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Bankhead House and Heritage Center

Peter R. Thomas Jr., Auburn University
The Bankhead House and Heritage Center in Jasper, Walker County, showcases the past and present of Walker County and the surrounding area through a variety of exhibits. The brick Colonial Revival home was constructed by congressman and later Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives William Brockman Bankhead (1874-1940) in 1925. His daughter Tallulah Bankhead was reported to have been wed in the house, in 1937.
Bankhead House and Museum
The center was founded by local businessman John T. Oliver Jr., who also was a founding board member of the Walker Area Community Foundation (WACF). It is a charitable organization established in 1995 as a permanent endowment to support the needs of the Walker County community and improve residents' quality of life. The home was opened as the Heritage Center in 2010 after extensive renovations in support of the WACF. Oliver had married into the Bankhead family when he wed Walter Will Bankhead's daughter Barbara. Oliver's goal with the Bankhead House was to create a place that displayed and recognized the history and heritage of Walker County and hold events to celebrate the area's culture. The center relies on donor contributions to present exhibits, sponsor events, and offer educational programs.
Some exhibits change several times a year and are based on input from an exhibit committee that also helps organize events ranging from concerts and movie nights to guest speakers. It also collaborates with other entities on programming. Between April 2017 and 2018 for example, it contributed to the Alabama Humanities Foundation's Water/Ways project, which was a cooperative project with the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street program and part of the Smithsonian "Think Water" initiative that aimed to raise awareness of water as a source for life through exhibitions, educational resources, and programs.
Exhibits within the house concentrate on local, regional, and natural histories of Walker County. Some may illustrate the daily life of an ordinary citizen living in the area. Others are more focused and concentrate on the describing the histories of Native Americans and African Americans in Walker County. Many of the exhibits showcase artifacts, pottery, and art and emphasize people such as writers, musicians, collectors, photographers, workers and students. Others have focused on birds, football, Walker County residents who have served in the military, and quilting. One current exhibit focuses on local artifacts from the surrounding area, with a new location emphasized with each rotation of the exhibits. This is scheduled to run all the way to 2023. Several rooms in the house have also been converted into fixed galleries. The Congressional Library and Living Room highlights the contributions of Walker County residents who served in the U.S. Congress whereas the Tallulah Bankhead Room showcases artifacts from the life of the famed actress.
The center holds numerous events, such as movie nights and holiday activities. Jazz, bluegrass, and blues concerts are held at a small amphitheater located behind the house during the summer and fall. The center publishes a seasonal newsletter, The Giver, on community issues and events. It also discusses the grants awarded through the WACF Community Fund, which supports a variety of local projects and issues. Past grants have supported projects with Alzheimer's of Central Alabama, the Humane Society, American Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity among others.
The Bankhead House and Heritage Center is located at 800 7th Street West in Jasper and is open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the third Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Admission is free. Tours are self-guided, but groups and schools can set up guided tours by contacting the Heritage Center. The WACF is located across the street at 611 8th Avenue. There is another Bankhead home in Jasper located at 1400 7th Avenue, known as "Sunset." This Classic Revival-style home was built by Sen. John Hollis Bankhead (1842-1920), William's father, in 1910. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 but is not open to the public. Just to the north of Jasper is the Bankhead National Forest.
Published:  August 30, 2018   |   Last updated:  August 30, 2018