Abandoned house in Alabama

The Pines House, Anniston Alabama
Date added: October 15, 2022 Categories: Alabama House Colonial Revival
West Elevation (1991)

The Pines was built in 1896 by Captain Edmund Leighton Tyler, a railroad magnate and son of one of the co-founders of the city of Anniston, General Daniel Tyler. Captain Tyler and his brother, Alfred, fought alongside their father, General Tyler, at the Battle of Bull Run, and subsequently joined their father and Samuel Noble on the original board of directors of the Woodstock Iron Company in 1872. Edmund Tyler served as the superintendent and general manager of the Anniston and Atlantic Railroad, a company he formed for the Woodstock Company in 1883. Tyler worked out of Atlanta, and moved to Anniston in 1895 to form the Edmund L. Tyler and Company with his nephew, Alfred Tyler, Jr. Edmund Tyler built his home on a 40-acre tract of land that he had purchased on May 10, 1884, from the Woodstock Iron Company, and the home remains today on a one-acre lot in Anniston. Tyler's original property was subdivided, first in 1925, when his widow and family sold 16.59 acres (eastern portion) to the Anniston Country Club. Then after 1929, S. E. Boozer and R. L. Heffington subdivided and developed the lots surrounding the home site. Boozer's family owned the property until 1983.

The foursquare, Colonial Revival home, one of the earliest of its style in the state, was probably designed by Walter T. Downing of Atlanta. Downing was Atlanta's premier architect from 1890-1910 and also was one of the first practitioners of the Neoclassical and Colonial Revival styles in Atlanta. And also, Downing drew plans in 1903 for a remodeling of the house that would include a peristyle colonnade across the front of the house. These plans were intact until recently misplaced by a former owner. Local published sources name "W. T. Daniel" as having drawn original plans in 1896 however, Downing was most likely the original architect for The Pines.

The rebirth of classical architecture occurred across the United States resulting in what was termed "The American Renaissance" following the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition followed in 1895, also featuring several neoclassical buildings that were influenced by the "Great White Way" at the Chicago Exposition. Undoubtedly, Captain Tyler employed the top designer available to build his new home in the most current national trend in architecture. Alabama's architectural historian, Robert Gamble, writes in The Alabama Catalog. "But not until four years later, [1896 editor's note] did the Colonial Revival surface with unmistakable clarity in Alabama when The Pines, at Anniston, was completed for the Edward Tyler family". Despite vandalism and deterioration, the Colonial Revival home retains much of its original architectural detailing and exhibits its unique position as an early example of the neoclassical trend in architecture in Alabama: the juxtaposition of earlier architectural styling (Queen Anne interior detailing) with the almost vernacular and clumsy use of classical elements in its design remains evident today, even in its deteriorated state. Furthermore, the home remains today solidly constructed after years of neglect and weathering, a testament to its original sound construction and use of fine building materials.

The two families that owned, inhabited, and maintained the home each contributed to the city of Anniston's development. Edmund Tyler, a founder of the city, railroad magnate, president of Hercules Pipe Company and Central Foundry Company, and an original director of the Woodstock Iron Company, Anniston Manufacturing Company, and First National Bank; Simon Edward Boozer was elected Probate Judge in 1940, ran for Governor in 1946, was a large land owner and timber magnate, and also was an early developer of the Goodwin Street neighborhood around the old Tyler Homeplace.

"The Pines" is the last of Anniston's founders' estates that remain at their original site and also retain their integrity in their original setting: Samuel Noble's house and carriage house were dismantled and moved in the 1960s when Anniston High School was constructed in its place; Alfred Tyler, Sr. and subsequently his son, Alfred Tyler, Jr., lived on the hill overlooking the city of Anniston, but their home was demolished in 1959; Crowan Cottage, built for Samuel Noble's mother at 1401 Woodstock Avenue, remains on its original site, but the grounds around it have been developed by Anniston High School and later houses; and the Queen Anne cottage that was built for Mrs. Kate Roberts, Samuel Noble's daughter, remains at its original site, 902 Leighton, but today is surrounded by an island of asphalt parking.

Building Description

Situated on a one-acre, wooded corner lot, The Pines is a two-story, frame, Colonial Revival, foursquare house with a large rear wing and fine classical detailing. The three-bay, west elevation features a central, one-story, semicircular portico that was originally capped by a balustrade with urns and was supported by four Ionic columns. The portico embraces a tripartite entryway: a central three-panel door flanked by oversized sidelights with raised panels below. The frontispiece framing the doorway and sidelights consists of narrow fluted pilasters and is capped by a denticulated cornice. The central bay, second level, echoes the tripartite doorway below, triple double hung windows, the middle being taller than the side windows, framed by narrow fluted pilasters supporting a denticulated cornice. The hipped roof is pierced on the west elevation by a central dormer with paired 6/2 double hung sash and is capped by a broken pediment that is decorated with a cartouche on its surface and a central finial. The dormer was formerly surrounded by a belvedere with a railing defined by urns on pedestals and a balustrade. The flanking bays on the west elevation repeat the fluted full height Ionic pilasters as corner posts and paired pilasters on bases above the portico. Double hung, 1/1 sash with denticulated cornices make up the remaining bays on the west elevation.

The east/rear elevation features a Porte-cochere that has been rebuilt in recent years, yet has failed structurally due to extreme deterioration. The very large three-bay window opening over the interior central stairway remains a ghost of the leaded glass window that originally filled the tripartite opening. The north elevation of the rear ell features first and second-story balustrade and latticework as well as a balustraded stairway in umbrage that leads from the first to the second-floor servant's quarters. A three-bay, one-story projection features a one-bay porch on the south elevation of the rear ell. Window sashes on the entire south elevation are the same 1/1 sash with denticulated cornices, with the exception of one triple window at the dining room. Each exterior elevation is defined by a wooden water table on what was formerly a stone foundation with fluted Ionic corner posts rising the full height of the structure to support a denticulated boxed cornice at the base of the hipped roof. The roof is pierced by four tall inside chimneys with corbelled chimney caps and decorative, dark glazed brick up the corners.

Interior woodwork and trim reflect a carryover from earlier trends in architecture: Queen Anne and classical detailing are combined on the interior. The entrance foyer features a central fireplace with oak sitting nook, oak paneling and bookshelves, reminiscent of Queen Anne houses a decade earlier. The open well, two-run stairway features two free-standing Ionic columns on paneled bases and a newel post that was formerly crowned by an urn at the first landing. Heavy Georgian molding remains intact surrounding windows and doors, while Victorian corner posts remain upstairs. For the most part, interior wood trim, doors and floors remain intact throughout the house with the exception of all of the mantels that disappeared.

A three-bay, two-story garage with a second-story apartment remains on the site in a ruinous state: the roof collapsed years ago, and the kudzu vines have taken over the structure. The south elevation features a two-bay porch on the second level, while the north elevation, that which is closest to the house, features a two-car garage on the first-floor level. The hipped roofed structure has a central chimney which has failed.

The home, one outbuilding, and the grounds have remained virtually vacant and neglected since 1983. The house is deteriorated, due primarily to the lack of maintenance in recent years, as well as to vandalism. Windows have been broken out; walls have been covered in graffiti; and, most tragically, the mantels have been removed. With the exception of the missing mantels (the most significant of which has been located), the interior of the house retains much of its architectural integrity and detailing: the stairway and all balusters are intact (two broken balusters are on the premises); pocket doors remain on their tracks; first-floor plaster is solid (second floor plaster has suffered some water damage); floors remain in remarkably good condition, except for cuts made for ductwork in recent years; and the original floor plan has been altered mildly and reversibly to accommodate apartments in later years.

On the exterior, the deterioration is more evident: siding and wood detailing are in desperate need of paint and repair, as small dentils and larger portico balusters continue to fall off due to neglect and severe deterioration. Upon inspection of the roof from interior attic spaces, the recently installed (c. 1983) asphalt shingle roof continues to keep the roof dry. However, the expected areas of deterioration are evident; the interior gutters failed years ago, today revealing gaping, rotting eaves: roofing (and flashing) around the chimneys failed years ago, and the valleys around the front dormer have leaked for many years. The basement and crawl space was exceptionally dry, and no evidence of termites or powder post beetles was found. The house remains structurally sound, despite severe neglect and deterioration that have occurred over many years.