• Montevallo #TBT

In the Curve

Two Montevallo historians, Judge E.S. Lyman writing in 1908 and Miss Eloise Meroney in 1977, both tell the story about how Main Street, heading east as it approaches the high school, curves abruptly to the left for no apparent reason. Here is Miss Meroney’s explanation for how this came about:

Two of the earliest settlers of Montevallo to secure title to land under the land office established for this area recently acquired from the Indians were Edmund King and Edward Powell. Both are credited with having had important parts in shaping the early community. Both were wealthy men of considerable influence and both had large numbers of slaves, who, in recounting the deeds of their masters, kept alive for many years stories of their peculiarities and of the rivalry and frequent antagonism that existed between the two. Main Street had been surveyed to extend straight to the next “Section Line” (established in the Public Survey of Alabama), there to turn due north to form the Ashville Road. Such a course for Main Street would have taken land on the southeast side from Edward Powell and on the northwest from Edmund King, for the street as projected ran along the line dividing the properties of the two men. But Powell would have no part in granting the necessary rights, so the street had to turn slightly and run entirely on the land of the “more generous King." The curve or “crook” in Main Street has been there ever since.

For many years and as recently as the 1960’s, the lot where Luma Dentistry is today on Main Street and Bloch Street that runs beside it exhibited a very different sort of character. A single family house owned by a white family sat on the Luma lot, but Bloch Street, which is the southern extension of its northern counterpart (that intersects with Oak Street at the high school) was an unimproved dirt lane barely wide enough for a horse-drawn wagon, much less a car, to pass between two facing rows of classic “shotgun” style tenant houses. This short stretch of Bloch Street, which terminated at Island Street, was a small impoverished African-American enclave that appeared to have been there a long time but became surrounded with development as the town changed and grew. Only a single well-maintained house remains on Bloch today as a reminder of the cramped and challenging living conditions the residents of this unique neighborhood once endured.

Prior to the construction of the Luma Dentistry building, a Pasquale’s Pizza parlor began operating from this same location in the late 1970’s. Pasquale’s, a Birmingham pizza restaurant chain, first came to Montevallo in the 1960’s when the owner of the Dinky Dine installed a pizza oven and began offering Pasquale’s pizza in addition to his regular menu of burgers and plate lunches. Competition from the recently opened “Pizza Villa,” a block away, prompted what amounted to an overnight bonanza of “dueling pizzas” for hungry teenagers and college students. Pasquale’s later opened their own Italian restaurant about the time the neighboring Jolly Cholly closed their business.

In the early 1960’s a substantial brick dwelling owned by Mr. Virgil Harris that occupied the small bluff at the head of Main Street (where the old Eclipse building is today) became a raging inferno on a summer Sunday afternoon, providing the entire town with the spectacle of flames leaping hundreds of feet into the air and a column of smoke that could be seen for miles in any direction. In the end, the house was a total loss, but the new Ford fire truck acquired by the city in 1960 made a tremendous difference in the way the Montevallo Volunteer Fire Department was able to battle this stubborn blaze. The new truck was light-years beyond the old “Little Red” truck that the town had depended on for more than twenty years and was able to put up a continuous shower of water over the house, which brought the raging fire under control in fairly short order once the firefighters arrived on the scene. The house was never rebuilt and the ruins remained on the site for years afterward before the property was eventually sold.

This photo shows Clayton O. Nordan (father of your Throwback Thursday correspondent) standing in the curve in 1960 at the time the large hardwoods that shaded Main Street for many years were removed to make room for widening of the street. If you look closely, you can see tall stumps remaining that were then pushed over by bulldozers in order to make removing the root ball easier.

Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!

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