Work Begins To Move Historic Schoolhouse In Northport

July 29, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

NORTHPORT, AL — As the future of the Northport Community Center park remains up in the air, work has already commenced to move the historic Umbria Schoolhouse from the property.

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Beginning this week, scaffolding could be seen at the small one-room school building, with the first phase of work focusing on removing the school’s brick chimney. It will soon be moved to the nearby property that includes the Shirley Place.

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First built in 1818, the school building is the oldest known school structure in the state of Alabama and was restored by Friends of Historic Northport in 2007. It was given to the nonprofit and initially moved from its previous location in North River.

It currently sits adjacent to the Northport Heritage Museum, which will also be relocated to the corner of 9th Street and Bridge Avenue.

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Friends of Historic Northport have said the goal of the relocation for the museum is for the new site to become a new Northport Welcome Center as well as the building serving in its continued role as a Heritage Museum.

According to Historic Tuscaloosa, the building served as a schoolhouse for the children of the Umbria plantation in the Hale County community of Sawyerville — sitting adjacent to a grand antebellum plantation home. The family also employed a tutor as part of the household staff.

The plantation was destroyed by a fire in 1971, but schoolhouse was saved and later donated by the Spigener family of Tuscaloosa to Gulf States Paper Corporation. This resulted in Gulf States owner Jack Warner would moving the building to a restoration area at North River.

Restoration work was completed in 1973 and the company eventually gifted the building to the Tuscaloosa Preservation Society, which partnered with Friends of Historic Northport to move the schoolhouse to its current location.

The move also coincides with the push by the City of Northport to potentially sell and market the Community Center and park property in the hopes of it becoming a new retail development.

Indeed, at the its City Council meeting on Monday, July 11, Northport officials will vote on repealing a resolution requiring an unanimous vote of the council in order to sell the property. This is due to the initial covenant established by the City Council with Friends of Historic Northport.

As Patch previously reported, the City Council has already approved entering into an agreement with Beeker Property Group to undergo a 180-day due diligence period to market the property and study the feasibility of adding a retail development on the property.

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