|The Edmund Pettus house in Selma, Alabama
(a historic plaque now denotes its location) was built in 1853 and
survived the civil war. The extended family lived in the house
until the early 1960’s but by then the last generation of children had
moved away to separate lives. After being empty for a year, and
with no one to breathe life back into the house, it was sold to an
entrepreneur who took it apart piece by piece to use the clear pine
wood and hand-made chimney bricks for other purposes. Dismantling
was not a simple task because the home had been built with interlocking
pieces and no nails.*
Among many others, Laena Emmerich, currently living in Grass Valley, was raised in the house. Her grandmother Lanie Belle Anderson on her mother’s side lived there into old age. Laena’s full name is Laena Anderson Talmadge Humphrey Emmerich. In 1985 Laena and her second husband Harold Emmerich (first husband Ivan Humphrey died at a relatively young age) decided to build a miniature of the beloved Pettus House. The miniature is housed in the shelves of grandmother Anderson’s beautiful secretary. Harold built the structure of each of the eight inserts into the secretary shelves and Laena put together the intricately detailed interiors. They completed the project in three months, but of course Laena (known as Lanie to current friends) has been caring for details ever since.
You will see in the video below that Laena carefully replicated each item in the mansion, including wallpaper and wall hangings, rugs, lamps and sconces, table settings with food and silverware, tools like ice tongs, furniture including a classic ice box and Roper stove, dolls that closely represent members of the family, and all the decorations and toys of a Christmas season.
Be sure to click out to full screen when playing the video.
*Loss of this unique and beautiful house led to a movement in Selma to preserve surviving historic houses as part of Selma heritage, much as a similar and hugely successful movement began in Savannah, Georgia at about the same time. However, success in promoting tourism never approached that of Savannah because of the publicity surrounding the civil rights incident at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. By contrast, Selma became a Mecca for those celebrating the civil rights movement and took on a completely different complexion.