1004 Sycamore Street Northwest
The Schaudies-Banks Cottage was built around 1860 and named, in part, for shoe and boot maker Samuel Schaudies, who purchased the home for $800 in 1881. A former slave who learned his trade from his enslaver, F.O. Schaudies of Huntsville, Samuel Schaudies moved to Decatur in the 1870s with his wife, Abbie Robinson Shaudies, and established a shoemaking and repair business.
Another shoemaker of color, Robert Chardavayne, had owned the cottage before selling it to a white man, who “vowed that no black [person] would ever live in that residence again.” However, the Schaudies family was able to purchase it because Abbie Robinson Schaudies had fair skin and could “pass for white.” The cottage has been owned by black families ever since.
The original five-room cottage faced Sycamore Street, and an addition facing Wilson Street (then known as Pond Street) was built for Ida Mae Schaudies Moseley Bowen, daughter of Samuel and Abbie Schaudies. Another daughter, Tulie Ophelia Schaudies, married Republican businessman Hewlett J. Banks (son of Matthew H. Banks) in the cottage’s parlor in 1898. Decades later, Hewlett Banks would testify prior to the Decatur trial of Scottsboro Boys defendant Haywood Patterson, proudly stating “that he had been voting for the last fifteen years” and reading names from a list of prospective black jurors.
“I come to court as a spectator every chance I get… I have never seen in my life any Negroes step up as jurymen.”
—Hewlett J. Banks
Athelyne Celest Banks, the daughter of Tulie Schaudies and Hewlett Banks, was born in the Sycamore Street cottage and lived there for most of the next hundred years. A “tireless church worker, educator, and philanthropist,” she served briefly as the principal of Carver Elementary School, becoming the “first woman of color in the city to hold such a position.” A.C. Banks Park (on Vine Street near King’s Memorial United Methodist) is named in her honor, and Decatur’s Banks-Caddell Elementary School is partly named for her.
Across Wilson Street from the Schaudies-Banks Cottage is the former home of Dr. Willis J. Wood, built around 1890. A dentist who had an office on Bank Street, Dr. Wood also testified during the run-up to the Patterson trial. “I have never seen a colored man of African descent on a jury in Morgan County, nor heard of any,” he told the court.
Dr. Wood sold the house and relocated to Montgomery following his involvement in the trials. Tap the button at the bottom of the page to learn more about how the Scottsboro case impacted the Old Town community, and head south on Sycamore Street to visit the next tour stop.