Figh-Pickett House & Barnes School

The Figh-Pickett House was built in 1837 by John P. Figh, Sr.  Figh was a brickwork contractor, and his portfolio included the original campus of the University of Alabama and the first state capitol building in Montgomery.  Sadly, both were destroyed by fire, but Figh recovered some of stone flooring from the capitol and incorporated them into his home.  His services were retained for the building of the current capitol building in 1850.

The Barnes School in 1934 (photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Historical Society)

In 1858 Figh sold the house to Albert James Pickett.  Though trained as a lawyer, Pickett made his name as Alabama's first published historian.  His two volume History of Alabama was published in 1851, and he was working on a comprehensive Southern history when he bought his new home.  Unfortunately he died before his family was able to move in, but they lived their after his death for nearly half a century.

Following the end of the Civil War, the Union Army forces sent to Montgomery requisitioned the Pickett home for use as their headquarters.  Following their departure, Pickett's widow, Mrs. Sarah Pickett, was forced to operate her home as a bed & breakfast.  Mrs. Pickett died in 1894, and in 1906 the Pickett family sold the home to Elly Barnes.

Justus McDuffie "Mack" Barnes in 1912 (photo courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives & History)

In 1898, Justus McDuffie "Mack" Barnes and his son Elkanah Ruff "Elly" Barnes resigned their teaching positions at Highland Home College to open a new school in Montgomery.  The Barnes School opened in the same year, but Mack only stayed on as a teacher until 1904.  In 1906 Elly bought the Pickett home and renovated it to serve as the new campus for his nearly one hundred students.  The Barnes School operated as the premier private school for boys in Montgomery with Elly Barnes as headmaster until 1942, when the loss of faculty members to serve in World War II forced its closure.  Starting with the one room Strata Academy on a farm in 1856 and ending in 1942 in downtown Montgomery, the Barnes family provided nearly a century of education to central Alabama.  It's only a rumor that I haven't been able to verify yet, but I've even been told that Elly Barnes sold the majority of the school's supplies and materials to another institution that started up later in 1942, Montgomery Bible School.  MBS became Alabama Christian College in 1953, and in 1985 it split into Faulkner University, Alabama Christian Academy and Amridge University, so it's possible the Barnes legacy is still technically alive today.

Following the closing of the Barnes School, the building served as a car dealership, a church, a paint store, and a convenience store.  In 1996 it was slated for demolition to make room for the expansion of the federal courthouse.  The Alabama Historical Commission stepped in and partnered with the Montgomery County Historical Society to save the building and have it moved to its current location.  The Society immediately set about restoring it to a more historical appearance, and the building currently serves as their headquarters. It is the oldest surviving brick home in Montgomery County.   The photos below show the two sides of the Figh-Pickett House historical marker, as well as a current look at the front of the building.

Figh-Pickett House historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Figh-Pickett House

John P. Figh, a native of Maryland, built this, the oldest surviving brick dwelling in Montgomery, ca. 1837, at the corner of Clayton and South Court Streets. Figh was one of the chief contractors for the construction of the Alabama State Capitol. He also served as city alderman. In 1858, Figh sold his house to Alabama’s first historian, Albert James Pickett, from North Carolina. Although Pickett died just before moving in the house, his family lived here for more than 50 years.
— Alabama Historical Association - 1997

Barnes School historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Civil War - Barnes School

In April 1865, the Union Army command made this house its headquarters. Mrs. Pickett hid her silver on an inside ledge of the cupola. Later, former Confederate Generals Hood, Bragg and Walker visited here. In 1906, Professor Elly Barnes bought the house for use as a private school for boys, which rapidly achieved fame for its quality. The Barnes School closed in 1942. In 1996, the house was rescued from demolition with the help of the Alabama Historical Commission and moved to its present location by the Montgomery County Historical Society.
— Alabama Historical Association - 1997

Figh-Pickett House, former home of the Barnes School, current home of the Montgomery County Historical Society