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Would You Like Tea With Your View?

By Heather , Bluffparkal.org  heather@bluffparkal.org  Photos by Heather, Bluffparkal.org

     Driving down Shades Crest Road in Bluff Park drivers are treated to several historical homes. Included are the Yellow Cottage, Uncle Wills home and On a Shoe String Antiques. Passing the 300 block one can drive right past a little known historic home built in the side of the cliff overlooking the valley. The only hint from the road that a home is below is a tan two door garage off the side of a semicircular drive. The driveway leads to the home once known as the Shades Cliff Tea Room.

     The Tea Room and residence was built by Mr. Clyde Orr and his wife in 1947. Orr built the home with one story facing the road and two stories in the side of the mountain facing the valley below. It is a gigantic 100 foot drop to the valley floor where an open air cave is located.

     Mr. and Mrs. Orr lived upstairs while Mrs. Orr operated her tea room on the bottom floor. The tea room was a popular spot for home-cooked lunches and dinners and of course the view. Hungry residents could not just walk in, reservations were required! Guest would come to the home by way of a long cement walkway that lead to a side door that entered the sitting room. The sitting room was a blue and pale orange color with a large arched window that opened to a stone terrace that jutted out over the mountain.

     Guest were seated in the dining area or in private cubbies large enough to fit a medium to large size party. The tea room had a second level that was accessible by a stairway on pulleys.

     The kitchen, located on the opposite end of the sitting room was where Mrs.Orr prepared the meals for her guest. Guest included ladies living in the area, church luncheons and garden clubs. The tea room operated into the early 1960s and then closed.  Today the house is only a private residence.


     One long-time owner of the home was Lathe Creason who lived in the cliff home well into his 80's and then sold the home to the current owners Ronnie and Jan Whitworth in 1998.

     Restoring and modernizing the home was the perfect project for Whitworth and his wife. The couple grew up in Bluff Park, both living on Chapel Road. Mrs. Whitworth had always wanted to live on the bluff side. When the house came up for sale the Whitworths saw an opportunity and after seeing the view bought the property.

     "We knew it would take a lot of work but unique projects are what Ron likes", Jan Whitworth says. The Whitworths live downstairs where the tea room once was. The sitting room is now the master bedroom and bath. The main dining area of the tea room was converted to a family room by Mr. Whitworth who also installed western red cedar planks in the room. The cubbies where private parties could dine now serve as a desk and entertainment area. Although the ladder is gone the loft is still used and decorated with family items and photos. The stone porch and veranda still make way to the breathtaking views. An iron railing still encompasses the porch and veranda but part of it is now removable. Mr. Creason altered part of the railing so that it could be removed to allow leg room while sitting on a swing. The Whitworths keep railing in place for safety. On the porch the Whitworths also placed a set of binoculars much like the ones at Look Out Mountain so that they could get a close up view across the valley.

     The original floor to celling windows are still as they were and the original double fireplace is still visible. Originally the gray fireplace acted as a divider between the sitting room and main dining area of the tea room.

     Mr. Whitworth had to equip the house with modern heat and air, adding vents to many of the upstairs rooms. A laundry room also had to be added, converting one of the bedrooms into a laundry and half bath.

     From the times of the tea room to the now modern residential home The Shades Cliff Tea Room reminds us that not every bit of history can been seen while just "passing by" we must dig and look for special gems that make our community a uniquely historic part of the city of Hoover and Jefferson County.



*BluffParkAl.org private interview and tour with owners Ronnie and Jan Whitworth.
*Linn Henley Research Library, Equalization file.
*Photos Courtesy BluffParkAl.org and the Whitworth collection

**The Shades Cliff Tea Room will be featured in the upcoming (2014) Images of America book Hoover from Arcadia Publishing and BluffParkAl.org Facebook.com/earlyhoover





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