Ex-Arlington owner, 91, dies
Mrs. Ruby Munger Montgomery, former owner of Arlington Antebellum Home, died Tuesday at age 91. Mrs. Montgomery, turned Arlington over to the city Feb. 3, 1953. On Oct 5, 1953, the Mayor James Morgan cut a white satin ribbon at Arlington's front door, officially opening the estate to the public. "The family had grown, married and moved away and they (His Parents) were alone in that house" said Mrs. Montgomery’s son, Robert. "My father was in real estate and he had a choice of preserving it or developing a subdivision ... he did everything in his power to preserve it as an antebellum home with mother's approval, of course, because she owned it."
Mrs. Montgomery was a member of the Board of Regents at Hillman hospital, was chairman of the board of City Missions at the United Methodist Church and chairman of the building committee for the Eva Comer Home.
Graveside services will be at 3 P.M. today at Elmwood, Johns-Ridout's Southside directing. Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Frances M Schultz, Prattville, Mrs. Mary M Watts, Birmingham Alabama., and a son, Robert M Montgomery, Birmingham.
Birmingham Post-Herald, Thursday, May 28, 1982.
Buried Elmwood, Birmingham, Alabama.
Below is a Biography by granddaughters Mary 'Tainey' Marcoux and Virginia (Gina) Montgomery Martin on Ruby's life vis-a-vis Arlington House.
April 2021 ARLINGTON’S FIFTH AND LAST PRIVATE OWNERS: Ruby Munger and Alexander Cochran Montgomery
EARLY YEARS. Ruby Munger, the sixth of Mary Collett and Robert Sylvester Munger’s nine children, was born in Dallas, Texas, on November 7, 1889. Her family soon moved to Birmingham and bought the Mirabeau Swanson home on the circle in Five Points. Ruby attended Loulie Compton Seminary, Margaret Allen School for Girls on Highland Avenue and Fairmont Seminary, a college preparatory school for girls in Washington, DC. She then studied piano and voice at Mary Baldwin Seminary in Staunton, Virginia, graduating in 1908. [Image of Ruby as a young girl] The next year Ruby studied in Paris, cultivating her coloratura soprano voice and contemplating a career in opera. However, a marriage proposal from Alexander Cochran Montgomery, a childhood friend, enticed her to abandon that goal and return to Birmingham. She married Alex in the living room at Arlington in 1911. Ruby’s passion for music and the arts enriched their married lives. Alex had attended Birmingham city schools and studied engineering at the University of Virginia, working in the summers for Jemison Real Estate and Insurance Company. His Jemison work involved the development of Corey, a Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company model city subdivision that later became Fairfield. He and Ruby lived in Corey, where their first two children, Frances (Mrs. T. Ray Schultz) and Alex, Jr. (m. Virginia Ruby “Pat” Goodnow), were born. [Image of Alex surveys at Corey] Next, they moved to Elyton, where Robert “Bob” (m. Betty Reeves) was born in 1916. Alex and his father-in-law, R. S. Munger, began developing Arlington Place and Munger Circle, later re-named Second and Third Street, on land surrounding Arlington House. In 1918, as World War I ended, Alex worked in the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation’s Special Services agency. His assignment was to check the backgrounds and allegiances of individuals possibly supporting the German war effort. Alex launched his own successful professional career in 1919 when he founded Montgomery Real Estate and Insurance Company. He helped organize the Birmingham Board of Realtors, served in 1926 as the first president of the Board of Alabama Association of Realtors, and later as a director of the National Association of Real Estate Boards.
DOMESTICITY. During the 1920s, Alex hired Albert William Pernell (m. Georgia Osborne) to do carpentry work for Montgomery Real Estate. The fourth of nine children in a loving Christian home, Albert had attended Payne University in Selma and at age sixteen moved to Birmingham. His work ethic so impressed Alex that he hired Albert as the Montgomery’s gardener, chauffeur, butler and menagerie caretaker for ponies, dogs, chickens and goats at Arlington. Albert effectively acted as an older brother for the two Montgomery boys. He shared his extensive carpentry skills, jack-of-all-trade knowledge and taught Alex and Bob how to dance! [Image of Montgomery Family 1950 in the Munger Parlor: Grandchildren L to R: Alex Montgomery III, Tainey Montgomery, Ray Schultz III, Betty Montgomery, Munger Watts, Monty Schultz, Gina Montgomery Seated: Betty Montgomery, Frances Schultz, Alexander Cochran Montgomery, Ruby Munger Montgomery, Mary Watts holding Bill Watts III, Pat Montgomery Standing: Minnie Howard, Ray Schultz Jr, Bob Montgomery, Alex Montgomery Jr. holding Hazel Montgomery, Bill Watts Jr., Albert Pernell, Maud Lawson Bob Montgomery, the tenth grandchild, had not been born.] Minnie (m. George G. Howard) was hired to grocery shop and cook the family meals. In 1921 the Montgomery’s fourth child, Mary (m. William A. Watts Jr.) was born. Maud Lee Lawson arrived to help care for the children, the laundry and the home. She had worked for Ruby’s parents, was an accomplished seamstress, and made handmade lace and clothes for the children and later the grandchildren. As highly valued employees essential to Arlington’s operation, Minnie, Maud and Albert at various times lived on the Arlington property. During their employment with the Montgomery family, Minnie and Albert purchased their own homes and Maud inherited a home from her mother. They kept things running smoothly and remained loyal Montgomery family employees after Ruby and Alex moved away from Arlington in the early 1950s. Ruby’s father R. S. Munger provided lots near Arlington for those of his children living in Birmingham. Ruby’s brother, Robley Charles Munger (m. Etoile Ashford and when she died Minnie Eatherley Hood) had built a home at 815 Second Street in 1920. His sister, Margaret Munger (m. William Hayden Brooks), built at 825 Second Street in 1922. The following year Alex and Ruby built a home at 839 Second Street. Those residences still stand today.
CHURCH AND CIVIC CONTRIBUTIONS. Alex and Ruby attended Walker Memorial Methodist Church. Ruby joined the choir and Alex chaired the 1921 Building Committee for a new sanctuary with limestone columns--existing to this day--that then were the largest monolithic columns in the South. Alex served as Chairman of the Board of Stewards and later as a Church Trustee. Ruby was the lead singer in the choir. She also served four years as President of the Church’s missionary society, taught Sunday School throughout her married life and chaired the Board of City Missions of the United Methodist Church. [Image of L to R: Gina, Alex Montgomery, cousin Jane Blake and Tainey walking to Walker Memorial United Methodist Church] Ruby supported the Young Women’s Christian Association’s Camp Mary Munger and joined the Board of Regents at Hillman Hospital. Her mother, Mary Collett Munger, had helped to establish both institutions. Ruby worked as a Director on the YWCA Board and was active in the work of the Linly Heflin Unit. In 1941 she chaired the Women’s Division for the Community Chest Appeal (eventually called the United Way). Alex led several civic ventures as well. He was a 1918 charter member and then chair of the Birmingham Motor Club (later the Alabama Motorists Association-AAA). Active in the Young Men’s Christian Association, he became its President in 1935 and later chaired its Board of Trustees. As a child, Alex had played among the Vulcan (Roman god of fire and metalworking) statue sections when they were hauled back from the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and scattered on Red Mountain’s north slope. Alex believed that Vulcan, which symbolized Birmingham’s iron production, should stand on top of the mountain that provided the ore to make the iron. While President of the Downtown Kiwanis in 1937, Alex helped organize Vulcan’s present-day majestic placement on Red Mountain’s summit overlooking the City. In 1951, the City of Birmingham Commission appointed Alex to a six-year term on the newly created Birmingham Water Works Board as its first Chairman--work that he assiduously continued for ten years. Alex was a member of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the 1956 chair of its Good Roads Committee, convincing Governor Jim Folsom to back legislation to build a throughway across Birmingham rather than a bypass around the metropolis.
ARLINGTON TIMES. After the deaths of her father in 1923 and her mother in 1924, Ruby acquired Arlington House and the surrounding ten and one-half acres. Ruby and Alex transferred ownership of their home at 839 Second Street to her youngest sister, Mrs. Robert Gordon (Mary Munger) Thatch. When Ruby and Alex moved into Arlington, they installed new fixtures and tiled the upstairs bathrooms which were located between the bedrooms on either side of the hallway. They moved the dining room from the Montgomery Cottage to the southeast corner of the main House, where it is found today. [Image of Alex and Ruby’s dining room] About 1930, they built a narrow galley kitchen between the dining room and the Mudd Room. The Mudd Room, located left of the front entry, had been a bedroom before the Montgomerys converted it into their den. The kitchen space, eliminated when the House became a museum, had been a downstairs bathroom. Minnie heroically prepared meals in that tiny kitchen, sometimes serving as many as a hundred guests. Ruby converted the former kitchen and dining room into a playroom for her children to entertain their friends, adding a ping-pong table, gramophone record player, radio, and card table. On poor weather days the children played there while older family members visited in the main House. Outside, the children played on the Montgomery’s electricity-lit badminton court and the tennis courts built by their grandparents. When Alex and Bob attended Birmingham-Southern College, it became a became a popular meeting place for their friends. Inspired by her mother’s interest in “precious old things” (Ruby’s phrase), Ruby filled Arlington with antique furniture she collected. In the Munger Parlor, to the right of the front entry, she continued her mother’s renovations, replacing sliding pocket doors with doors that opened into the hall, removing the southwest mantle and sealing the fireplace. Today, Ruby’s music cabinet graces the Munger Parlor. Her dining room chandelier hangs in that room and her pier mirror diffuses afternoon light in the Montgomery Cottage dining room. Ruby’s father moved the driveway entrance from Arlington’s front to the east side of the House, running the driveway through the portico. Later, Ruby moved the garage behind the Montgomery Cottage and redirected the driveway along the east side of the cottage to the new garage location. She and Alex added a pergola on Arlington’s west side, incorporating red iron ore slabs into the flooring that were recycled from a wall at her Five Points childhood home. [Image of Montgomery Cottage and Garage] Ruby enjoyed outdoor work and often said she would rather use a shovel than a broom! She actively participated in planning and cultivating the Arlington grounds and spent many happy hours puttering around the gardens. Ruby planted an allee of dwarf boxwood paralleling two full size outer boxwood hedges between the pergola and the portico. She created beds with a variety of colorfully blooming annuals and perennials around Arlington, the Montgomery Cottage and the portico. She displayed freshly cut flowers throughout her home, creating a peony, iris and poppy garden around a still existing small pond. The east side of Arlington was filled with soil and a wall built to support a grassy terrace and rose garden. In the spring hundreds of daffodils blossomed below on the hillside, lilacs bloomed along the driveway, while her father’s cottonwood trees released clouds of fluffy seeds. Each fall, Minnie baked the pecans the children collected from her father’s grove into pies and other tasty dishes. Hosting many garden events at Arlington, Ruby took office as the fifth President of the Little Garden Club in 1932-33. She also served as the 1941 president of the Birmingham Federation of Garden Clubs (consisting then of some forty organizations) that worked together to beautify Birmingham. [Image of Ruby collecting flowers from her garden]
LATER YEARS. Before the Montgomerys left Arlington in the early 1950s, they set aside four acres for residential homes along McMillan Avenue, leaving six and one-half acres around the house. That remaining acreage included the southwest corner home, since removed, that had been built for Alex’s mother, Mrs. John Alexander Montgomery. Ruby Munger Montgomery called Arlington home for fifty years. She and Alex desired its preservation as the oldest home in the Birmingham region, even older than Birmingham itself. Assisted by dedicated citizens, Ruby sold the property to the City in February 1953. On October 5, 1953, Birmingham Mayor James Morgan cut a white satin ribbon at Arlington’s front door, officially opening the home to the public. The Arlington Historical Association (AHA), organized that year and incorporated in 1954, began acquiring 19th century antiques to enhance the historical and cultural interest of the museum House for the visiting public. AHA support for this grand museum house continues to the present day. Over 175 years old, Arlington House is designated on the National Register of Historic Places as Arlington, Mudd-Munger Home. Alex died on May 5, 1970, and Ruby died about a dozen years later, on May 26, 1981. Both are interred a short walk from Arlington at Elmwood Cemetery in the A. C. Montgomery plot across from the triangular island burial site of Ruby’s parents, Mary Collett and Robert Sylvester Munger.
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