Few neighborhoods can rival the scenic beauty of Old Cloverdale, one of Montgomery's oldest and most picturesque residential areas. The Cloverdale area was originally a portion of a 160 acre tract of land purchased by William Graham from the U.S. Government in 1817.
At that time Graham's tract of land, considered to be "way out in the country," was covered with virgin pine, which garnered it the name Graham's Woods. Some of those virgin pines still exist in Old Cloverdale neighborhoods, which is why the area was sometimes called "The Pines."
Open glens covered in clover could also be found in the area. In 1892, the plan for the area was designed and the name "Cloverdale" was adopted by the community. The original plan consisted of winding streets with large irregular shaped lots overlooking several parks and a large lake site. Cloverdale's current plan differs only slightly from that original drawing.
Old Cloverdale is perhaps best known for its natural landscaping that resembles a lovely English garden, which transports anyone who visits to a simpler time. It is believed that Joseph Forsyth Johnson, the English landscape architect, designed the area. Because of the nationwide economic panic of the time, the land was dormant for 15 years. In 1908 there were only 10 houses in Old Cloverdale, but by 1916 there were 125.
Old Cloverdale continues to thrive and has retained its sense of neighborhood spirit through the years. Its beauty and simple charm remain timeless, making it one of Montgomery's choice residential areas.
For more Old Cloverdale community information, visit the Old Cloverdale Association's website.
There’s a Genuine All-American Town in Midtown Montgomery
This article was published in The Montgomery Independent on October 4, 2012.
Before World War II, most American towns were designed for people rather than for cars. People lived close to where they worshiped, went to school, worked, shopped, and were entertained. After the war, single-use zoning began to spread; it separated Americans by socioeconomic status and separated land usage such as residential, recreational, institutional, retail business, manufacturing, industrial, and agricultural. (Montgomery adopted single-use zoning in 1947.) In time, city centers declined, suburbia proliferated, people were separated by socio-economic groupings. The American car culture had triumphed.
In the last few decades, there has been a movement to modify single-use zoning in which human beings and human interaction were not much of a consideration. Efforts have even been made to create traditional towns from scratch. In our region, Seaside is probably the most well known. The Waters and Hampstead are local examples.
Amazingly, just two miles south of the Capitol is a two-square mile town that’s the real thing, a genuine American town, not an artificial re-creation. This town doesn’t have an official name, but it’s often called Cloverdale. It’s composed of three historic districts: Cloverdale-Idlewild, the Garden District, and Old Cloverdale, plus the South Hull Street district and the Thomas-Bankhead-Southview neighborhood, sometimes called Edgewood after the 19th century plantation of the same name. All five have neighborhood associations. Hazel Hedge, an enclave of town homes built on the site of the country estate of the Reed-Craik-Baldwin family, is usually included. There are no firm boundaries and, in a sense, Cloverdale is more a state of mind than a geographic entity. It’s bordered on the west by Court Street, the east by Narrow Lane Road, and the south by Edgemont Avenue and Wedgwood Drive. The northern boundary is very irregular, but it’s roughly Noble, Finley, and Felder avenues. Cloverdale has easy access to Downtown and Maxwell AFB and to I-65 and I-85.
Each of the Cloverdale neighborhoods has a variety of housing: single-family, duplexes, town homes, condos, and apartments; large and small; grand and modest; owner-occupied and rental. The neighborhoods boast a variety of historical architectural styles: a few 19th century houses, primarily in the Garden District, and 20th century styles: late Victorian; American four-square, shingle, and bungalows; Colonial, Tudor, Georgian, Spanish, and Mediterranean revivals; and even some mid-century moderns, especially at the southern end of the Edgewood neighborhood. Aesthetically, this disparate collection of architectural styles is unified by mature trees and shrubbery.
The historic character of the three historic districts—and the associated property values—are maintained by restrictions to exterior alterations, exterior paint colors, removal of large trees, parking, and changes to doors, windows and roofing materials. The city’s Board of Architectural Review approves or disapproves property owners’ requests for variances. These restrictions protect all property owners and ensure that the three historic districts maintain their authenticity and charm.
Throughout Cloverdale there are houses that have been preserved or restored to their original architectural appearance, and others whose interiors have been renovated in the latest fashion. Still others wait for someone to love them. The number of architects, designers, decorators, and artists who call Cloverdale home attests to the quality of building materials, craftsmanship, and design. There are also landscape designers and master gardeners. After all, these people, especially, appreciate quality.
Physicians, too, are attracted to Cloverdale. It’s a mile to Jackson Hospital and under two to Baptist South. Attorneys also seem to appreciate Cloverdale, which is just two miles from the Capitol complex, the federal and county courthouses, and city hall. Maxwell is less than four miles northwest, so Cloverdale is a prime location for military families, both active duty and retired.
Each of the neighborhoods has its individual characteristics, but together they’re diverse. Cloverdale is not a cookie-cutter suburb of nearly identical houses. The area is home to young and old; rich and mid- to modest income; college students, singles, newly-weds, young families, empty-nesters, and senior citizens. There’re those who are conventional, unconventional, and, especially prized, eccentric. There’re many newcomers as well as old Montgomery families with several generations living within blocks of one another. Cloverdale is independent-minded and tolerant, a diverse group of individuals united by their love for their neighborhoods.
In addition to mature trees throughout Cloverdale, there are three medium-sized parks, one in Old Cloverdale and two in Cloverdale-Idewild. There are also several pocket parks, each with its signature fountain. Huntingdon College boasts a park-like campus, and the Montgomery Country Club has the open expanse of its golf course. Of the 159 Alabama Champion [native] Trees, Cloverdale boasts three: the state’s champion bur oak, sycamore, and white oak.
This cluster of historic neighborhoods has two business districts: Cloverdale Village centered on the intersection of Cloverdale Road and Graham Street, and Fivepoints at the intersection of Fairview Avenue, Cloverdale Road, and Woodley Road. These business districts are home to a variety of restaurants and watering holes, boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, estate jewelry stores, dry cleaners, photography studios, real estate offices, a pharmacy, a bakery, a shoe repair shop, and even a Tudor Revival style fire station. There’s yoga, pilates, therapeutic massage, and acupuncture. Only the neighborhood bank is not independently owned.
Fivepoints is also the site of the Capri Movie Theater and the Cloverdale Playhouse. The Capri Community Film Society, founded in 1983, operates the only independent movie theatre in Montgomery. As such, it screens art, foreign (with English subtitles), and independent films (basically those not made by Hollywood). These films are unlikely to be shown by suburban multiplexes. In addition to a film for each week, the Capri offers one classic film each month, summer children’s matinees, and several film festivals each year, including the Black Film Festival, Manhattan Short Film Festival, Montgomery Film Festival, and the Southern Circuit.
The Cloverdale Playhouse, housed in a repurposed church, is a community theater that produces plays and musicals and also offers summer children’s theater workshops. Montgomerians fill all the roles necessary to produce plays, including the actors and musicians. The Playhouse also serves as a venue for lectures, musical performances, and staged reading of plays in development.
The Capri and Playhouse, however, do not provide all of Cloverdale’s cultural entertainment, not by a long shot. Huntingdon College has frequent concerts of a high quality, as well as a lecture series. All are free and open to the public. Huntingdon also shows free outdoor films during the spring. Alabama State University, located between Cloverdale and I-85, offers the full complement of performing arts and lectures expected of a university. The Cloverdale-Idlewild Association sponsors a free April-May concert series on Sunday afternoons in Cloverdale Bottom Park. Of course, Cloverdale’s churches offer a variety of musical offerings, especially during the Advent-Christmas season, but also throughout the year, such as First United Methodist’s Concert in the Pines series and Ascension’s Traywick series and monthly sung compline services.
Seasonal events include Cloverdale-Idlewild Association’s Fourth of July Parade; everyone is invited to participate. The Garden District’s Dog Parade is in August and its Fall Potluck Picnic is in September. Cloverdale-Idewild’s Annual Yard Sale is held each October. Also in October, Fire Station 7 has its annual open house in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week. The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald House Museum hosts a Halloween Bash. The Old Cloverdale Association hosts a Christmas Tree Lighting preceded by snacks, holiday crafts for the children, horse-drawn carriage rides, and, of course, Santa—all funded by the association. The Governor’s Mansion is occasionally open to the general public, especially during the holiday season. Both the Garden District and Old Cloverdale associations host house and garden tours; these are not free, after all the associations have to raise money to fund their community events. Additionally, Huntingdon hosts Cloverjam, Cloverdale Village business association hosts a Crawfish Boil, and Fitzgerald House Museum hosts a spring gala, to which many wear period clothing.
Cloverdale is also the venue for numerous charity runs and walks. In fact, it is a wonderful place to walk even though there are few sidewalks—a conscious decision when Old Cloverdale was laid out so as to maintain a rural atmosphere. (Some Cloverdale lots were 300-feet deep with cows, horses, chickens, and goats.) There are numerous dogs being walked and parents strolling their children; strollers, serious walkers, joggers, runners, and cyclists. Additionally, the Montgomery Fencing Club meets at the former Cloverdale School, now owned by Huntingdon College.
Cloverdale is well served by houses of worship. Montgomery has two synagogues; one, Temple Beth Or (Reform) is located within the neighborhood, and the other, Agudath Israel Etz Ahayhm Synagogue (Conservative) is a block or two south. Churches include: Church of the Ascension (Episcopal), Cloverdale Baptist (Southern), First United Methodist, Trinity Presbyterian (PCA), and just to the north, St. James Baptist (Missionary). First Methodist is now offering alternative, traditional services in the former Cloverdale School on Huntingdon’s campus. The large Downtown churches are a mere two miles to the north.
Ascension sponsors a Girl Scout troop. Both Ascension and First United Methodist sponsor Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops. Trinity Presbyterian sponsors a Boy Scout troop.
Cloverdale is centrally located for some of Montgomery’s best schools. On its northern perimeter is the Montessori Academy (pre-school) in a repurposed Victorian house and Forest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School, and just to the south is Floyd Magnet Middle School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Within a two-mile radius of Fivepoints is Bear Exploration Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology K-5; Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet Middle School; Booker T. Washington Magnet High School; and Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP), which will have an International Baccalaureate program. Two miles to the east is The Montgomery Academy, K-12, one of two Montgomery schools that is a member of the prestigious National Association of Independent Schools. Furthermore, Ascension, Cloverdale Baptist, First Methodist, and Trinity Presbyterian have preschool programs.
Cloverdale is old, as far as Montgomery goes, but it’s not static. You can no longer hear the streetcar bells and the clickety-clack of steel wheels on steel rails on Court, Hull, Cloverdale, Felder, and Narrow Lane. You can’t hear children’s goat carts, the cows, horses, or roosters (chickens are allowed, but not roosters). You can’t hear Dr. Brandon Hubbard’s horse’s hooves as he rides from his home at Fairview Plantation (the Old Mastin Place) to his office Downtown. But you can hear the bells of Ascension, First United Methodist, and Trinity Presbyterian, as well as train whistles at night, the fireworks after Biscuit games, Thunderbird low passes, ASU band practices in the fall, and Huntingdon football and lacrosse games. And every day you can hear and exchange pleasantries with your neighbors.
The all-American town that many dream about with nostalgia and land-developers try to recreate, is thriving in Cloverdale—and it’s the real thing.