JOIP intern Katherine Mauldin, from the University of Alabama’s Honors College, reflects on a hidden gem in Marion, Perry County. Part of a series of thought pieces from our interns embedded in communities across Alabama.
A series of bleached white columns rise up out of the ground in stark contrast to the deep greens of the surrounding gardens at 110 West Lafayette Street in Marion. Rows of open green black shutters beckon visitors to adventure past the stately trees towards the large front doors.
Reverie, the title of this architectural masterpiece, was built in 1858 by Joseph Whitsitt. This Greek Revival mansion was home to many prominent families of Perry County. Today, Reverie, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, provides an opportunity for visitors to explore and marvel at the stories of the past in Alabama’s Black Belt.
Ann Price has worked as a local tour guide of Reverie ever since the home’s newest owner, Hunter Lewis, purchased the property and furnished it as a historic house museum for the general public in 2011.
Living just down the street from Reverie for more than 30 years, Price is able to bring in personal experience when telling Reverie’s story. She remembers the Wood family living in Reverie, a “warm and welcoming” couple that resided in the home with their daughter and small dogs. The Woods tended the grounds themselves. They “often paused to speak to folks passing by”, recalls Price.
Price’s connection to Marion and understanding of Perry County inspires her to continue to seek information about Reverie and the lives of its inhabitants. “I enjoy people, and I’ve learned a lot about this place from others,” she said.
She was the practical and smart choice to be the designated tour guide as she lives nearby and studied architecture in Virginia. Price and her husband, Ray, moved to Marion in 1987 when he accepted a position as a mathematics professor at Judson College. Price, originally from a farming community in Marengo County, pursued her undergraduate degree from Judson College and later returned to teach in the home economics department at Judson.
In the first few years that Reverie was open as a house museum, the mansion hosted between 400 and 500 guests each year. Visitors included parents of Marion Military cadets, Judson visitors, Sunday school classes from Birmingham, and nearby garden clubs.
Most travelers hear about Reverie through word of mouth, though some discover this Black Belt treasure through its personal Wikipedia page.
Reverie offers something for everyone. Price has watched professional plumbers marvel at the claw foot tub in the ground level bathroom, and she has tasked small children with harvesting muscadine grapes from vines on the grounds. From the second-floor windows, guests of Reverie can look out toward the manicured boxwood maze as they search for the initials of former resident Sallie B. Hurt that she etched into the glass with her diamond engagement ring.
Most travelers hear about Reverie through word of mouth, though some discover this Black Belt treasure through its personal Wikipedia page. The State of Alabama’s Sweet Home Alabama Road trip series includes Reverie on Road Trip #30. Wherever people discover Reverie they can be sure to find Price’s name and phone number alongside the history of the site.
Lewis, Reverie’s owner, worked swiftly to prepare Reverie to appear on the Perry County Historical Society Home Tour only months after he purchased the house in 2011. This tour occurs every first Sunday in December and attracts Southern architecture and Alabama Black Belt enthusiasts year after year.
Price said Lewis’ faith in this community created Reverie’s success story. She said his trusting and practical nature helped open the doors of the antebellum mansion to the community. “If you don’t trust someone, then you can’t get anything accomplished,” she said.
That is evident in the uses of Reverie today as the mansion is still capable of functioning as a home. In fact, some of Marion’s most prestigious visitors and community development interns have the opportunity to stay at Reverie while working in Perry County. Price says Lewis’s leadership and vision helps this stately home “seem more alive” even though it functions as a museum.
Lewis worked hard to restore and furnish Reverie to showcase its rich history. Antiques, heavy chifferobes, and small crystal lamps were brought in from all over the region to add to the beauty. “The antiques look nice because they really are nice,” Price noted.
Price said the story of Reverie’s previous residents is just as priceless as the antiques. Every day, she works hard to complete that story. She is now searching for a portrait of Joseph Whitsitt, the first owner of Reverie, and records of Whitsitt’s land holdings.
Price said she enjoys sharing Reverie’s story with visitors from near and far. She often receives phone calls from curious road trippers who find themselves in the area. Locals will refer out of town tourists to Price or entire families will set up tours during a family reunion.
One unique visit that stands out is the time she became part of a couple’s marriage proposal story. The two traveled from Pennsylvania to fulfill their dream of visiting an historic Southern Greek Revival home. Unfortunately for the newly engaged Pennsylvania couple, Reverie is currently not available for weddings even though that is a frequent request, Price said.
Interested visitors can contact Ann Price at 334-683-6320 to set up organized tours of Reverie. These tours are free of charge to all interested visitors. Please allow at least one day of notice and one hour to be able to enjoy the full Reverie narrative.