The 6,000 square-foot house on Ross Street was built by Heflin’s first mayor, John F. Morgan, for his 12-member family. It continued to house Morgan family members into the 1970s.
Now the current owner and the city government are taking steps to protect the structure.
Pam Payne, the owner, is looking to retire from her gift shop business. The house and business have been on the market for about a year, she said. She plans to sell it as a business, she said, but if she were to sell just the house, she wants buyers to have options for its use. So she approached the city of Heflin about having the property zoned as a residential structure if a buyer were interested in living in the house.
City Clerk Shane Smith has worked with the city’s Planning Commission to help Payne protect the building, he said.
Built in 1880, the John Morgan House is the only structure in the city to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of three sites, along with the Heflin Depot on Ross Street and the Owen Residence on Burns and Evans streets, listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Payne, who has operated the gift store in the home for nearly three decades, said the original part of the house was built before 1880. Additions were made to the house into the 1930s. The last work was done on the house in the early 1950s, she said. She has seen homes along the street replaced by businesses over the years. Up until the 1950s, Payne said, no one really cared about preserving historic buildings.
She applied to get the house listed on the national register and it was listed in 1991.
“I just wanted the historic significance of the house to be remembered,” Payne said.
The Planning Commission didn’t want to get into “spot zoning” individual properties, Smith said. Instead, the commission recommended the city amend its general business district zoning to allow historic homes within a general business district to be used as they were originally designed. In that case, the house could be used as a residential property, Smith said.
Under the current general business district zoning, if a home has been used as a business, it has to remain a business, he said.
“We want to preserve the historic heritage of the home,” Smith said. “If someone wants to come in and live in it, we would rather see that home continue to be a historic part of our town.”
The Heflin City Council will vote on the proposed amendment at its meeting on Monday.
Smith said there are some older homes in the city, but he doesn’t know of any that are eligible to be on the National Register.
The city used to have an active historic society, but the members have moved or drifted away, Smith said.
Beverly Casey, a former member, said she left the society while it was still active, but she hasn’t seen it do anything for a number of years.
Casey is now a member of the Planning Commission.
Payne said she will continue to operate the store until the house or the business sells. She is planning her Christmas Open House for Nov. 2-3 this year, she said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.