Preservation on Full Display at the Old 280 Boogie in Waverly, Ala.

Posted on: November 4th, 2013 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

Written by Katherine Malone-France, Director of Education, Outreach, & Support, Historic Sites Department

The crowd gathers for the Boogie in a open space ringed by historic buildings and pecan, oak, and sassafras trees. Credit: Katherine Malone-France
The crowd gathers for the Boogie in a open space ringed by historic buildings and pecan, oak, and sassafras trees.

When I was growing up in Alabama, we often passed through the small town of Waverly as we travelled along Highway 280 on the way to Auburn football games. I remembered the town primarily for its cemetery with a distinctive stone wall and a collection of small frame houses close to the road.

I had not been through Waverly in years, but, at the end of September, I was fortunate enough to spend a perfect fall day there at an event called the Old 280 Boogie. The Boogie is an outdoor concert that brings together all kinds of people -- musicians, music lovers, artists, and entrepreneurs -- to enjoy, enliven, and be inspired by this historic town in east central Alabama.

Actually, Waverly isn’t a small town. It is a tiny town, with only 145 residents and a total area of 2.7 square miles. Back in 2000, the Alabama Department of Transportation decided to widen Highway 280, but doing so through the center of Waverly would have destroyed the town. Ultimately, the road was re-routed to the south, and the first Old 280 Boogie was held in April 2001 to celebrate the preservation of Waverly. Today, the Boogie is held in both the fall and the spring, with other concerts in between.

Watching this year’s Fall Boogie unfold from a shady spot under a sassafras tree, I was struck by how many forms of preservation were on display and interacting with one another.

The Standard Deluxe logo on one of the historic buildings that the firm uses in Waverly. Credit: Katherine Malone-France
The Standard Deluxe logo on one of the historic buildings that the firm uses in Waverly.

A property with several historic buildings has been repurposed into the studio of graphic design firm and Boogie organizer Standard Deluxe without sacrificing the authenticity or the integrity of the buildings or the landscape that surrounds them. A new addition on one of them is an excellent example of compatible design. Sometimes, bands perform on the front porch of another that is vernacular perfection with its sawtooth details and mixed media piers.

None of these buildings has been restored at great cost, but they are made of the hardiest of materials, and all the basics are taken care of -- they’ve got metal roofs, well-ventilated foundations, windows that open and close, and vegetation kept at bay. Most importantly, they are loved and used.

In between the buildings, a stage has been built that features a historic billboard from the Heart of Dixie motel, long a landmark on Highway 280, now protected and re-purposed as a new kind of landmark.

During breaks in the music at the Boogie, people wandered respectfully around in the historic cemetery across the road, reading the gravestones of people born in the 18th century and taking pictures. Or they purchased food or crafts from businesses (like the The Overall Company, the Curious Fox, Wilton’s Catering, and Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Que) that operate in historic buildings or commercial districts and whose very existence helps communities maintain the economic viability that preserves their historic fabric.

Ramsay Midwood on stage at the Boogie. Credit: Katherine Malone-France
Ramsay Midwood on stage at the Boogie.

Moreover, the day’s musicians all referenced earlier forms of American music and instruments. (Saw playing, anyone?) And, just like the great Delta blues artists, headliner Jason Isbell’s lyrics document and preserve the cultural landscape of a particular moment in a particular place -- north Alabama of the 20th century, including the TVA’s Wilson Dam (completed in 1924 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966), nearby Seven Mile Island, the ubiquitous Alabama pines, my own hometown of Jacksonville, and even a notorious speed trap where I’ve been caught too many times.

There is still much to be done in Waverly and in so many places like it around the country to preserve them for the longer term. But events like the Boogie are reminders of how positive and expansive preservation can be. At its best and most transformative, preservation is about all kinds of people using and enjoying and gaining inspiration from historic places.

While I was at the Boogie, my friend Ben remarked, partially in jest, that the Boogie isn’t just an event; it’s a state of mind. I think the same is true of preservation. I would like to think it is a positive state of mind that encompasses so many things that make people happier and communities stronger. So, with apologies to the geniuses behind the Boogie, I’d like to borrow their slogan -- Preservation: No Haters Allowed.

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Roberts

    November 5, 2013

    Thanks for you article on Waverly. I just wish that you could get a total picture of this unique little village. It is deep in history and still has many residents that are direct decesendants of the original founding fathers back in the early 1830’s.
    This was of course long before the Hwy 280 boggie can about.

  2. Scott Peek

    November 10, 2013

    No Kidding Bill – KooL it is a unique place –
    (are you thinking about moving back?)
    I have spoken to Katherine about just-such-an-article-about Waverly. Hope we can make it Happen in the future.

    Back in the early 1800’s the town here was called Pea Ridge, Alabama. Direct descendants or not,
    today’s Waverly (or Pea Ridge as some of Us like to call it) is home to 145 very diverse citizens.
    “It’s a Mixed Bag of Nuts” as a buddy of mine
    calls it.

    is one of only a handfuL of businesses here . . .
    I’m in the top 2 or 3 as the Oldest !

    I’ve Only Lived here 23 years – Ten of which were pre-2001 ( the year the Old 280 Boogie ) started. During those years Standard Deluxe Inc. held concerts and events several times a year in various locations around town. It was a perfect fit when several townspeople got together
    to form the Old 280 Boogie in 2000. – Celebrating the “280” Bypass re-routing around Our Town.
    Standard Deluxe Inc. was the most active planning and leader in Organizing & Booking the “BOOGIE” from 2001 thru this day. ( i put in a music offer earlier today for our April 2014 event ! )
    There is still a “BOOGIE” planning committee which consists of 7-10 Townspeople and Close Friends.

    The 14th Annual WAVERLY (Old 280) BOOGIE
    is scheduled for APRIL 19th, 2014.

    ALL are WELCOME.