Forgotten Trails: Leigh Place is topic for Society meeting
Published 9:18 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007
The Escambia County Historical Society met last week at the Thomas E. McMillan Museum at Jefferson Davis Community College. The speaker for the day was Tom McMillan who gave the history of the Leigh Place in downtown Brewton.
For the last few weeks I ran photographs of the courthouses in Brewton and included in them was the one of Leigh Place.
As you may or may not know, the first courthouse in Escambia County was in Pollard. You probably have all heard the stories of the “Cat Fight” and the ones about Brewton citizens stealing the court records from Pollard. You may have even heard the one where there was a vote to decide where the courthouse was going to be. In the first vote, the inhabitants were to vote and in that election, more people voted in Pollard than lived there. In the next vote, it was designated that the voters were to be those who actually lived there. That vote determined that the new county seat was to be Brewton.
The first courthouse in the new county seat was built in 1885. A lot was bought from Eliza Brewton in 1883 for the price of $100 located at the corner of Belleville Avenue and Court Street. Funds were not available at the time to build a courthouse and it wasn't until 1885 that the contract was let to build the new courthouse. It was to cost $7,740 to build the two-story brick building. It had wood floors and plastered walls, with offices on the ground floor and a large courtroom on the second floor. Local citizens were dismayed to learn that the wood used in the building had been brought from Oshkosh, Wis., instead of the ‘superior' lumber that was so plentiful to the area. A jail was built to the rear of the courthouse and a gallows was constructed behind it.
The building was used for 17 years as the courthouse for Escambia County. In 1902, there was a need for more space, and structural problems had been discovered in the old building. In April of 1901, a visiting circuit judge refused to hold court there. Shortly afterward, the property across Belleville Avenue, on the corner of Henderson Street, was used to build a new courthouse.
After the county's business moved across the street, the old building was used for various reasons. The Brewton Rifles used it as an armory and in 1909; E.M. Lovelace purchased the building and used it as a tobacco warehouse. A year Later, C.H. Conoley bought the building and turned it into a residence for his family. Changes were made to the front of the building and columns were added.
Mrs. John (Mabel) Leigh bought it in 1919 for her residence and it must be from her that the name of Leigh Place comes. Thomas E. McMillan bought the building in 1969, and turned it into office space.
This original building has been added on to several times and for a building that once was so bad it was to be condemned, it has certainly proven itself.
The Leigh Place has stood for 122 years and today looks as good, or better, than it ever did.