Al Bouler was attired in an 1800s costume as he portrayed James Farley and greeted arriving guests on the veranda of the Ware-Farley-Hood House.
He invited each to cross the threshold of the historic mansion and enjoy an evening of Southern merriment.
Inside, Jordie Chapman portrayed Susie Hood, a resident of the house circa 1910, and gave guests a tour that included a walk up three flights to the cupola, where a sign read, “Please keep this door closed so the ghosts won’t get out.”
Intrigued, 8 year-old Gregory Ware McCollum, a Ware family descendant, was not deterred when he walked right through with his mother, Alice Ware Bargainer McCollum, and his younger brother, Lawton. The young ghost-busters were among the special guests at a reception last Thursday night as the historic house in Old Alabama Town was unveiled to the public for special event usage.
Built circa 1850 by local physician James A. Ware, the home’s Italianate structure was more urban and sophisticated than the classical styles of the era. It was especially suitable for the Southern climate with its spreading porches, tall windows and broad over-hanging eaves, which were especially helpful for ventilation. Opting to retreat to his country home and plantation, Ware sold the home to his friend, prominent banker James Farley. It was later purchased in 1905 by Samuel Starke, who operated it as Starke’s School for Girls.
In 1909, it was purchased by Horace Hood, editor of the Alabama Journal and one-time sheriff of Montgomery County, who deeded it to his wife, Susan Brame Hood. It was purchased by Old South Insurance in 1956 and used as the company’s offices.
Donated to the Landmarks Foundation and the city of Montgomery in 1989 by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, it was moved to its current location at the corner of North Hull and Randolph streets.
Evening of surprises
From the 1850s to the 1950s, the families of the wealthy planter, the successful banker, and the prominent newspaper man entertained the city folk of Montgomery. Intimate soirees, afternoon tea parties, galas and back-room business and political deals took place under the graceful cupola adorning the house and overlooking the town. Twenty-five years after its relocation to Old Alabama Town, its doors were opened once again for entertaining.
With no ghosts around, it was readied for future weddings, receptions and bridal party gatherings; business meetings and corporate events; special occasion and private entertaining opportunities.
Landmarks interim director Marion Baab, event planner Sarah Spratling, and Jennie Weller, the exclusive caterer for the location, were among those on the committee that planned last week’s social “reveal” as a special evening of surprises in each area of the house. They were joined by committee members and Landmarks board members Florence Young, Mary Ann Neeley and Lee Sellers, who also directed the home’s interior design, and Old Alabama Town curator Carole King.
From top to bottom
Near the glorious walnut staircase that James Farley envisioned his daughters coming down in their wedding gowns one day, Old Alabama Town’s membership director Tunisia Thomas greeted Landmarks board members, including president Kindell Anderson; vice president Elizabeth Lawlor; Christy Anderson; Jeff Benton; Stephen Brickley; Frances Durr; Emily Flowers, granddaughter of Anita Folmar, for whom one of the parlors is named; James Fuller; Elizabeth Mazyck; Nan Rosa; Susan Samuel; and emeritus member Joyce Hobbs.
Board member Jonathan Vega gave Dee and BillColeman a tour of the location’s second level, which includes a grand hall, several rooms, each featuring its own hand-painted fireplace cover, and back stairs that lead to a main-level prep kitchen.
Jennie Weller and her staff prepared bacon-wrapped pickled watermelon rind that were passed to guests as they walked along the wrap-around porch and through the parlors and ballroom of the Old Alabama Town location.
In each area, Weller, Sarah Spratling and Aaron Ganey added a few unusual twists to the reception, including their answer to depression-era bathtub gin. A barefoot Beth Clark paid homage to the early era of the house by serving as hostess at a mint julep station constructed over a claw foot bathtub. Positioned under the staircase, silver trays, crystal decanters and silver bowls were used in the featured service and display of mint, bourbons, “moonshine shooters” and romance novels.
Welcome to the parlors
Spratling served as hostess in the Anita Folmar Room, where she sliced the three-tier cake created by Peggy McKinney for the occasion. With its reflection glowing at the center of a tall antique mirror, McKinney had constructed the cake on a wooden plateau with vintage edging. She was there as other guests admired the confection positioned in the room named for the recently deceased former first lady of Montgomery.
Marla Foster was among those in “Miss Anita’s Room,” where the dome of flowers atop the cake mirrored the blossoms used in a luscious garland that fell from the fireplace mantel behind it. Cherry Brandy roses, magnolia, cockscomb, thistle and a variety of vibrant fall flowers filled the garland everyone admired. It was positioned under a special Southern element — a beautiful magnolia wreath from Sherrell Smitherman’s stand at the local curb market.
Across the hall, boughs of greenery topped the mantel in the Ware Room, where celedon-colored Lamour linens topped round tables. Silver trumpet vases were filled with a variety of white blossoms in the room named for James Ware, the brother of Robert Ware, an ancestor of Jane Barganier, who enjoyed the evening with her husband, Jim Barganier.
Bob Vardaman and Mary Sanders also were among the guests in the room when Jennie Weller premiered her new mac-and-cheese bar. Aaron Ganey transferred scoops from a silver warming dish and swirled each guest’s individual serving within the well of an 80-pound parmesan cheese wheel. Guests selected their favorite toppings for the traditional favorite, as well as delicacies from a nearby fried green tomato station, where scrumptious tomato quarters were topped with whipped goat cheese, bacon, and a sweet and spicy aioli.
A room for a historian
Jim Hodgson, Sheila Weil and local historian Mary Ann Neeley were among those mingling in the parlor named for Neeley.
A towering arrangement of beautiful blossoms and greenery had been designed for a buffet table that was covered in golden rod-colored Lamour linens and topped with exquisite lace-edged overlays and silver service pieces. Identical linens topped high-boy cocktail tables that were accented with brandy snifters of floating spider lilies.
Southern fried chicken lollipops were among the selections Jennie Weller prepared for the buffet, which also included cornbread canapés topped with smoked pork and pickled slaw; open-faced cucumber sandwiches and pimento cheese finger sandwiches; as well as seasonal fruits and domestic and imported cheeses.
Old Alabama Town staff members Robin Birdwell, Jane Coker, MaryAnne Douglass and Sheryl Bagley were in the Farley Parlor, where the room had been set up to demonstrate the versatility of the location. Set up conference-style for the evening, it was outfitted with podiums and audio visual equipment, and table and chair settings that lent a sense of cozy elegance for a special business meeting.
The Lo-Fi Loungers entertained as couples danced to “Stars Fell on Alabama” in the Susan Hood Ballroom and heralded the moment spotlighting the entrance of a silver teapot. A cloud of vapor filled the area as its contents were poured for the dramatic preparation of nitrogen ice cream at a dessert station in the room. Guests were mesmerized by the evolution of the buttermilk-custard treat that resulted. Each topped a serving of the dessert with shattered raspberries and tea cookies that were displayed on angled elevations of glass nearby.
Special night for little girls
The ballroom space, as well as the entire location, will be the special site for this year’s Diamond Princess Ball. Florence Young, who has served as the ball’s chairman since its inception, is excited the annual Father-Daughter event will be hosted by the Landmarks Foundation at the Ware-Farley-Hood House on Dec. 5.
Article from Montgomery Advertiser October 19, 2014 by Deborah Hayes Moore.