It took Marvin and Elayne Jackson all spring and most of the summer to receive a response to their application for recognition of their building which has recently been added to Alabama’s Register of Historic Places.
According to the oldest record on the property in question, located at the intersection of Sommerville Ave. and Byler Road, the spot was first recorded as a deed to T. J. and Sarah Coffey in 1929. The couple owned several lots, according to the earliest recorded paperwork available.
The Coffeys sold the perfectly situated plot of land to A.S. Byars.
On March 14, 1944, Amos Taylor purchased the lot that divides Byler Road and Sommerville Avenue. He built a small cinder block building which he and his wife opened as a grocery store in 1945.
The store served the community well, offering them things that they previously had to walk miles into town to purchase and then make another long walk back home. Like most community stores this one provided the people who lived nearby with the necessities of life, like milk, tobacco and penny candy. They tried to anticipate every need their customers could possibly want, including hardware.
The little store remained the hub of the community until the death of Mr. Taylor, in 1968. Soon afterward Mrs. Taylor moved away.
At the time the Taylor’s operated the business, Marvin Jackson was just a gleam in his daddy’s eye, but then when he was in high school the business which had been operated intermittently by various members of the community, was a gas station/convenience store owned by banker Wayne Gentry, who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. William Jackson, in 1971. For the following 20 years the Jacksons would keep the store opened and ran it competently, keeping their sons busy. The Jackson’s called their business, “Jacksons Burger Bar” and it brought people in for various reasons, but especially for the burgers. It was also a hangout for teens who liked to meet under the streetlight that kept the whole triangular shaped area well lit on dark nights.
There was also a Laundromat, and other businesses, such as a fruit stand, and a restaurant, that came and went over the years, but the longest to stay were Jackson’s Burger Bar and the Laundromat.
In 2002, Marvin Jackson, one of the young men who had once sat under that old streetlight, talking and joking with his friends, acquired both the buildings.
The area had changed very little since the store was built in 1945. When Jackson bought the store there were apartment buildings behind it, Freeman Tabernacle Church sat across the road, and a small strip of buildings, including the one that once housed the laundromat, Smith Chapel CME Church, the Byler Road Church of Christ, and a closed high school and an elementary school turned into one of the first 4-year–old kindergartens in the state. Marvin’s earliest teachers, Mrs. Mercie D. Burns and Mrs. Pearl Jackson instilled in him a drive to succeed that has remained with him ever since.
Jackson attended the Rosenwald-style school as an elementary student, but transferred to LCHS for the remainder of his school days.
On June 29, 2003, Marvin Jackson married Elayne Beauchamp. As beautiful as the former airline stewardess was, it was a fondness for good food that had convinced Marvin to pop the question.
From 2002-2010 the couple ran The Hot Spot as well as doing outside catering jobs. Their opening was delayed by a freak accident in which a car ran all the way through the building from front to back.
Since they both had public jobs the restaurant was put on hold for a time while they worked until they retirement.
As a way of making improvements and letting the public know they were opened for business, a raised flowerbed was built on city property in front of the location where The Hot Spot sits in order to prevent another accident. Elayne designed it, and the concept was also adopted in town.
Since committees and foundations have been formed to help protect some of our historic buildings, people are beginning to notice and realize that once they are gone, they are gone forever. Having them put on the historic registry enables the boards of these foundations and committees to apply for grant monies to help such local historic treasures as The Jackson House, The Hot Spot and the old Farmer’s Gin, along with many buildings on the square in both Courtland and Moulton, and some cases, older homes in the county. Having The Hot Spot chosen to be placed on the prestigious pages of the Alabama Register of Historic Places make it a nice place to visit for both historians and people who appreciate good Southern food.
“Keep it Southern and keep it Simple,” are words that the couple incorporate into their menu and into their daily lives.
In late June, Marvin opened his mail to find a letter from the Alabama Historical Commission. It reads in part: “Considering its long service to the community, having been in continuous service since 1945, it’s a well known place, and name and importance to the African–American community, we recommend that the Hot Spot be placed on the State of Alabama Register of Historic Places.”
Nothing could have pleased the Jacksons more!
They plan to feature a framed copy of the letter notifying them of the building’s status on the Alabama Register of Historic Places, as well as incorporating old-timey tools and other items from local farms, farm implements and photos of local interest prominently into their décor. Marvin is also adding a covered courtyard on the side. “We are looking forward to our grand opening this fall,” said Elayne. Her cookbook, ‘What’s Cooking, Elayne?’ will also hold pride of place in the new restaurant. The couple is interested in attaining copies of old pictures of the area, especially of this building, but also of the churches, the school and other gathering places in the community. If you have some to share, please let them know.
The historic aspect of The Hot Spot and the area surrounding it might be news to some of the younger generation but for people familiar with this area, it is a well known fact that some of the South’s finest food, especially that traditional favorite, hickory smoked barbecue, came from this part of town back in the day.
The Jacksons intend to make that a priority when they finish restoring their building. Their pride in having it placed on the State Register of Historic Places is second only to the pride they take in cooking and serving food that is also a part of the history connected to it. The streets will once again boast of the tantalizing scent of barbecue and home-cooked Southern foods like pork chops and fried chicken, along with fresh vegetables in season and more of Elayne’s specialties, like spicy Cajun dishes and fancy desserts, everything from peach cobbler that will melt in your mouth, to elaborately decorated wedding cakes.
They plan to keep the building’s historic features intact as much as possible, but intend for the courtyard attached to the side of it to be a welcoming place where people can once again congregate to fellowship, share a meal and swap their memories of people and events from the past.
Saving these historic buildings and restoring them not only brings back our own memories, they keep our county vital and interesting to visitors, especially those who return for family or high school reunions. This building won’t sit shuttered and dark like so many Mom and Pop stores of its era, but thanks to Marvin and Elayne Jackson’s interest in its history, it will once again be a place in which the community can take great pride.