The lights are on at Lyon Hall: Renovation making progress at historic home

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004

The lights are on at historic Lyon Hall in Demopolis, and that is a good sign that renovation of the home continues. “The electrical work is being done,” begun some four weeks ago, said Kirk Brooker, director of the Marengo County Historical Society.

The society has been working for almost five years to prepare the home for use as a reception hall. Brooker doesn’t want to give a specific date work will be completed; he’s had stops and starts in the past. However, “I can see the end of this project,” he said Thursday. “…Everything’s rolling where it will be done.”

The society has had problems finding contractors to do the historic renovation. There aren’t that many in West Alabama who do such historic work.

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“Due to budget restraints with the Lyon Hall Trust and other factors, (the Lyon Hall Committee) has decided to get the ground floor restored and opened,” he said. “Once the ground floor is done, we will open it as kind of an appointment only house museum and reception hall.

Proceeds from use of the home will be used to complete renovation in other portions of the home, Brooker said.

The home was built between 1850 and 1853. It has only been used as a family home.

The society has had possession of the home since 1997. It was donated by the late George Lamar, a Lyon descendent, who lived in the house with his late brother William.

The society also owns Bluff Hall, the Craft Corner and Laird Cottage.

Expertise for the renovation comes from Kirk’s brother, Brian Brooker, the architect on the project. The society is working through numerous photographs of the home through history and remembrances by family members.

The late Helen Nation, a Lyon descendant, had been guiding the restoration from the beginning, he said. “She remembered the home as a little girl, and certain things about the garden.” She was able to guide the society on what plants were on the grounds. Martha Turner has continued that work on the grounds.

City Horticulturist Amanda Smith has also pledged to help with the landscaping, he said.

The structure was in good condition when the society began work on it, Kirk Brooker said. “It’s really just having to re-wire. There was plaster repair (needed).

“Brian is familiar with the Secretary (of the Interior) standards for restoration projects. He is making sure that the house meets all those standards should grant opportunities avail themselves at a later date.”

The upkeep of Lyon Hall might cost more than Bluff Hall due to the large grounds. “We now own the entire block,” Brooker said.

The alarm system is setup and running.

The society also has to plan for parking needs and more restroom facilities for events. “There’s still some planning – and fundraising – that has to go on,” he said.

Adding Lyon Hall, that is all the historical society can handle as far as property, Brooker said.

“…Bluff Hall costs $40,000 a year to keep open. We’re looking at least that much to keep Lyon Hall open.” Laird Cottage has a trust that pays for its upkeep, he said.