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Commandingly situated at the head of Court Street, Florence’s main thoroughfare, Rogers Hall, a mansion once euphoniously named Courtview, was completed just as construction began on nearby Wesleyan Hall. It was built as the residence of planter/merchant George Washington Foster. Its architect is undocumented, but a few physical clues, plus circumstantial evidence, point to Adolphus Heiman, designer of Wesleyan Hall, or at least to Heiman’s influence. Most telling are the tall, casement-like French windows with transoms found at both Rogers Hall and also at Belmont (TN-01-037-0011) in Nashville, one of Heiman’s best-known domestic designs. The windows are cross-mullioned in the Continental manner, a touch rarely seen in the antebellum South but certainly familiar to the Potsdam-born Heiman. At both houses these windows figure prominently as a design element of the facade—at Rogers Hall opening onto high, terrace-like balconies to either side of the monumental Ionic-order portico.
The tripartite organizational scheme of the facade occurs again and again throughout Middle Tennessee, the adjacent Alabama counties immediately to the south, and northward into central Kentucky: a pillared central portico, frequently recessed or, as here, partly recessed, is sandwiched between flanking blocks of near equal breadth. Heiman himself used the popular formula with particular finesse at Belmont. At Rogers Hall, the visual presence of the facade is enhanced greatly by raising it, in the manner of the Renaissance, a full story above ground level. Again as at Belmont, a rooftop belvedere originally enlivened the composition.
Early-twentieth-century renovations replaced a lightly bracketed cornice with a denticulated classical entablature, but preserved the essence of the original exterior design. In 1948 Florence State Teacher’s College, now the University of North Alabama, acquired the mansion from the Thomas Rogers family. Further interior renovations in the 1990s removed the large pocket doors between the drawing rooms, converting the space into a single large conference area.
Alabama Members, National League of American Pen Women. Historic Homes of Alabama and their Traditions. Birmingham, AL: Birmingham Publishing Co., 1935.
Gamble, Robert. The Alabama Catalog – Historic American Buildings Survey: A Guide to the Early Architecture of the State.Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1987.
Hammond, Ralph. Ante-bellum Mansions of Alabama. New York: Bonanza Books, 1950.
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