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Montevallo City

Montevallo City Hall is located at 545 Main Street, Montevallo, AL 35115; phone: 205-665-2555.

Bandy-Draper House, 751 Vince Street, University of Montevallo Historic District, Montevallo, AL.

Photo: Bandy-Draper House, 751 Vince Street, University of Montevallo Historic District, Montevallo, AL. The Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photograph by Javid B. Schneider, 2010, for nomination document, Downtown Montevallo Historic District, Shelby County, AL, NR# 13000180, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

Beginnings [1]

First settled in 1814, the town of Montevallo is located on the northeast bank of Shoal Creek, in southwest Shelby County in central Alabama. Located along key transportation routes, the town quickly developed into a market town for local cotton farmers. After suffering a period of economic decline during the Civil War (1861-1865), Montevallo's downtown commercial area recovered quickly in the decades after the war ended. Between 1865 and 1895, several entrepreneurs, including new residents and African Americans, established businesses that served town residents, local farmers, and workers and managers at the coal mine in nearby Aldrich. The establishment of the Alabama Girls' Industrial School (now the University of Montevallo) in 1896 sparked another period of downtown commercial development and municipal improvements. During the 1930s, the college and federally funded public works projects alleviated the effects of the Great Depression. The economic prosperity that characterized the U.S. after World War II (1941-1945) was evident in Montevallo as well, as the number and variety of businesses along Main Street increased.

In 1814, the United States acquired the land that became Montevallo from the Creek Indians in the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which followed General Andrew Jackson's defeat of the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Between 1814 and 1820, the population in the newly acquired territory increased rapidly. The first U.S. settler in what is now Montevallo was Jesse Wilson, who established a farm atop a hill near Shoal Creek in 1814. By 1822, a small community known as Wilson's Hill had developed. In the mid-1820s, Wilson's Hill included a post office, a general store, a forge, and a Methodist church. In 1826, the town officially changed its name to Montevallo; the town's gridded street pattern was laid out at about the same time.

In 1814, the United States acquired the land that became Montevallo from the Creek Indians in the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which followed General Andrew Jackson's defeat of the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Between 1814 and 1820, the population in the newly acquired territory increased rapidly. The first U.S. settler in what is now Montevallo was Jesse Wilson, who established a farm atop a hill near Shoal Creek in 1814. By 1822, a small community known as Wilson's Hill had developed. In the mid-1820s, Wilson's Hill included a post office, a general store, a forge, and a Methodist church. In 1826, the town officially changed its name to Montevallo; the town's gridded street pattern was laid out at about the same time.

From the 1820s through the 1850s, much of the land surrounding Montevallo consisted of cotton farms that were owned by white Americans and worked by enslaved African-Americans. Located near the center of the state and along several transportation routes, Montevallo became an important market town for cotton farmers. The main road leading north from Cahaba, which served as the state capital from 1820 until 1825, and from Selma, which emerged as a major cotton shipping port, passed through the community. Montevallo sat at a crossroads by 1836; roads from the town led south to Selma, north to Huntsville, northeast to the county seat at Columbiana, and southwest towards Tuscaloosa. In 1853, the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad opened between Montevallo and Selma. Through much of the 1850s, Montevallo was the terminus of this rail line and thus a vital link to the port at Selma, where steamboats shipped cotton down the Alabama River to Mobile.

Montevallo incorporated in 1848, and in the ensuing decade, the town flourished. In 1851, local residents founded the Montevallo Male Institute (known as the Montevallo Male and Female Institute after 1858) on land north of the center of town.

Beginning in 1856, an underground coal mine operated just north of Montevallo, further fueling the town's economic growth. By 1860, the town had several stores, as well as four churches, a Masonic Lodge, a newspaper, and a hotel. Most of the businesses and religious and fraternal organizations were likely located along Main Street between Shoal Creek and North Boundary Street. Main Street remained the commercial center of Montevallo even after the arrival of the railroad, which lay about a half-mile south of town.

In the 1860s, several developments contributed to a decline in Montevallo's commercial economy. By 1861, the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad extended north to Talladega; with the extension of the line came more railroad depots in Shelby County and less commercial traffic for Montevallo. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), coal from Montevallo was transported by rail to supply the munitions factory and Navy Yard in Selma. While mining remained active and profitable during the war, agriculture in Shelby County fared poorly as many of the men left home to fight for the Confederacy, and the Montevallo Male and Female Institute closed soon after the war began. In 1864, Shelby County reported that 66% of families in the county were "destitute." With the decline in agricultural production came a decline in commercial activity in Montevallo as well. In the spring of 1865, Union troops entered Montevallo, but caused little permanent damage.

  1. David B. Schneider and Evelyn Causey (with Susan Enzweiler), Schneider Historic Preservation, LLC/History Matters, LLC, Downtown Montevallo Historic District, Shelby County, AL, nomination document, 2011, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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