There is no better way to spend an evening in Huntsville than appreciating the charming scenery and architecture that it has to offer. Those seeking to gain insight on how the city came to be so rich in art and history came along with us last Thursday for the second week of heART of Huntsville.
Our first stop was the Old Town Theatre on 12 Street.
The historic theatre has since been converted into a non-profit community theatre for the enjoyment of the many fans of drama. After a brief introduction from Professor Yawn and Mrs. Edwards (President of the Board of Directors), we were all led up the steps to the balcony.
One couldn’t help but appreciate the hard work Mrs. Edwards and other Board members put into refurbishing the building after it had previously been used to occupy fraternity parties. Still, the original architecture shone throughout the top floor with a beautiful balcony that seated 80 and overlooked the stage.
As it turned out, there were auditions taking place on the stage for the upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol” which, fortunately for us, served as a pleasant spectacle from the second floor. Since I was taking photos, I was asked by Mrs. Edwards to follow her to the projection room turned office to take a picture of her standing next to the first projector to ever occupy the theatre.
Since the top level is not overly-expansive, it did not take long for the group to gather around the stairs to prepare to go back down.
Outside of the theatre, we congregated as Ms. Pease, the City’s Cultural Coordinator, took over the tour as we began on our way across the square.
Before we set off, she briefly taught us some history on the Old Town Theatre. She explained that the murals painted on the outside of it were done by the noted muralist Richard Haas. The John Wayne and “Laura” painted movie posters adorn the Theater and, at least in the case of Laura, have a Huntsville connection–its leading star, Dana Andrews, was a Huntsville native.
We walked past Forrest Mason Lodge No. 19, one of the oldest functioning Masonic lodge in Texas, as pictures were passed around showing what it looked like when it was first built.
Ms. Pease did a fantastic job of acting as our tour guide and discussing Haas’s approach to his work in Huntsville. This brought us to the Sam Houston memorial mural – a work by Haas, commemorating the life and accomplishments of the former governor of Texas.
The mural is down in a tripartite fashion and depicts important events such as the Battle of San Jacinto. We continued down 11 Street until we arrived at the Gibbs-Powell Home.
When we arrived, James Patton, caretaker, tour guide of the home, and former County Clerk, and local artist Lee Jamison were there to give us a pleasant greeting.
It’s always a wonderful sight to see so many people file into a historic home that has a lot of character. Though the house is somewhat a hidden gem off of 11th Street, it radiates history and culture beyond that of what meets the eye. The interior stores furniture dating back to the 19th century with rocking chairs and dining room tables decorated with silverware sets and plates that actually gives the impression that those who lived in it back then are only out for a few hours.
The upstairs was the true treat of the home. Mr. Patton made sure that heART of Huntsville would be made special by giving everyone a tour of the upstairs loft.
Loft, however, is used modestly since its really a second floor comprising of 2 bedrooms.
We were told that part of the second floor was added in later renovations and had previously only been an attic for storage. The beds were perfectly made and topped with an old mattress paddle which, as Mr. Patton instructed us, was used to beat the dust out of the mattresses once a month, but we were sure it probably had a few other uses. After we were done touring, we headed back downstairs for a wonderful Farmhouse catered meal…
…with a choice of grilled chicken or meat loaf, sweet potatoes, green beans, and mac & cheese.
After dinner, everyone crowded into the foyer for a raffle drawing with prizes ranging from Lee Jamison prints to tickets to a showing at the Old Town Theatre.
When the raffle ended, happy faces spread throughout the group as prizes were shown and boasted by the winners.
Then, with full bellies and we all began our walk to the final stop at First Methodist Church – home to Lee Jamison’s artistic depiction of the creation of our world.
The stroll to the church was filled with laughter as everyone’s spirits remained high from dinner.
Luckily, it had been warm and somewhat sunny all day and the rain seemed to have stopped just long enough for us to be able to enjoy the artistic and cultural enrichment that is heART of Huntsville. Plus, Lee Jamison’s high energy only added to the already enthusiastic group. Walking towards the front entrance of the church, it was hard to miss the arrangement of pumpkins that were carefully placed in the front walkway taking the shape of a cross. After unlocking the door, we made our way through the lobby and down the stair where the Bible school classrooms for the youth are. What immediately followed was a remarkable tour through the first 7 days of Earth’s existence beginning with God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.
Jamison’s intuitive and symbolic portrayal spanned 7 classrooms with one large mural depicting one of the seven days on the walls.
He carefully covered the process and thought put into the murals and answered any questions we had tactfully. It was safe to say that, based on the crowd’s awe-stricken faces upon entering each room, everyone was astounded with his representations.
The last room took us to a complete depiction of the seventh day in which life, heaven, and earth encapsulated the theme of the mural livened the classroom’s scenery a hundredfold.
After Lee Jamison wrapped up his tour of the murals, we said our salutations and dispersed in order to go to our homes, excited for next week in which we get to meet with David Atickes and tour his personal studio in Huntsville.