FOLEY – During Nov. 2017, Helen Hamburg Williams approached the Foley city council concerning the H.M. Hamburg & Sons building located on Rose Avenue. Williams presented the council with a letter …
FOLEY – During Nov. 2017, Helen Hamburg Williams approached the Foley city council concerning the H.M. Hamburg & Sons building located on Rose Avenue. Williams presented the council with a letter stating that the family would like to donate the building to the city, and to see the building repaired and used as a museum if possible. The city accepted the donation at the end of 2017, and discussed the possible future of the location during the Feb. 5 council.
“We are very excited to hear about the city having the Hamburg building donated to it,” said JaNay Dawson, member of the Baldwin County Board of Education and chairman of the Foley Historical Commission. “It embodies a great history in the agricultural course that marks the growth of our city, as well as our county.”
The building is currently in a state of disarray, prompting the Historical Commission to suggest nominating the location for the Alabama’s Places in Peril Registry. Places in Peril is a statewide program that focuses on restoring historical locations that are in danger of demolition.
Dawson spoke with the state director for Places in Peril during Jan. 2018, and she and the Historical Commission feel confident that the Hamburg building will qualify for the registry.
“There is a form that you have to fill out for this, and there are several reasons for which to qualify,” said Dawson. “Lack of funding, poor condition, abandoned, that kind of thing … Every bit of the paragraphs that we had to check off in order to qualify on that form, we could check off.”
Dawson states with this designation, the building will qualify for both opportunities to have state historical grants as well as national historical grants to restore the building into a useable facility to help in telling its history. Dawson and the commission are already working on different tie-ins to use to get the most for the Hamburg property and restore it to working order.
Dawson stated that Governor Kay Ivey has established some grants for the Alabama Bicentennial which are available to the various bicentennial committees, the county, the community, and the schools. Dawson hopes the Historical Commission can work with Foley’s Bicentennial Committee as well as Foley High School to help the property.
“There are several deadlines for writing those grants,” said Dawson. “We can seek them to get the money absent of Places in Peril, but together we would qualify for a lot more, and we’d like to do that … to preserve and protect anything that is directly related to the history of our community.”
Dawson has spoken to Foley High School Principal Russ Moore about getting the students involved, which Moore is happy to do. Together with Foley High Teacher Ronna Sanford, the team came up with the idea to use the Hamburg property’s historical background along with the High School’s Agriculture Department’s involvement to capitalize on an opportunity to have a museum district within the city.
“We have the hospital museum, we have the depot museum,” said Dawson. “If we made this the Hamburg Agricultural Museum or anything and it’s used for that, among other purposes but basically that, then I thought that was a very great tie-in for a draw within the city to say that we have a museum district. I think that’s great.”
Even though the building in the past had an open area, Dawson believes that realistically, to turn it into a museum it will need to have protective walls surrounding it to keep the items that could be showcased safe. While this is true for the front part of the building, that doesn’t mean the back couldn’t possibly become more.
“The back-section might could become, on a small scale, functional again,” said Dawson. “So that on Heritage Days or other days when we have things going on in the park or various days during the year, people could go there to see what a potato shed looked like, how it worked, and what people did, that kind of thing. Maybe you can get a belt to run.”
The city of Foley owns a potato grater that they have been keeping in storage that could possibly become an item displayed were a museum to come to fruition. Dawson said while she’d love to condition the front into a museum, she’d also love to see the back become a functioning potato shed once more.
If the building were to become designated by Places in Peril, the area would gain statewide and national publicity through historic magazines, as Places in Peril are friended by people with a special interest in historical preservation. The city would be featured in their magazine in October, as well as having a statewide publication about the designation.
“There’s a great opportunity here, and a great opportunity for our schools as well, so I’m doubly invested,” Dawson said.
As it stands now, the Hamburg building needs a lot of work to bring it back to working order. City crews have already begun cleaning up and repairing things that are critical, such as clearing trees and scrubs as well as preparing to remove any hazardous and nonhazardous waste from the property. While the city doesn’t want to completely remodel the roof until knowing exactly what the building will be used for and if it will get a designation, they are working to repair leaks that, if left untended, will worsen the building’s condition.
The city council approved the Historical Commission to send an application to Places in Peril and are awaiting a verdict from the organization. If the outcome correlates with their vision, Foley may have a new museum district designation in the future.