If only Pledger Manor’s walls could talk. They would have a number of stories that come with being one of Clanton’s most renowned landmarks for 111 years.
Long before the Peach Water Tower reminded Interstate 65 travelers of Chilton County’s main crop, or before Peach Park and Durbin Farms Market sold that fruit and the delicious treats made from it, there was the mansion on Second Avenue North.
The house was built in 1901 by Dr. Emmett A. Matthews. A few years later it was sold to William Archie Reynolds and belonged to the Reynolds family until the late 1960s or early 70s.
Reynolds Mansion, as it was known at the time, became synonymous with Clanton because of its size, location and beauty–and because the family that owned it was one the city’s most well known. A family “watermelon party” was held at the mansion each year, bringing relatives even from out of state.
But the stately home fell on hard times after it left the hands of the Reynolds family. A column by Thomas F. Hill in the Feb. 2, 1976 edition of The Birmingham News raised the question of whether the building should be saved or razed. People who lived near the house asked the Clanton mayor and city council to condemn it. The city officials did so, and Reynolds Mansion was in line to be demolished until it was added to the Alabama Register of Heritage and Landmarks, according to the column.
Warner Floyd, director of the state’s historical commission, urged Mayor Bill Bennett to preserve the mansion, which had fallen into disrepair and had even had chandeliers, mantles and other items stolen from it. “This house is Clanton’s largest and most outstanding landmark,” Floyd wrote. “It also is one of the oldest residences in the area and we hope it can be reclaimed and put to public use.”
Repairs were made and the house obviously was not torn down, which wound up as good news for the home’s current owners, Jerry and Sharon Pledger. They bought the house in 1991. Some minor renovations were done, but mostly just a lot of cleaning up.
Sharon Pledger said she was in the market for a house with history, and she found just that. She has looked into the house’s past, including how it burned before the original construction was complete and then was rebuilt—with blocks instead of bricks but otherwise according to the original plans. A member of the Reynolds family once gave her a booklet with some history of the house and old photos. Pledger finds it strange to see a picture of a group of strangers standing in what is now her parlor.
Also, there are quirks for a modern family living in a historic home. Though the house is as spacious as would be expected, there is only one bathroom on each floor. Also, there are no closets. Pledger said it’s because at the time the house was built, property tax was based on the number of rooms in a house, and closets counted as rooms.
Then there are the ghost stories. Pledger’s husband and son say they’ve heard the mysterious sound of boots coming up the home’s main stairway, and people over the years have claimed to have seen an apparition of a young man in a military uniform.
Pledger, who calls herself a “logical person,” scoffed at the notion, especially because the house was built after the end of the Civil War…until she discovered Dr. Matthews’ younger brother was killed in battle.
“My philosophy is, if they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them,” Pledger said. “We haven’t had any problems, so I guess they’re happy with what we’ve done with the place.”
Haunted or not, Pledger has no plans to leave the house. And she definitely won’t let it fall back into its former state of disarray. “In a way, I feel like it belongs to the town,” she said. “It has touched so many people in one way or another through the years. It would be a shame for it to be destroyed.”