The Lions of Court Square

We're looking at out first historical marker today, but it's not the traditional roadside metal plaque on a post you might be thinking about.  This is a stone stele in downtown Montgomery with 4 lion heads around the top.

Decorative Lions Heads on their stele on the north side of Court Square, Montgomery, Alabama

If you've ever been to Court Square in Montgomery, you've certainly seen the fountain that dominates the roundabout.  We'll cover the fountain in a later post, but just northeast of the fountain is a small triangular park, and you'll find the lion heads on the western tip.  Drivers probably pass them all the time and think "why did someone put four lion heads on a post?"  If only they all read Goat Hill History.

In 1888, Montgomery's largest business was the Moses Brothers Banking & Realty Company, and they built the city's first "skyscraper", a six-story building on Court Square.  That building was demolished in 1907 to make way for the new twelve-story home of the First National Bank of Montgomery.  The top of the building was lined with a few dozen lion heads, as you can see in the next photo.

First National Bank of Montgomery in 1960 (photo courtesy of the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History)

The name of the bank changed a few times, and in 1978 the the building received the most significant renovation in its lifetime.  The lions were left homeless, and the next photo shows the end result for the "skyscraper".

The Rensant Bank today

Someone at the bank decided that at least a few of the lion heads were worth saving, and the existing monument is the result of that effort.  You can read the plaque's inscription here, or see the next photo.

Decorative Lions Heads
1907 - 1978

Presented to Montgomery by the First Alabama Bank of Montgomery, N.A.

These decorative terra cotta lions heads, typical of the ornamentation used in commercial style architecture in the early par of the 20th Century, were utilized by the First National Bank of Montgomery on the cornice of their 12 story building from 1907 to 1978. Organized on April 18, 1871, the first location of the bank was on Dexter Avenue which was then called Market Street. In 1975, the name of the bank was changed to First Alabama Bank of Montgomery, N.A. Extensive renovations to the 12 story building in 1978, including the removal of the lions heads, created a new look for First Alabama and the downtown Montgomery area.

Decorative Lions Heads plaque, Court Square, Montgomery, Alabama

Closeup of the Decorative Lions Heads, Court Square, Montgomery, Alabama

The lion heads didn't alter the course of the nation, or even the course of the city, but they're a fun little oddity.  Be sure to check back next week, where we'll venture way out of town for the most remote historical marker in Montgomery County.