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The Homes of the Shades Crest Road Historic District

Brother Will’s Home/The Taylor Home: A House of Memories and Change

637 Shades Crest Road

 By Heather , Bluffparkal.org  heather@bluffparkal.org  ; Photos by Heather ©2012 BluffParkAl.org

Bluffparkal.org will started a special series on the Homes of the Shades Crest Road Historic District in 2010. In the Historical Journey through Bluff Park Series we covered the district, its land and the resorts within it but not the homes, being that there are so many. In this new series, we will look at a few prominent, significant and unique homes out of the 65 structures inside the district.

The homes begin with 601 Shades Crest Road at the intersection of Park Avenue and Shades Crest Road and ends with 937 Shades Crest Road past Mr. P’s Deli on the shorter, less traveled side of Shades Crest Road (running parallel with Alford Avenue).  The first home in our series, "House of Scraps, On A Shoestring" 601 Shades Crest Road can be found here.



Continuing with our special series on the Homes of the Shades Crest Road Historic District, we are stopping at a home often passed and unnoticed that sits quiet and strong and holds memories dating back from its original builders all the way to present day with owners the Taylor/ Buchanan family. 

The sky blue house in the Williamsburg style was completed in the early 1900's by William M. Hale, who with his brother Evan, built several homes on Shades Crest for their family.  In a rare family photo dated 1908, from the collection of Susan Hale Copland Kelley, you can read her grandmothers own notes describing her house and "brother Willie's (Hale) house (637) in the background." In several family photos from Mrs. Kelley’s collection her grandmother refers to the home as “Will’s home. In other notes she calls it “site” of Gardner Hales Home 1863 to 1912. 



William M. Hale, 1910 - Brother Will's Home in background - Photo Courtesy Private Collection of Susan Hale Copeland Kelley Brother Will's Home in background - Photo Courtesy Private Collection of Susan Hale Copeland Kelley


This house was part of the home next door, 633 also built by the Hales.  Both houses were connected by a “Dog Trot” hallway which was popular at the time.  Sometime in the early 1930’s, the 2 houses were cut apart and 637 was moved to the new lot and house number. 

One of the later prominent owners of the home was Hugh Eddie Gilmore, former Jefferson County Commission president.  In 1970, Mr. And Mrs. Sterling Taylor bought the property.  The home then went to their son Mr. Thomas S. Taylor.  In his survey filed with the Hoover Historical Society, Taylor notes that the front porch roof was changed a bit and the screens around the porch were removed, but this was not the last of changes and additions to the house.  

Through his life in the house, Mr. Taylor, an architectural inspector by trade, made many additions to the home including a second living area that consisted of a bathroom and office area on the back of the house.

After Taylor’s death, the ownership moved to Mrs Connie Buchanan, his daughter.  Following her father’s passing, she had to decide what to do with the home she remembered so well from childhood.  

"I never lived in the house myself but just about everyday when my grandparents lived here I would come over after school," Connie Buchanan told bluffparkal.org during a private tour of her home.  

637 Shades Crest Road, 1949 - Brother Will's 637 (right). The Ann Susan (Susie) Hale Copeland House 641 (left). Photo Courtesy Private Collection of Susan Hale Copeland Kelley 637 Shades Crest Road, Side - Photo Courtesy Family Collection of Connie Buchanan

“I knew the house was old, like from the 30's, but I had no idea it was one of the original Hale homes.  I have some pics of the house from the 60's and 70's the way that my grandparents had it looking.  Lots of azaleas and rosebushes, a cute green and white awning over the screened in porch.”   

As you walk through the front you step into a large living area.  The original plans to the house had the area separated into two rooms.  Bookshelves put in along side a fireplace hide the original long windows only seen from the outside of the house.  

The hallway leading to the rest of the house was at one time blocked by a built-in pantry.  During Mrs. Buchanan's restoration and improvements, she removed the pantry to return that part of the house to more of the original floor plan.  

In what was her grandmother’s room, divots from her dads workout equipment can still be seen in the carpet.  Mr. Taylor, an avid rock and mountain climber, used the room to keep in shape. "  My father taught climbing down in the Moss Rock Preserve for years and even was on the front cover of The Birmingham Magazine in the 80's."  Because of his experience climbing, Mr. Taylor was one of the few people qualified to do the inspection of the glass atrium when the Riverchase Galleria was built.  

In the kitchen, Connie remembers her grandmother making her ham sandwiches when she would come over after school.  “She  made the best ham sandwich in the world and I still cant duplicate it, " Connie says.  “We would sit at the kitchen table and talk about how my day at school went.  She was a real classic southern lady."  

Behind the modern kitchen cabinets and appliances is a unique look at one of the house’s many additions.  A window in here once looked out over a stairwell to the backyard.  Now that same window looks into the laundry room.  Also adjoining the kitchen is the addition that Connie's father built in the 1980's.  

The addition that Mr. Taylor built includes a bathroom, living area, bedroom (or office area) and a walk-in closet.  Looking through the large windows in the living area of the addition, Connie looks out over the backyard she remembers playing in with her cousin and a few neighborhood kids.  

“I remember the Copeland's (at 641 Shades Crest Road and neighbor) when I was a little girl.  They were always so nice to me and my cousin LeighAnna, and would let us come over and pick plums out of the backyard plum trees.  To read more about 641 Shades Crest Road also known as “The Yellow Cottage” click here.

In the backyard today, Connie had planted a fig tree in memory of her father. 

  View from back of house

“I remember the sign for Frances's dance studio being there also.  I took dance classes from Ms. Frances when I was at Bluff Park Elementary, all the way until maybe 1980, I think.  I wasn't very good.  She used to get mad at me in class because I was one of the few who couldn't do a certain move where you lay on your stomach and arch your back and try to touch your feet to the back of your head.  Ouch!  Something every 8 year old should be able to do, right?”, she told me laughingly.   “I had dance classes after school... those were also days I would walk to MiMi and Papa's house, then walk to Frances's...fond memories.”   

The roots and long history of the home can be clearly seen in the basement of the home.  What is now the back wall of the basement was the original white wood paneling of the outside of the house.  The rock wall that changes into cinderblock tells the storied past of this home like a timeline in the dirt and mortar.  “I think its neat to see the different stage to the home down here, really its the only place in the house where you can do that.  Pointing down at the floor Connie points out the original concrete slab for the back porch/ patio she remembered as a kid still speckled a weathered shade of green.  

Original panneling in basement Connie showing where new and original home began
Now that the house is finished it is ready to rent.  Also, it is ready to have more family memories added to it’s history.  A historic home that already holds so many fond memories for Connie Buchanan and the Taylor family.

For a slideshow of the house, click here.



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