By Donna Cornelius
Mary and Mims Cooper knew the house they’d bought on La Playa Place in Homewood needed some work. They just didn’t know quite how much.
“My husband had done some renovations before, but not to this extent,” Mary Cooper said. “When we started, there was a vacant lot near here where someone was building a new house. That house was completely built while we were still renovating. We pretty much gutted our whole house.”
The Coopers’ time and effort paid off. The carefully-restored one-story cottage is true to its original Spanish colonial revival style but lively and livable enough for a modern family.
The Coopers’ house is one of four that will be featured on this year’s Historic Hollywood Tour of Homes. The tour, sponsored annually by the Hollywood Garden Club, will be May 3 from 1-4 p.m.
Mary Cooper said she lived in the Hollywood area as a child when her father was an associate priest at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Homewood.
“It’s taken me 50 years to get back to this neighborhood,” she said.
The Coopers made extensive improvements and additions to their house, which was built about 1926 or 1927, Cooper said. They added a master bathroom and reconfigured the hall bathroom. Paneling on interior walls was stripped off, and the walls were re-stuccoed using a method where the pigment is mixed in with the stucco, Cooper said.
“Unless you decide you hate the color, you never have to repaint,” she said.
The kitchen was expanded to include a sitting area with comfy chairs, a television and a built-in desk. Instead of adding an island, Cooper chose a tall granite table that does double duty as a tabletop and workspace.
Replacing the existing kitchen windows with larger ones led to a construction crisis, Cooper said.
“When the wall was being cut to put in the new windows, it started to fall,” she said. “We had to Bungee-cord it to keep it up.”
Outside, a metal-roofed carport was torn down, and a garage was turned into what Cooper calls a “party shack.” There’s seating in the structure for outdoor gatherings, and instead of art on the walls, she hung an assortment of doors that were removed from the house itself.
Tour-goers will see plenty of elements of the house that are old as well as new. A small front entryway has its original terra cotta tile floor.
“You’ll see similar tile in foyers in other houses in Hollywood,” Cooper said.
Also evident to visitors will be Cooper’s artistic side. A professional dancer who taught dance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she has filled the house with an intriguing assortment of paintings and other art pieces.
A portrait of a wide-eyed little girl that hangs in the living room brings back memories of a trip to Mexico, Cooper said.
“I went with my grandmother when I was about 17, and she was determined to find a painting by an artist named Gustavo Montoya,” she said. “We went to a gallery, and they had two of his paintings, one of a boy and one of a girl. I chose the girl.”
On another wall of the living room is a contemporary painting of a magnolia blossom by Birmingham artist Amy Crews. Cooper bought it in February at the ArtBLINK gala, which benefits the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Cooper’s mother, Sarah Horn of Hoover, is a Master Gardener and created several arrangements for her daughter’s house.
The Hollywood area got its start in 1926, when Clyde Nelson started developing Hollywood Boulevard as a residential neighborhood (see related story on page 14). Many of the Spanish and English Tudor-style houses there were designed by architect George P. Turner.
The Hollywood Country Club on Lakeshore Drive, which was destroyed by fire in 1984, was built at the same time.
Hollywood officially became a town in 1927 but was annexed into Homewood two years later.
The Hollywood Historic District was registered with the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Two tour houses with Tudor architecture are those of Rachel and Barton Lary at 214 Devon Drive and Holly and Jay Doyal at 216 Devon Drive.
Tickets to the tour are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
Pre-sale tickets are available online at historichollywoodtour.com and at Sweet Peas Garden Shop, Hunter’s Cleaners, Four Seasons Art and Antiques, King’s House Antiques, Chickadee and Table Matters.
Parking on tour day will be available at Shades Cahaba Elementary School.
Proceeds benefit the Hollywood Garden Club and Shades Cahaba Elementary.
For more information, visit the tour website or get updates on the Hollywood Garden Club’s Facebook page and on Instagram @hollywoodhometour.