On the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is a statement that’s indeed simple but oh so true: “Simply put, historic means old and worth the trouble.
The long-abandoned Grove Court Apartments in Montgomery is old and on first glance may seem not worth the trouble. But fortunately, the new owners could see past its shabby condition to picture the architectural gem it was and could be again.
Built in 1947 and on the National Register of Historic Places, Grove Court Apartments was part of the movement to create more housing after World War II and believed to be the only example of an International-style apartment complex in Montgomery.
Tom and Jud Blount of GCA Properties recently has purchased the architecturally significant building located on South Court Street. The derelict building had been for sale for many years and long been a blight on the neighborhood.
Jud Blount says the Grove Court Apartments project is in the conceptual design phase. The plan is being created by his uncle Tom Blount, a retired architect who designed the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and many other buildings.
“Our goal is to save the historic international style architecture and find a use for the five buildings,” Jud explains. “The buildings will most likely be turned back into apartments that have been modernized and fit for young professionals. We have not made any decisions on mixed use but there might be room for a café and a few offices on the corner units. We believe that downtown is growing into a vibrant capital city, and we believe that City Fed [another Blount project] and Grove Court Apartments will play a role.”
Construction is expected to begin the first quarter of 2022. This is the third project Tom and Jud have done together since 2017. Their first project was turning a 1950s bank into a café. City Fed is their second project – a 1926 bank and two other early buildings turned into a mixed-use complex – which they are working to finish
Designed by Pearson, Tittle & Narrow, the architectural style of Grove Court Apartments earned Clyde Pearson national recognition in the field of design. The three-story reinforced concrete structure originally had 54 one-bedroom and 27 two-bedroom units.
Units were accessible through outside staircases and the building was designed with no inside staircases or shared hallways. The Blounts plan to add stairs and two elevators on the outside, leaving the existing structure intact. The apartments were marketed to professionals working downtown and returning war veterans wanting, as the Montgomery Advertiser said, “to rent good class homes.”
A description of Grove Court from the Society of Architectural Historians: “Horizontal bands of metal casements and heavy, apron-walled corner balconies of reinforced concrete define the two outer street elevations of the Grove Court. But inside this protective perimeter, all apartments open directly onto balcony-like covered walkways interconnected at all three levels via bridges and glassed-in stair towers.”
Despite the building’s deplorable condition having sat vacant since the 1990s, its mid-century modern design will no doubt be an asset to the community after it receives some tender loving care.
“We removed over 110 full dumpsters of trash, plaster and debris coming in at over 3 million pounds,” says Jud. “The foundation and bones of the structure are as solid as they come. They don’t make buildings like this anymore!”
“The property has long been blighted, and everyone is thrilled to see a sale finally close in 2021,” says Lois Cortell, senior development manager for the city of Montgomery. “Within days of the property closing, the new owners began to clear the property, stabilize it, and fence it for security. The Grove Court Apartments have a highly visible location on Court Street, which is regularly traversed by commuters in and out of downtown. We all watched with great excitement as the overgrown vegetation was removed and the once glorious architecture began to be apparent again.”
Increasing the stock of residential development in downtown Montgomery is critical, so this renovation is truly a winner on many fronts, adds Cortell: “A local developer with a track record of success, more housing for downtown, blight removal, and a long-hoped for historic renovation showcasing the diversity of architecture in Montgomery.”
Jeff Benton, local historian and author who wrote about Grove Court in his book A Sense of Place: Montgomery’s Architectural Heritage, is also delighted that the complex will be restored.
“Since the Blounts do things right, I have no worries about what they eventually decide to do with the property,” says Benton. “If you are to see Grove Court as the skeleton it is, you would know that only developers of vision and optimism would undertake such a project. Montgomery is blessed that the Blounts are again showing their regard for the city.”
*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong