No Place Like Home

Bottom row, left to right: Authors Ralph Brown Draughon Jr. and Ann Pearson; top row: Emily Sparrow and Delos Hughes

"No Place Like Home: An Architectural Study of Auburn, Alabama, the First 150 Years" is more than just the title of the book Delos Hughes, Ralph B. Draughon Jr., Emily Amason Sparrow and Ann Pearson co-authored together — Auburn was literally home. 

The book, which features an architectural study of Auburn, details the historical aspect of some of Auburn’s most notable buildings that date back to the antebellum era and Auburn University’s time as Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API) over the course of 11 chapters.

However, 11 chapters does not begin to tell the hours and thought the four authors put into the study, which began as a collective effort in 2015.

The four authors each brought a different area of expertise to the project. All raised in Auburn, the group had a deep-rooted connection to the narrative of historical preservation within the Auburn community — Hughes is a professor of politics emeritus at Washington and Lee University six months a year. When he is in Auburn, he spends his retirement as an architectural historian. 

Draughon serves on the Alabama Historical Commission and the board of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation. His father, Ralph Brown Draughon, was president of Auburn University, including during its period as API. 

Sparrow is a member of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance and the First White House Association. 

Pearson is on the board of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and received its Swazye Award for restoring her own historic Noble Hall. Her grandfather, Luther Duncan, was the president of API from 1935 to 1947. 

Historic preservation was something each author believed in passionately. When it was time to get to work, the combination of the four just made sense. 

From there, they began to execute. 

The idea for the book came from Hughes, who has previously co-authored "Lost Auburn: A Village Remembered in Period Photographs" with Draughon and Pearson. As the most published writer among the group, Hughes had one simple plan: create a record of Auburn — the Auburn that he and his co-authors remembered from their childhood. 

“I just always had a love for architecture,” Hughes said. “So, the book, for me, is a continuation of something I have always studied.

“As a child, I remember looking at the buildings in Auburn and loving the way they looked. They reminded me of something my father could have built. It was the memories of my times in those buildings that made me love Auburn.”

That love turned into interest and that interest became a sort of lifelong study for Hughes, according to Sparrow. 

“The book was something that D (Hughes) was already, in a way, working on long before we were involved,” she said. “When we came in, we added our own piece of what this book should be about.”

Sparrow, the newest edition to the bunch, said her role was more of the brawn than the creative brains that Hughes, Draughon and Pearson brought to the conversation.

 “D, Ann and Ralph had the creative writing ability to write an entire book,” she said. “I was more of the research assistant, looking for the answers to these questions we found ourselves asking as we began to write this book.

“I used to spend so much time at the Macon County Courthouse, picking up all those heavy books and laments that were down there. They did such an amazing job at preserving a lot of those records from when Lee County was a part of Macon County.”

Working with three other authors simultaneously wasn’t always an easy process.

 “We didn’t always get along about every little detail,” Sparrow said. “I always wanted to tell the story behind the house, the families who lived in it."

Hughes said his main goal was to stick to the facts — hence the decision to have a chapter in the book that is dedicated to building material and major figures in Auburn’s building industry.

“It was times that we didn’t always have the same idea or land on the same page,” Hughes said. “But, in the end, this book was about the architectural history of Auburn. That’s the only story I truly wanted to tell.

“The chapters about builders and materials might not be that interesting to everybody but it sure was interesting for us to write it. It became necessary.”

As far as history goes, the four created a record that outlines rooflines, windows and doors, clapboard vs. brick and various styling of homes and buildings in Auburn. The mission of this book was to show the change Auburn has gone through over time — a change that has even come at the cost of historical homes and buildings mentioned in the book.

“Some of the homes in this book were lost during the four years that we wrote,” said Sparrow. “We knew change is inevitable — that’s not always bad but it is a sad sight to see these beautiful homes that once characterized Auburn being torn down.”

“When I see some of these houses, right now, I can visualize what Auburn was like in that time. I can see the beauty of that home and the family that built it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but sometimes, in Auburn, it can also be in the power of the pocketbook.”

To the authors, Auburn will always be home — their lovely village on The Plains. With this book, they hope to have something for later generations to look back and see Auburn once upon a time. 

“This book is a record of design, construction and fulfilled purpose.” Sparrow said. “There is no place like home — especially OUR home.”

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