Damage assessments ongoing in Selma’s historic district

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:51 PM CST
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SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - The tornado that tore through Selma on January 12 significantly damaged the city’s historic district, including properties owned by the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society.

Linda Derry can’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotions looking at the damage at Heritage Village in Selma.

“Heritage Village is a collection of small structures that we had previously saved,” said Derry. “They were sitting somewhere else, and were going to be destroyed unless they were moved. So, we salvage them. “You try to stay optimistic, but some of this seems so impossible.”

A historical archaeologist by trade, Derry serves as the president of the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society. She says the historic district was hit hard. Several properties owned by the society were impacted. The organization is now working to raise funds to cover repairs.

“The sad part is some of our insurance was dropped right before the tornado,” said Derry. “A problem now for preservation is insurance companies don’t really like to insure historic homes because the replacement value is so high. And so, that is going to be a problem for all of Selma is people that are under insured or not insured, because it’s so difficult.”

People who live in or around historic homes are being encouraged to save any material from the property.

“It will be useful to you in the long run, it will help you save money. And generally speaking, the historic material is made of higher quality materials than anything commercially available currently,” said Alex Mebane Reinburg with Atlantic Heritage.

Consultants with Atlantic Heritage have been on the ground in Selma. They encourage you to be patient.

“It’s not a time to, to make any hasty decisions, or to make any quick decisions with your building,” said Ed Barnes with Atlantic Heritage.

While much has been lost, they are trying to hold on to what they can.

“Each of these buildings tell somebody story, and part of our history, but it’s also important to us today as economic engine for tourism. Tourism is a very important industry to Selma,” said Derry.

Selma has the largest contiguous historic district on the national register in the state of Alabama.

You can visit historicselma.org to donate.

Homeowners with questions should contact the SDC Historic Preservation Society at 334-412-8550, the Selma Historic Development Commission at 334-874-2111 or the Alabama Historical Commission at 334-242-3184.

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