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THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2007
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Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com

Decatur resident Lawanda Allison bought and restored this Courtland home. She wants to develop it into an Inn.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Decatur resident Lawanda Allison bought and restored this Courtland home. She wants to develop it into an Inn.

'Alli's Inn' ready to open in restored historical home

COURTLAND — “Oh my gosh,” Lawanda Allison recalls saying when she first gazed upon what she could see of the 1905 Rebman-McGarry house at 729 Tennessee St.

It was going to be “a big undertaking.”

Trees and shrubs reached the roofline of the first story of the two-story, 4,000-square-foot home, which had stood empty for years. For a moment, she might have wondered what she was getting into.

But that was before she dodged the snakes on the 1.5-acre property and stepped inside.

“I saw a beautiful old house that had been neglected and needed some tender loving care,” the Decatur resident said. “I could see the potential of bringing out that beauty. It felt like home when I walked through the door.”

That was in June, after her Hatton friend, Carmaleta Coan, pointed her in that direction.

“There’s this house for sale,” Coan had said. “You might want to check on it.”

A week after her visit, Allison made an offer, but a Madison couple outbid her.

“About two weeks later, a niece representing the Rebman estate called and said the couple had backed out. They thought restoring it would be too much work,” Allison said. “Boy, were they ever right.”

During some stretches over the next year, while pouring $200,000 and muscle into the project, she worked on the house seven days a week. Otherwise, it was five days every week. She spent the night a few times, eager to get contractors going the next day.

“The house is totally restored,” she said. “The biggest headaches were electrical and plumbing, although I spent about a month taking down layers of old wallpaper, some of it painted over.”

Allison is utilizing a third story of the house for heating and air ducts.

She was surprised that “a house of this character” had no crown molding. She put it in every room but one upstairs bedroom.

The house, which has five bedrooms and 41/2 baths, was originally Victorian style. The Rebmans added the neo-classical columns and wrap-around porch.

Allison kept everything that was salvageable, like two claw-foot bathtubs and two pedestal tubs, and filled the house with antique light fixtures and mirrors.

“I had a pair of candelabras that I gold leafed,” she said. “Some experts told me they couldn’t electrify it, but Laura Terry of Courtland did just that, making it look like an old gas light fixture.”

It is tied into the wiring on one wall and operated by a regular light switch on another wall.

Allison latches onto antiques where she finds them. Walking around Mentone during a portion of the “World’s Largest Yard Sale” with her friend June Maxwell of Cotaco Valley, she bought dining room furniture “from a Scottsboro man who delivered.”

Allison said Maxwell “put a lot of sweat equity” into the restoration.

Allison has two dining rooms and a sunroom where she can place tables.

“Eventually, I hope to do a little tea room and, during good weather, have an outside table under the pergola and porch,” she said.

And what she might not have envisioned in the beginning, she sees clearly now — a wonderful place she calls “Alli’s Inn.” She is now taking reservations for weddings, receptions and private parties, such as family reunions, and plans an open house May 19. For more information, call 340-9948 or 603-7507.

Allison, 59, who moved to Decatur from Huntsville in February 2005, always wanted to restore old houses but didn’t have the opportunity during the 30 years she worked as a program analyst for the Army at Redstone Arsenal.

She spent six months on her first project, restoring a Cape Cod home in Decatur on Eighth Avenue Northeast. Built in 1945, it is on the National Register of Historical Places. She sold it to former Mayor Julian Price at the end of May 2006.

“Lawanda did wonderful work, a great job,” Price said. “The house has three bedrooms with a finished attic as a fourth bedroom or playroom.”

He bought the house for his daughter, Kimberley Price Reid, who is returning from Australia with her husband, New Zealander Mark Reid, and their three children. She has lived in Australia the past 12 years.

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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