Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Southern Heirloom Fragrance Garden at the Old State Bank of Decatur, Alabama

Restoration event slated for Wed., June 26, 2013 beginning at 8:00 am

 The Old State Bank was restored to its original grandeur in the early 1980s by the City of Decatur, Alabama.  The Old State Bank hosts inside tours for about 7,000 visitors annually and more than 10,000 guests enjoy its grounds each year.  Located next to Alabama Highway 20, the Bank is seen by occupants of about 35,000 cars daily.  The Bank is a favorite scene for family, wedding, prom and senior class portraits.  It is also a preferred venue for weddings, receptions and many public events.  Its garden area in the rear of the Bank consists of a large brick patio, a grassy lawn area and a garden with a small arbor and benches.  It has been thirty years since the lawn and garden were restored; therefore the grassy lawn area and garden area are in serious need of renovation including completely rebuilding the benches and arbor.

The concept for the renovation has been developed by retired Judge David Breland, now the Director of Historic Resources for the City of Decatur, Philda Starks, Garden Manager of Lowe’s of Decatur and Sam Barnett, a certified landscape architect with Godwin, Barnett and Woods in Decatur.   The lawn and garden design will feature plant species which would have been found in Southern gardens prior to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  These trees, shrubs, vines and perennial and annual flowers selected needed to be fragrant as well as visually beautiful.

Judge Breland and Ms. Starks also provided valuable research as to which plants qualified for inclusion and Mr. Barnett designed the placement of the plants and other garden features.  The benches and arbor were also to reflect correct architecture of the time period.

Breland has secured Lowe’s of Decatur  as the major corporate sponsor, furnishing plants, planting materials, wood and other building materials and the expertise and people to build a new arbor.  Lowe's will also organize and plant the entire garden through their Lowe’s Heroes program, a “volunteer program which encourages employees to team together, adopt a volunteer project with a local nonprofit organization…. to make a difference in their community.” 

The project is also the Eagle Scout project for Joey Baker, son of Craig and Melinda Baker.  Mr. Joey Baker of Decatur will provide overall leadership for the project as well as labor from Troop 260 of the Boy Scouts of America.  Since Mr. Baker is an excellent leader and Troop 260 is a very large and active scout troop with a proven record of successful scout Eagle projects, we anticipate that 25 or more young men, parents and community friends of the troop will participate in the project. 

As for the maintenance and upkeep of the new garden, Breland says with is iconic joyful voice, “I love gardening.  It is my hobby and I know lots of other gardeners, so I propose to do much of the maintenance of this myself and with the help of others who love to do this—I already have volunteers!  To gardeners, this is therapy, not work!”

BRIEF HISTORY:  The Old State Bank (1833) is Decatur's second oldest building, having been built seven years after the first lot was sold which established the town of Decatur.  It is the oldest bank building in the state of Alabama.  Founders Park is actually a portion of the front yard of the Bank.  An iconic building, it is considered the very symbol of the city itself.  Its directors were responsible for the financing and building of the first railroad located west of the Allegheny Mountains which ran from Decatur to Tuscumbia.  Its long and rich history includes major Civil War action which left numerous bullet and cannon mortar scars in the columns of the bank.  Its 5 column Jeffersonian design is unique in Alabama architecture.

A grant of $2,000 was received from Lowe’s in addition to their pledge of volunteer assistance, plants and lumber; a $1,000 anonymous donation was received plus many additional donors chipped in totaling over $4,000 in contributions to accomplish the mission to complete the Southern Heirloom Fragrance Garden at the Old State Bank.

Volunteers may arrive at the Old State Bank ready to work at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26th.
You may bring tools or gardening gloves if preferred.

David J. Breland, Director
Decatur Historic Resources and
The Old State Bank

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