WINFIELD – A courtyard in downtown Winfield that has been surveyed by Carbon Hill officials for its own current project is about to be unveiled.
“We went through a truly horrible horror, and now it’s nice to be here,” said Main Street Treasurer Mary Hyche. “And it’s functional, because we have Wi-Fi there. It’s one of my favorite projects.
“We love to see people gather outside, bring lunch to the Patio, take pictures or use the internet there,” said Main Street President Don Studdard.
Officials from Winfield Main Street including Hyche, Studdard and manager Tammy Brashier recently sat down at the recently reopened Aroma Cafe to talk about the project, known as The Patio. An inauguration event has not yet been scheduled.
Hyche grew up in Eldridge and graduated from Carbon Hill High School, while Studdard was born in a coal mining camp south of Carbon Hill, staying there until his family moved to Jasper when he was 6; he graduated from Walker High School (now Jasper High School). Brashier – who is office manager for Main Street, the Pastime Theater and the Winfield Chamber of Commerce – is originally from the Hubbertville area and is a graduate of Fayette Academy.
The courtyard is in a roofless, windowless building located at 136 Bankhead Highway, across from Town Hall. Main Street officials have talked about buying the site from the Main Street organization in 1996. The building sat vacant for 20 years before Main Street bought the building in October 2019 and ultimately renovated the structure.
“It was just a falling horror,” Hyche said. Even the plywood placed on the front of the structure would eventually sag and the brick began to fall.
A recent version of the program has detailed the story.
According to local historian Yank Burgess, the property was once the location of a furniture store and shoe repair shop owned by Claude Young and John Sullivan, the post office was there for a while, and later housed Western Auto (Albert Holt and John Berry). Mrs. Edril Hubbert McCaleb owned the property for many years. Main Street Program purchased this property from the family of William Vaughn McCaleb, Jr., “the statement read.
Studdard noted that Main Street officials had similar court plans, such as in Amory, Mississippi, giving them the idea to take on the work. Hyche originally said it was believed the yard would be access to other businesses via an alley at the back, but some of those key stores have closed.
A major feature of the courtyard was a number of facades towards various businesses to give the impression of being businesses. They include a restaurant (Café 136), Hometown Bakery, a barber shop, Friends Coffee – N – Books, Happiness Unlimited Pets, a theater and a Chinese restaurant.
However, everything is for the show. None of the shops exist, but the facades look very real, right down to a large outdoor menu for the Chinese restaurant.
The officials had fun with this one by calling it Chef Foo Linn Yoo – which means the phrase “Chef Fooling You”.
The officials had a lot of fun at the reaction to the imaginary companies. Hyche said that on Monday morning there was a business card in that door of the Chinese restaurant. It turned out to be a Columbus, Mississippi company that sold commercial dishwashers.
Brashier said: “A lot of people have said to me, ‘When are they going to open? “”
The officials were so determined to shake off the horror that they continued with the project and even imagined the imaginary business entries.
“Ideally, we want them to be real and thriving businesses, but if that wasn’t possible our goal was to make them an attractive and useful addition to our downtown area,” Studdard said in the press release.
“Ideally you put a business there, but that wasn’t going to happen,” Hyche said. “So if we didn’t have something functional, we could make it as good as possible.” Studdard would sketch out ideas for the companies to be represented, and the actual entries were built to be realistic.
“Windows are expensive as you would in your house. And then we decided to make them happy and paint them bright colors,” Hyche said with a laugh. “It was very fun.” Studdard said: “We didn’t skimp on the quality of the material we used. We built it where it would be permanent and last a long time.”
Brashier said officials wanted to attract younger people as well, and many could not afford good internet connections, Wi-Fi was added.
Even after getting the building, officials had more delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials worked on the project as best they could.
The renovated area was donated to the city and turned into an open-air space with tables, chairs, benches and a gazebo. In addition, the site offers free Wi-Fi and covered outlets for recharging electronic devices.
Decorative lighting, flowers and plants are set up. Officials even put herbs and tomato plants, and people are encouraged to take samples for free, Brashier said.
Just as some people stop to take photos of the Walker County Arts Alliance 50 Mule Team public art project, there are two photo op areas in Winfield Yard that feature a butterfly and a bunch of balloons.
Officials noted that city funds were not used for the project, as Main Street had covered all expenses. The city has secured funds to manage Wi-Fi access.
Portable amps can be plugged in to play music, Brashier said, and officials hope people with acoustic instruments will play them. “It’s available to anyone,” she said. “There are no reservations. It’s first come, first served.”
In addition, many people have already visited the site for lunch, after passing through a restaurant to collect their food. “People go over there to take pictures,” Hyche said. “We saw people up there taking pictures with their families.”
The response to the project in the city has been positive, including from city leaders, who usually do not have enough funds to carry out such projects themselves, which is where Main Street comes in.
“Of all the projects we’ve done at Winfield, this is the only one that I haven’t heard a complaint from,” Hyche said.
Studdard said he believes the project will also encourage owners of nearby buildings to give their facilities a facelift. “The (old) hotel next door, they’ve already repainted the facade of their building, and they’re working inside,” he said. Spann Hardware, based on an adjacent block to the south, has additional space on Highway 78 near the patio they’re working on.
The courtyard is part of an area that feels like a revitalized downtown, including City Hall, the Pastime Theater, and the former Citizens Bank. The Old Bank is the next big main street project, as they have already worked to turn it into the city museum. Many businesses have also opened in the neighborhood.
At the request of the city, Main Street is working on the restoration of a stone building constructed for the use of the Depression-era National Youth Administration, then used over the years for a library, Scout meetings and veterans events, such as community dances. He listed the building on the Register of Historic Monuments and Historic Places and received a grant from the Alabama Historical Commission.
Hyche said there was a possibility that summer farmers’ markets could be set up at The Patio. Also, a snow cone or popcorn machine could be set up for children’s events, such as story readings.
Officials said the Patio is safe, with security cameras and regular Winfield Police patrols. “It’s under 24/7 surveillance with the police department so they can feel safe relaxing or reading a book,” Brashier said. “We just want to create a safe environment for everyone, including ourselves.”
The contractor for the renovation was J&M Construction. “It was wonderful working with Mike Pridmore. He was meticulous with the little details and provided many helpful ideas and suggestions,” Studdard said.
Main Street thanked the Northwest Alabama RC&D Council, which provided a grant in the amount of $ 4,000 to be used to purchase tables and chairs. The Kemp Foundation, which Hyche oversees, also provided funds, as Main Street is one of the foundation’s primary benefactors, as Main Street is equipped to know what the city needs and has volunteers to help.
Officials thanked in particular Casey Coats, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Turkey Creek Sand and Gravel, Derek Green of Green’s Mills, Winfield Police Chief Brett Burleson, Rob Bolton and the Winfield Street Department, Melissa Pate and Secretary of Main Street, Jeana Estes.
Hyche said Brashier should be fired as well. “Of course, I’m not sure we could have completed this project without Don Studdard. As he has been with many projects over the years, he was there from the planning stages to completion, making sure everything was done to perfection, ”she said.
Carbon Hill Women’s Club President and Carbon Hill Councilor Judy Hurst noted that the Winfield Project was an inspiration for the yard project currently underway in that city. Hurst has been in contact with those responsible for Winfield.
“We’re really trying to encourage the folks at Carbon Hill. I’m on his speed dial,” Hyche said, referring to Hurst. “Every time she posts stuff on Facebook, I tell her I’m so proud of what you do, because it’s difficult. It’s difficult. And they have less money to manage than we do. ” Officials gave Hurst fundraising ideas, such as a brick sale that raised $ 187,000 for Winfield Main Street.
Anyone wishing to get involved with or donate to Main Street can call Brashier at 205-487-3002. The Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/winfieldmainstreetprogram/.