‘It’s really going to happen,’ mayor says
By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE – Trussville City Councilman Zack Steele said that the downtown entertainment district project that began recently should be complete by spring 2020.
Steele is an eye doctor, so the news coming from him is fitting, because the vision of what Trussville will soon look like is clear.
“It’s just going to be much more pleasing aesthetically than what’s there,” Steele says.
The Trussville City Council awarded a $15.2 million bid to Russo Corporation for public improvements in the downtown area.
Demolition started on the Braden’s furniture building at the corner of Main Street and North Chalkville Road on Jan. 2. It will make room for retail, parking, and maybe a small plaza area. Steele says that corner is the “most visible part of Trussville and the centerpiece of downtown.”
“It needs to be something that’s really going to stand out,” he says.
The site is significant. Before the Civil War broke out, Trussville was one of the most prosperous agricultural communities in the northern half of the state of Alabama. Almost all able-bodied men in Trussville volunteered for the Confederacy, leaving just women, children, and men who were too paltry for service or possessed occupations of necessity in the community, behind. The men who volunteered brought with them just about every mule, horse and food stored for the next year. The land in Trussville was virtually deserted except for small gardens and sections of farm land that those who stayed behind cultivated.
Ten percent of all meat, corn and wheat in storage or raised was taken by the Confederate government for support of its army and navy. The tenth taken was designated as a war tax, known as a “tax in kind.” Set aside for government use, the tenth was amassed in a stone storehouse that had been converted into a warehouse for these supplies. The warehouse, which belonged to Captain Thomas Truss and Marcus Worthington, was well filled with supplies when, on April 20, 1865, General James H. Wilson and a brigade of Federal soldiers came through. The Federals took all they could and attempted to burn the storehouse, which was located on Georgia Road and Jasper-Talladega Road, now the corner of Main Street and North Chalkville Road. The stench of burning wheat was stifling, though most was salvaged and ground into flour.
The Federal troops burned other houses, drove away cattle and sheep, and took with them serviceable horses and mules. One of the burned buildings was a combination store and post office owned by Thomas K. Truss, a building that had stood where Glenn’s Store was eventually located. To prevent such a raid on Trussville, Thomas K. Truss had organized “Truss’ Home Guards,” although it is not known what effect the unit had on General Wilson and his raiders in 1865. A detachment of Wilson’s raiders that burned the storehouse was under the command of John T. Croxton, Brigaider General U.S. Volunteers.
Demolition is also ongoing on Morrow Avenue, where eventually an entertainment district will be constructed. There is a brewery now and one more on the way. There will be restaurants, shops, and an entertainment stage for concerts. The hope is to keep Trussville residents within their own city’s limits for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
“We’re looking forward to making some good memories, for sure,” Steele says. “It’s going to be our own entertainment district. It’s going to be where people can go and congregate and hear music and have dinner and bring their kids. I don’t think we’re trying to be a Mountain Brook or Vestavia or Hoover. I think we’re a very up-and-coming city that’s trying to figure out what it wants to be. We’re just trying to create our own identity right now.”
Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat says this is “by far” the biggest improvement ever associated with Trussville’s downtown revitalization efforts.
“I think this downtown will change Trussville’s footprint or the look and feel of Trussville forever,” Choat says.
He envisions Trussville residents spending their time downtown. He sees people in town for business checking it out. Residents of nearby cities will shop, eat, and have fun in Trussville. The entertainment stage will set Trussville apart, Choat believes.
“Just make it fun,” he says.
Another interesting aspect is that the downtown footprint can expand further. There is room around Watterson Parkway and Railroad Avenue to develop and grow. Those areas could be looked at in the future. Trussville is beginning work on its 2040 vision. What does it want to be? Where does it want to go?
Architectural designs for what is to come soon downtown will pull from historic Cahaba Project homes, buildings already in the city, and the famous gazebo on Parkway Drive. Trussville is moving forward, but it will bring with it some of the past.
“We’re kind of setting our own design,” Choat says. “It’s going to be incredible. I can’t wait.”
Choat says that two years ago when the city made its first presentation to the Trussville Area Chamber of Commerce on what downtown will become, the theme was, “It’s Really Going to Happen.” It has been talked about for decades. As progress continues and Choat provides updates to Trussville residents via social media, he will include the tagline, “It’s Really Going to Happen.”
“If you say it’s going to happen that’s one thing, but if they see it then it’s really going to happen,” Choat says. “Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”