During its nearly 80-year existence, the Scout House on Washington Street served the community’s youth until its doors closed in 2012.
The facility, built in the WPA-era, soon will open its doors to the youth and community again as the Scout Music House. The City of Athens owns the historic structure and leases it to Athens Arts League. The city challenged Athens Arts League to raise funds for renovation and to repurpose it into a music venue that included music-centered educational opportunities for children.
Since the city issued that challenge, Athens Arts League has raised $94,500 in grant funds, the most recent being $30,000 from Steelcase Foundation for the student music studio. Athens Arts League will offer hands-on opportunities for students in scheduling, promoting and recording concerts as well as opportunities to perform and collaborate on song writing and editing.
In addition, Athens Arts League will honor Limestone County’s musical heritage through exhibits, and will host workshops, house concerts and other cultural events for the community.
“The Steelcase Foundation trustees were very appreciative of the community involvement and support in this project, as well as the work of the Athens Arts League to recognize the area’s musical and artistic contributions,” Steelcase Foundation President Julie Ridenour wrote in a letter to Athens Arts League.
Scout Music House Committee Chair Holly Hollman said she is impressed with those in the community who have devoted their talents and time to the project, which she expressed to Steelcase Foundation.
“There is no question you need funding to tackle a project such as this,” Hollman said. “But you also need someone to perform the work, and many in our community have volunteered to do the work as a donation because they believe in preserving this historic site and supporting artistic opportunities for our community.”
Hollman said Boy Scout John Paul recently oversaw construction of the handicap-accessible ramp on the west side of Scout Music House as part of his Eagle Scout project. Boy Scout Christopher Nave oversaw removal of a window and installation of a door for the handicap-accessible entrance in conjunction with the ramp project. That part of the work was Nave’s Eagle Scout project.
Girl Scout Troop 1922 has written thank you letters to donors, pulled weeds from the new landscaping and assisted with a clean-up day. Scout Music House Committee member Jim McDole is teaching the troop guitar lessons at High Cotton Arts, a visual arts incubator operated by Athens Arts League, to assist the Scouts in earning their music badges. Once Scout Music House is open, music opportunities such as those will be there to provide more space and privacy.
“In addition to the Scouts, local businesses have donated materials and work crews,” Hollman said. “The community has truly embraced this project, and we appreciate Steelcase Foundation for investing in our community’s vision.”
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Born a slave and heralded an ‘unsurpassed soprano’ Patti Malone to grace Athens with her presence once again
Pattie Malone is on the far left
An Athens arts organization is working to commemorate the story of Patti Malone, who was born a slave in Athens, pursued an education and joined an internationally acclaimed chorale group.
Athens Arts League received approval for a $4,500 grant from the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area to commission an oil painting of Malone, who died in the late 1800s while traveling with the Loudin Jubilee Singers. There are few photographs of Malone, and the painting will provide a commemorative piece to help share her story.
“I think of her as the First Lady of Music in Limestone County,” said Athens Arts League Board Vice President Diane Lehr, who wrote the grant. “She has an amazing story that can inspire new generations of musicians.”
Once complete, the oil painting of Malone will be on display at Scout Music House, which Athens Arts League is raising money to renovate into a music venue. The structure on Washington Street once served as a recreational facility for Boy and Girl Scouts and then the Athens City Schools Central Office, but has been vacant for about five years. The City of Athens owns the circa-1938 structure and leases it to Athens Arts League.
The Scout Music House venue will provide hands-on opportunities for students to explore various aspects of music from performance to recording to marketing as well as cultural events for the community and exhibits to honor Limestone County’s musical heritage. Malone’s portrait will be on permanent display.
Athens Arts League Promotions Chair Holly Hollman said the League is collaborating with the Athens-Limestone Community Association on the portrait. ALCA, which oversees the historic Trinity site, will appoint a committee to review artists’ renderings and select an artist to create the oil painting.
“Patti Malone is an integral part of Trinity’s history, and we want the association to be pleased with her portrait,” Hollman said.
Athens State University art professor and Athens Arts League Board member Gail Bergeron and her students will assist with final approval of the finished portrait and document its historical significance. Athens Arts League will schedule an unveiling once the portrait is complete.
Malone’s story starts on The Cedars Plantation in Athens where she was born into slavery, according to the 2000 Nashville Conference publication Leaders of Afro-American Nashville. Her mother arranged with their former master for Malone to go to school at Trinity, which educated former slaves after the Civil War. The principal Mary Wells befriended Malone and sent her to further her education at Fisk University in Nashville.
Malone made her debut with the Jubilee Singers in Hamburg, Germany, in 1878, the publication stated. When the singers disbanded, Frederic Loudin organized the Loudin Jubilee Singers, and Malone toured with them in Europe and Australia. She bought property in Athens in the Village View area and named her home The Oaks. According to the publication, while Malone was on tour with the Singers in the United States, she fell ill and died in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1897. She is buried in Athens.
Malone spent about 20 years as a Jubilee Singer. According to the publication, her legacy is "one of good deeds, an unsurpassed soprano voice, and a touring agenda that included visits to 17 countries and appearances before six crown heads of Europe."
“Athens Arts League appreciates the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area for supporting our project and having a commitment to the arts and culture of our community,” Hollman said.
Friends of the Scout House Committee member