The Gerald-Dowdell House
The Gerald-Dowdell house was built ca. 1854 for Perley Gerald and Camilla (Sanford) Buckley Gerald. Perley, an enterprising man from New York, moved to Alabama in 1829. He first settled in Mobile and then later moved to Montgomery to trade with the Creek Indians. He later made a fortune during the Gold Rush of 1849 and took to trading out west with the gold miners.
It was around this time he married Camilla Sanford Bunkley. Camilla came from a prominent family with several ties in the U.S. government; her brother, General John Williams Sanford, acted as a legislator in Georgia. Additionally, Camilla's nephew Colonel J.W.A Sanford, Jr. served as attorney general for the state of Alabama and is also credited as designer of the current state flag adopted in 1895.
The house is one of two associated with Perley Gerald, the first a Greek Revival mansion previously located on S. Lawrence Street in Montgomery, which was acquired in 1873 for use as a school by the Sisters of Loretto, a teaching order of the Roman Catholic Church. This structure was demolished in 1964.
Over the years, the Gerald-Dowdell house was home to several notable tenants. Herman Arnold, conductor of the orchestra for the old Montgomery Theater, rented the front left-comer room of the house in 1861. Arnold was as gifted a composer as he was conductor, and he arranged a handful of parade marches for the Montgomery Brass Band. Another notable figure was Judge Robert T. Simpson, a justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who occupied a room from 1940 to 1949.
The Gerald-Dowdell House is one of the few large, raised cottages remaining in Montgomery. It is one of twenty-two structures in the Montgomery area selected in the 1930s for the national Historic America Buildings Survey, and one of only ten still standing. It has undergone substantial rehabilitation as part of its conversion for use as a law office; in 2000, construction was completed on a new building connected to the historic structure through what was once an enclosed back porch. In keeping with the historic nature of the site, the addition is representative of a carriage house. Additionally, the building stands within walking distance of several key sites significant to the Civil Rights movement, among them is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King once served as pastor.