Historic Gunn-Bellenger House restored, opened as event center

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The historic Gunn-Bellenger House on Chestnut Street in downtown Gadsden has been restored to its former glory and opened as an event space.

The time-period accurate colorful paint job on the exterior is carried inside. Rooms now adorned with wallpapers, paint, period-appropriate accents and some original furniture.

The two-story home has a long history, including being owned by the City of Gadsden for some time after the passing of Carolyn Gunn Bellenger.

The Gunn-Bellenger House was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1984 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

The historic home was built in 1886 by Edward Tracy Hollingsworth, a local merchant and banker. Hollingsworth and his new wife, Julia, moved into the house in November of 1886. Hollingsworth sold the house to a local dentist named Charles Logan Gunn in 1901.

The house would remain in the Gunn family for the next 90 years. Upon the death of Dr. Gunn, the house was left to his daughter Carolyn Gunn Bellenger who was a well-known educator in Gadsden for 30 years. Bellenger bequeathed the house to the City of Gadsden upon her passing in September of 1990.

The home has now been purchased by a local businessman who prefers to stay out of the limelight, but the restored building is managed by retired businessman Gary Hunt.

Hunt has overseen the restoration process and carefully chose wallpapers, light fixtures and antique furniture to make the 1880s home complete.

The lengthy process was difficult at times, but according to Hunt, it was worth it.

“I enjoyed it,” Hunt said. “It was work, but I have always had a love for the Victorian styles.”

Hunt will manage the day to day operation of the event center and has converted unused attic space in the home into his personal office.

Though Hunt, loved the process, he said he would not want to do it again.

“I’m too old for it,” he joked.

The house underwent some minor restorations and updates while the City of Gadsden owned it, but still remains one of Alabama’s earliest intact examples of the Victorian-style homes that were popular in the South at the time it was built.

According to the Society of Architectural Historians, the house is an “eclectic confection of styles from the period.”

They describe the house as “boldly asymmetrical” and “partly enfolded by a latticed Eastlake porch that is somewhat visually at odds with its steep-sided mansard roof borrowed from the Second Empire style” with “hooded gables thrust from the main roofline over bay-windowed pavilions.”

At the time of its construction, the house would probably have been referred to by locals as Queen Anne Style.

Photos of the home’s original exterior and the home’s slightly altered exterior are displayed in the home, as well as portraits of the Gunn family and Carolyn Gunn Bellenger.

According to Hunt, Bellenger’s favorite color was pink, so he made sure her former bedroom was painted a period-appropriate shade of mauve pink as an homage to the former owner.

The home features original stained-glass windows and intricate wooden framework around doors and windows, as well as along the home’s stairwell.

Hunt took care to furnish the home with as many original pieces as possible. He worked with members of the family to find Bellenger’s belongings, like the original dining table and buffet, as well as a couch and a rocking chair.

Hunt, who used to own an upholstery business in Gadsden, reupholstered the chair with Victorian-inspired fabrics.

The family also provided some of Bellenger’s books, with her hand-written notes inside. Hunt has displayed several of them in a secretary desk in the main sitting room.

Now that the restoration process in complete, and the house is available as a event space for weddings, showers, private events and more.

Rental rates and other rental information can be found online at www.gunnbellengerhouse.com.

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