Pleasant Ridge History
Pleasant Ridge is the only brick antebellum residence remaining in Wilcox County and one of the few remaining plantation houses in the Canton Bend area. It is one of less than a dozen brick plantation houses to survive in the Black Belt. Its detailing is typical of Wilcox County architecture of the late 1830s and early 1840s – a mixture of both Federal and Greek Revival influences applied to an essentially folk form, in this case a brick I-house with a frame ell. With a main block two stories high and only one room deep, the I-house takes its odd name from the resulting tall, slender side profile.
The home was built in 1838 for Tristram Benjamin “Trust” Bethea, a prominent lawyer and Alabama legislator. The Bethea family came from Cheraw District, S.C., to Mobile prior to 1820. In 1831 Tristram married his cousin Eugenia, daughter of David and Mary Ann Bethea, at their plantation on the Alabama River at Canton Bend.
Although he moved his permanent residence to Mobile in 1850, then later to Montgomery, the house served as a country residence for the family until 1860. Around 1860 Tristram sold his brick plantation home to his wife’s sister and her husband, Dr. and Mrs. George Miller. Only a few years later, the Millers sold the property to J.C. Stoddard, who, in 1873, sold the house to Joseph E. Strother. Joseph and his descendants lived in the home until the 1940s and continued to own the house into the 1980s.
Unoccupied since the 1940s, the house became a picturesque ruin, but its architectural and historical significance begged for preservation. In the late 1980s, Pleasant Ridge found its savior when new owners tackled the most extensive restoration project ever undertaken in Wilcox County. This remarkable and painstakingly accurate restoration remains among the Black Belt's most inspiring preservation stories.
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Historic American Buildings Survey
Pleasant Ridge was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1937, and a dozen remarkable photos, along with data sheets, are archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. HABS is the nation's first federal preservation program, begun in 1933 to document America's architectural heritage. Take a look at Pleasant Ridge on HABS here.
The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, while it was still unoccupied and considered one of Alabama most endangered properties. Details here.
In 1993, the rescue and restoration of Pleasant Ridge was celebrated in the beautiful large-format book Silent in the Land, with gorgeous photos by Chip Cooper and essays by Harry Knopke. The book features 60 Alabama houses depicting majors styles and periods of Southern architecture.