The Winter Building

We're back to downtown Montgomery for this post.  John Gindrat wasn't one of the original inhabitants of the city of Montgomery, but he was one of the early power players.  He built the first brick house in the city, and served as mayor on two separate occasions.  He also donated part of the land for the original First Baptist Church.  In 1841 he built what would become the Winter Building on Court Square to serve as the Montgomery branch of the Bank of St. Mary's.  John Gano Winter operated the Bank out of Columbus, Georgia, and soon John Gano Winter's son Joseph married John Gindrat's daughter Mary Elizabeth.  In 1848, Joseph Winter and his father-in-law opened a new bank, J.S. Winter & Co., in the Winter Building.  John Gindrat died in 1854, and the building passed to his daughter Mary Elizabeth.

On February 4, 1861, the Montgomery Convention convened at the Alabama State Capitol.  The purpose of the Convention was to organize the preliminary government of the Confederate States of America.  The Convention's most famous attendee was former President John Tyler, who served as one of the delegates for Virginia until his death less than a year later.  The Confederate States Army was established in March, and P.G.T. Beauregard was commissioned as the first Confederate general officer.  He was immediately sent to  Charleston, South Carolina to take control of the siege of Fort Sumter.  That same week, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, and was immediately saddled with the Fort Sumter crisis.

On April 6th, Lincoln notified the government of South Carolina that the U.S. was sending supplies to their troops at Fort Sumter, but he did not communicate to the C.S.A. government in Montgomery.  South Carolina governor Francis W. Pickens notified General Beauregard of the pending re-supply mission, and Beauregard sent word back to Montgomery.  C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis met with his cabinet on April 9th, and the decision was made to have Beauregard make one final demand to surrender the fort.  If the U.S. forces refused, Beauregard was ordered to destroy the fort before the supplies could arrive.  The Montgomery office of the Southern Telegraph Company was on the second floor of the Winter Building, and on April 11th the final pre-war communication from President Davis to General Beauregard was sent by C.S.A Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker.  In local lore, this has gone down as the Telegram Which Began The War Between The States.  This telegram is the Winter Building's biggest claim to fame.

The next three photos show the Winter Building from Court Square in 1890, 1938, and today.

The Winter Building in 1890, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama (photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives & History)

The Winter Building in 1938, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama (photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives & History)

The Winter Building from Court Square, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Our next photo shows the front of the Winter Building, followed by the Winter Building historical marker and its text, the reverse side showing the Telegram Which Began The War Between The States and its text, and finally we have a map showing the location of the marker and the building.

Front of the Winter Building from Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Winter Building historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Winter Building

Built in 1841 by John Gindrat to house the Montgomery branch of the Bank of St. Mary’s. In 1854 was willed to his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Winter. On April 11, 1861, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker sent telegram from second floor offices of Southern Telegraph Company to Charleston authorizing Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard to fire on Fort Sumter. Subsequent bombardment was first military action of War Between the States. Building placed on National Register of Historic Places, 1972, and restored in 1978.
— Alabama Historical Association - 1981

Reverse of the Winter Building historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Telegram Which Began War Between The States

Montgomery, April 11, 1861

General Beauregard, Charleston:

Do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter. If Major Anderson will state the time at which, as indicated by him, he will evacuate, and agree that in the meantime he will not use his guns against us unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter, you are thus authorized to avoid the effusion of blood. If this or its equivalent be refused, reduce the fort as your judgement decides to be most practicable.

L.P. Walker
Sec. of War, C.S.A.
— Alabama Historical Association - 1981

The Winter Building has been empty for several years now, but it is currently planned as one of the centerpieces of the new Montgomery Market District.