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Along the Street

Noble House
432 East Jefferson circa 1850s , NOT ON TOUR

Historical Significance

B. F. Noble, a banker and real estate investor, build his home on East Jefferson Street about 1850 as the area north of Madison Avenue began developing as a very upscale neighborhood. Both Noble and his wife were active in the affairs of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church.

Less than a hundred years after its construction, the character of the neighborhood changed from residential to commercial. The two-story brick structure underwent drastic modifications in the late 1940s as the neighborhood became more and more commercial. With the building threatened with demolition, it was saved by Ben Wilbanks, a tire and automobile dealer, who modified the structure to meet his commercial needs, preserving many of the interior Italianate architectural features.

Architectural Significance

Landmarks Foundation purchased the house in 1998 and carried out extensive research with the intentions of restoring it to its former 19th century grandeur. Extensive archaeological work determined much about the site and the configuration of the structure’s elevation. The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps answered many questions including the location of several outbuildings that once stood on the site. A faded photograph of a painting was discovered that alluded to the Noble House’s original façade and front lawn. From this photograph, architects created a drawing of a handsome Greek Revival home from which to base a restoration plan.

Over the years, the front of the building had been covered with concrete, covering fuel tanks from the structure’s life as a filling station. Many assorted work rooms, warehouses and canopies enveloped the original structure on all four sides and the interior contained a few remnants displaying the Greek Revival influence. The attic space revealed a large cistern used to capture and store rainwater for household use. The front windows and door openings were bricked up.

A historic finishes analysis by an architectural conservator revealed that the building was whitewashed with a thick coat that had lasted almost 100 years. There were only two other coats of paint that were applied to the building in the recent past. The paint finishes were impossible to remove without damaging the brick and mortar work so a terra-cotta paint color was chosen to simulate the original brick façade. These exterior study and drawings guided the exterior restoration such as replacing missing windows and doorways.

An urban archaeologist did extensive research in the front area to accurately situate the front portico with entry steps. Along with his research and the early photograph vaguely showing the front portico, the entry way was reproduced complete with second story balcony and balustrades, plastered wing walls, fluted columns, and white marble flooring and steps.

On the interior, the original floorplan was reconstructed with a central hallway flanked by two rooms on either side with a staircase. All woodwork—baseboards, sash and window surrounds, doors and door surrounds, front and rear entry and sliding parlor doors— were authentically reproduced from existing examples. The decorative finishes of the woodwork were done by an artist, using a combination of faux mahogany, oak, and assorted types of marble. A back shed addition, sympathetic to mid 19th century design work was added to conceal modern features such as restroom, kitchen, work space and ramp access. Today as 150 years ago, the Noble House continues as a handsome architectural anchor to the neighborhood.