Alabama’s public education system was born at Barton Academy along Government Street in January of 1839.
The Greek Revival building, which was first proposed in 1830, has been beset with problems in finances and construction since its beginning. Original funding was stalled until the legislature voted to allow funds to be raised by lottery. Halfway through the construction, a determination was made that the work on the roof was faulty or incomplete, resulting in water damage to the interior. Since that time, decades worth of unsympathetic remodels have altered the building so that only the interior rotunda under the dome remains in its original configuration.
With the exception of the Civil War years, Barton was a place of learning until the 1960s, when the Mobile School Board took it as its headquarters. The structure has been vacant since 2007, when the school system’s central office moved to West Mobile. Currently, Barton Academy is stamped as a “Threatened Historic Site, ” and it has been listed on the Alabama Historical Commission’s register of “Places in Peril, ” due to maintenance neglect and a risk of demolition. The Barton Academy Committee was formed to assist the Mobile County Public School System in preservation efforts, explore pot-ential usage options for facilities and raise funding for restoration. To learn more or to donate to the cause, visit savebartonacademy.org.
text and photo by Catt Sirten