ELDRIDGE — The home of William Thorogood, the English stonemason who once owned the land where the Free Will Baptist Children's Home now sits, will be open to the public for the first time in …
ELDRIDGE — The home of William Thorogood, the English stonemason who once owned the land where the Free Will Baptist Children's Home now sits, will be open to the public for the first time in decades on Saturday.
The house, built in 1894 from sandstone quarried from Thorogood's property, was in disrepair when it was purchased by the Children's Home in 2014.
Now that its restoration is complete, the two-story structure will be available for residents to rent for family reunions, wedding showers and other events, according to Mandy Mitchell, executive director of the Children's Home.
Charles Lynn, a retired local coal miner who has worked construction on the side throughout his life, oversaw the project.
"He tried to keep as much of the original as he could. We wanted to preserve as much as possible," Mitchell said.
An open house will be held Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
The home is one of three sandstone buildings on the property built by Thorogood, an immigrant who worked on the Brooklyn Bridge, the North Carolina and St. Louis Railroad, St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Birmingham and First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, according to an historical site survey published in 1975.
After settling in Eldridge, Thorogood donated several acres of land to help establish the Eldridge Normal School and built two sandstone buildings for the school's use, according to a 2014 WALKER magazine article.
The buildings were the home of the West Alabama Male and Female College and Eldridge Baptist Academy before becoming part of the Free Will Baptist Children's Home, which opened in 1947.
One of the buildings is now used for storage. The other no longer exists.
After Thorogood's death in 1900, the home was occupied by his son, Bryan Thorogood Sr., and grandson, Bryan Thorogood Jr., early in each's marriage. It was also used as a rental property for a short period of time.
Bryan Thorogood Jr. and his wife, Karen, began a renovation project after the home had been empty for several years and had fallen into the hands of vandals. The couple eventually abandoned the effort but continued to visit the property and farm the land.
Several years after her husband's death, Karen Thorogood sold the house and adjoining acres of land to the Children's Home.
"She had actually looked at selling it and had a real estate broker come out. He said, 'The land is worth something if you tear the house down.' She said, 'I'm not doing that,'" Mitchell said.
In an interview with WALKER magazine in 2014, Karen Thorogood said, "I hated to let it go because there is so much history there, but it's fitting that it went to the Children's Home."