When I first arrived in Auburn as a freshman almost fifty years ago, many of the structures featured in this book not only were intact but were still in use—Broun Hall, Alumni Gym, Drake Infirmary, the Sports Arena, and a hodge-podge of legendary professors’ residences along College and Gay Streets and Thach and East Samford Avenues. My initial, unlearned impression of the campus and town—which seemed to blend together without any discernible boundaries—was that Auburn truly was the “loveliest village on the plain.”
Having spent my formative years in Mobile and Eufaula, two places known for their stately antebellum mansions and wide avenues, I immediately noticed that Auburn lacked both an abundance of “older” homes and majestic thoroughfares. In 1964 Auburn’s campus and town had not changed dramatically since 1946–48 when my father and mother (and their first–born child) lived in a small apartment on Professor Ehney Camp’s property on West Glenn Avenue. In a sense I felt that I had returned home to a special place that had nurtured my parents and had given them an opportunity to begin their lives together after the traumatic deprivations, dislocations, and separations their generation had endured during the Great Depression and World War II.
Lost Auburn’s three authors—Ralph Draughon, Jr., Delos Hughes, and Ann Pearson—also are self–described “returnees” to the Loveliest Village who came home after living elsewhere for many years. Along [End Page 312]with their unabashed affection for Auburn, they also bring to this book a wealth of experience in Alabama history, architectural history, and historic preservation. As a writing team, they have contributed considerable expertise, insight, and passion to this project.
In their preface the authors state that they sought to create a permanent record and compilation of Auburn’s architectural structures that were “destroyed, or so altered as to be no longer recognizable, or that have simply fallen into ruin” (vii). While describing their work as an “admittedly nostalgic record” of Auburn’s lost buildings, they direct the reader to walk around the town and “balance the value of what is gone from our midst with the merit and importance of all that now has replaced it” (6). Further explaining their motivation for publishing Lost Auburn, they cite the despicable, senseless poisoning of a “venerable object” on the campus in 2010: “Hallowed by tradition, the oaks at Toomer’s Corner remind us of how precious, and how ephemeral, landmarks in our community can be. Must we lose them to appreciate their worth?” (6).
Lost Auburn’s authors obviously are ardent historic preservationists, and they rely primarily on photographs to present their case. Yet, this relatively lean volume (174 pp.) is much more than another illustrated coffee table book. Upon close examination, one discovers a book that is packed throughout with a detailed treatment of Auburn’s architectural history accompanied by interesting historical vignettes of the men and women who actually inhabited the buildings.
This book is organized into thirteen chapters with titles such as “The College,” “Churches,” “Businesses,” and “Public Buildings.” Within the chapters the reader will discover a treasure trove of photographs, maps, and other documentation about fraternity houses, public schools, the Auburn Female Institute, train depots, movie theaters, the Presbyterian Church’s “Y–Hut,” the Drake “Green House,” the “Sani–Flush,” the Grille, the Copper Kettle, and numerous other famous Auburn landmarks that no longer exist. Lost Auburnalso includes documentation about a number of African American churches, schools, and businesses. Because of the dearth of historical data for this latter category of structures, the authors’ research and analysis are particularly noteworthy and represent [End Page 313]a significant contribution to our knowledge of Auburn’s African American community.
Despite the authors’ exhaustive research, Lost Auburn’s text contains some stylistic errors, conflicting facts, and repetitious material that probably could have been corrected during the editing process. A few examples hopefully will suffice. At the risk of engaging...