have been an easy walk from the 1904 Massey estate … and must have been quite the change of scenery at the time. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Before progress came knocking in the form of the Red Mountain Expressway in the 1960s, the Massey home was the scene of many social events. President William Howard Taft stayed there when he visited Birmingham in 1909. Later, the estate served for a time as the Birmingham College of Music.

Though the grand Italian garden is long gone, we see a reflection of it today at the Pink House in Homewood, the former Boho home of late artists Eleanor and Georges Bridges.

So Very Birmingham

Dogs were Eleanor Bridges’ favorite subject—how very fitting for a girl who grew up a jaunt away from Highland Park, in a city where the oldest annual festival is Doo Dah Day. Here are some other facts to know about the Bridgeses and the Pink House in Homewood.

Eleanor Bridges and her dogs. Photo via Homewood Historical Preservation Foundation’s Facebook page

12 Fast Facts about the Pink House

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Front gate leading to the Pink House. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

“Five generations of children have walked past this house and secret garden on their way to school, and I have walked four different dogs past it for five decades. I want my children and my children’s children to be able to do the same.”

Elizabeth Graham, via savethehomewoodpinkhouse.com
  1. In the Pink House’s heyday, the Bridgeses hosted social and civic events to promote the arts. The pair also left a lasting impression on Birmingham’s arts community, including items 2 through 5.
  2. Sculptor Georges Bridges created the statue of Brother Bryan, which stands today in Five Points South.
  3. Painter Eleanor Bridges’ work was featured in the White House.
  4. Both artists provided free art classes to students from Homewood City Schools and Parker High School.
  5. Eleanor established the Festival of Arts and helped launch the Artist’s Guild and the Birmingham Civic Opera.
  6. The Pink House often welcomed distinguished guests, including aviator Amelia Earhart, a school roommate of Eleanor.
  7. Ernest Hemingway and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom the Bridgeses hobnobbed in Europe, also visited often.
  8. Even royalty came knocking. The Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna of Russia? My my.
  9. But it wasn’t all champagne toasts. It was about civics and philanthropy, too.
  10. Eleanor helped found the Women’s Committee of 100 in Birmingham, which still exists today, more that 50 years later.
  11. The couple welcomed refugees from Mexico into their home for extended periods.
  12. During the Great Depression, the Bridgeses housed displaced, underaged and migrant workers.

What’s Next

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An art deco gate at the entrance to the Pink House driveway. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

The Homewood Historical Preservation Foundation hopes to turn the Pink House into a community garden and center for the arts, including free art and theatre workshops for children and adults.

While it remains to be seen if the Pink House will survive, if we do lose it, as we did the Massey home to the Red Mountain Expressway, history will very much repeat itself.

Learn more at the Homewood Alabama Historical Preservation Society’s website, savethehomewoodpinkhouse.com.

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Terri Robertson
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