DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — Over several years, Francis Tate spent hundreds of hours re-creating Old Town in Decatur with ink drawings and watercolor paintings using water from the Tennessee River.
Tate says her goal was to paint every house, business and church that once stood in the historic town. Those paintings will now be the foundation for a planned multi-million-dollar museum.
Paintings and drawings of churches and facilities built by Dr. Willis Edward Stirrs will be on display at the museum.
“This is the cottage home infirmary, built and operated by Dr. Willis E. Stirrs who was a black physician and surgeon,” Tate explained when showing off her artwork to News 19. “Every piece of painting has a piece of the community.”
After noticing a historical picture on a wall in the county building of churches in her hometown, Tate couldn’t help but notice that none of the churches in the photo included those in Old Town Decatur.
“Somebody needs to do something about this because we need to preserve our history,” said Tate.
After years of working and retiring from the telephone business, Tate decided to take up art and began to draw and paint with watercolors as she was determined to revive her community’s legacy of Old Town.
“The foundation of this city is Old Town. People want to forget it, but they are not going to forget it,” Tate said.
Many of the homes and buildings had fallen victim to urban renewal and neglect in the 1980s. but after creating over 350 paintings with one structure at a time Tate has revived Old Town.
The paintings and photographs are the inspiration for leading the building of the Scottsboro Boys’ Museum in Decatur. The nine black youths who were arrested and falsely accused of raping two white women lived in Decatur for the duration of the trial in 1933.
“Our project started with me rebuilding old town painting all the houses that were destroyed by urban renewal,” said Tate. “That’s how it got started.”
The completion of the moving of trial judge James Horton’s home to the site of the museum is start of a multi-million-dollar project that’s supported by the city.
“This is history that we cannot let go untold and we will not forget it,” Tate told News 19.
The project for the museum is slated to be completed by the year 2025.