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Van Pelt House | Photo © 2022, www.abandonedalabama.com

Van Pelt House

Location Class:
Built: 1907 | Abandoned: N/A
Status: Private Property
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Van Pelt House

Some history on the property: the house known as the Van Pelt House was built in 1907 by Colonel James Steptoe Pinckard, who had formed Capitol Heights in 1904, although the plan wasn’t set in motion until 1907. The Van Pelt House was the first House built in Capitol Heights, according to an ad in the Montgomery Times in 1907, for $17,000. According to local legend, Pinckard’s wife, Nina Winter, was unhappy with the home and insisted on a larger home; thus, “Rockhaven” was built.

Pinckard was married to Nina Winter, daughter of Judge John G. Winter and Mary E. Winter, who lived in the old Winter Place house on Goldthwaite. Many articles of that era describe the Winters, Pinckards, and Thorington families holding dinners and other events together. It is said that Nina felt their home was too small, so J. S. Pinckard built Rockhaven, where Louis Armstrong Park is now. The steps there are original to Rockhaven.

Van Pelt house and Rockhaven
A postcard featuring Rockhaven, the Van Pelt House, and the trolley tracks that took riders from downtown to Electric Park. Abandoned Atlas Archives

William Lester Van Pelt

It later became the home of William Lester Van Pelt and his wife Lucille “Mamie” Hall. Van Pelt was a music professor who held frequent choir practices and classes at his home. In 1908, he became manager of the Seales Piano and Organ Company office in Montgomery, located on the second floor of the Montgomery Light and Power building. Organized in 1882, the Seales Piano and Organ Company was founded in Birmingham by Robert L. Seales and operated until its closure in 1962.

On September 20, 1908, the Montgomery Advertiser issued an article stating, “Mr. W. L. Van Pelt will have immediate charge of the Montgomery office of the Seales Piano Company. Mr. Van Pelt is a native of Butler County, Alabama, and is one of the best and most favorably known among the young men of Montgomery, where he has resided for fifteen years.

He was for years engaged in office work in railroad circles, later coming to the Capital City, where he at once became recognized among talented musicians. He has served as a chorister, successively at nearly all the leading Montgomery churches, and has been a chorister at Court Street Methodist Church for years. He is an accomplished artist with piano or organ and has a superb baritone voice. He attended the Conservatory of Music in Boston several summers and is withal a cultured artist in this line.

These items add but little to the striking personality and the captivating address of Mr. Van Pelt. He is an ideal type of clean young manhood with a stainless record, who has worked himself into positions of trust and confidence by a vigorous energy that always wins. Mr. Van Pelt has been head salesman for the Jesse French Piano and Organ Company here in Montgomery for the past twelve years, and it is therefore safe to say that there is no other one man more conversant with the musical desires and needs of Montgomery people than Mr. Van Pelt.

William Lester Van Pelt died on May 19, 1935. His widow continued to live at their home, later known as the Van Pelt House, until her death on February 12, 1953. The former Van Pelt House was sold recently, but as of May 2024, no work has happened.

rockhaven van pelt sanborn
1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Montgomery. The Van Pelt House can be seen to the right side of North California Street, while Rockhaven is located on the left. Library of Congress

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David Bulit

My name's David Bulit and I'm a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. I've published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. My work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Tampa Bay Times, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of my work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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