Bankhead House takes visitors back in time
by Jennifer Cohron
Nov 07, 2010 | 4745 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Congressman William B. Bankhead’s former home in north Jasper is now the Bankhead House and Heritage Center. The three-story colonial revival house was built in the 1920s and was being claimed by Bankhead as his residence at his death. (Photo by: Jennifer Cohron)
Congressman William B. Bankhead’s former home in north Jasper is now the Bankhead House and Heritage Center. The three-story colonial revival house was built in the 1920s and was being claimed by Bankhead as his residence at his death. (Photo by: Jennifer Cohron)
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Visitors at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center cannot turn around without bumping into history.

The three-story brick home in north Jasper was built in the 1920s by William B. Bankhead, a U.S. Representative who became Speaker of the House in 1936.

Bankhead's daughter, actress Tallulah Bankhead, was married there in 1937. William Bankhead was claiming it as his residence at his death in 1945. His wife continued living in it for several years afterward.

The house was purchased by the Walker Area Community Foundation in 2008 and restored using the original drawings.

WACF president Paul Kennedy said extensive work was required to return the home, which had been closed for three years, to the craftsmanship and character that it had during the Bankhead era.

"It had aged over the years. Structurally, the original part of the house was in excellent condition but the addition -- the great room that we call the gallery -- was in bad shape," Kennedy said.

The doors were opened to the public earlier this year. Although few events have been held yet, the house will host a traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution next summer.

Only three of the home's rooms are currently being used by the WACF and AmeriCorps VISTA program for office space.

The rest have been set aside for art and history exhibits and community gatherings with a civic purpose.

Two noteworthy areas associated with the house are the attic, which Bankhead finished himself, and the natural amphitheater, where Bankhead went for quiet time.

The Alabama marble in the downstairs fireplace is also of interest. It was repaired during the renovation.

Most of the artifacts in the home belonged to the Bankheads, including a desk from the Alabama Legislature that belonged to Bankhead's father, John Hollis; and a table that was shipped to William Bankhead in the early 1900s.

Kennedy said a permanent exhibit made up of pieces from three Tallulah collections is also in the works.

In the future, the Heritage Center will also include collections that tell the story of other historically prominent Walker County residents.

There is also a plan for further landscaping improvements, including the addition of a water fountain.

Kennedy said revitalizing the Bankhead House has not affected the WACF's endowment.

"It's being done with exceptional gifts from exceptional citizens of the community. This in no way is going to impede our ability to make grants from the endowment," Kennedy said.

The Bankhead House and Heritage Center will be included in this year's Pilot Club Tour of Homes.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. They are available at Pinnacle and First National banks as well as from any Pilot Club member.

Proceeds will be used to help with construction of a Miracle Field.

Kennedy said choosing to participate in the annual event was an easy decision.

"Pilot Club is a very strong, enduring women's organization. This is their fundraiser, and we want the public to begin to understand why this Heritage Center is here and what it can do," Kennedy said.