James Revis residence
The James Revis residence, also known as the "Bethel Church guardhouse", is located at 3236 29th Avenue North, on the corner of 32nd Street North in Collegeville. It was the home of James Revis, a deacon at Bethel Baptist Church during the Civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. The house was used as a guardhouse to watch for terrorists who had targeted the church and its pastor, Fred Shuttlesworth for bombings, seeking to intimidate the leaders of the movement.
For that purpose, part of the front porch of the house was enclosed and supplied with a gas heater. Volunteers, called "civil rights guards" were stationed every day from sunset to sunrise to keep watch on the church and nearby streets. Other guards watched from a shack behind the parsonage to watch the rear of the church.
The house, built about 1929, is a one-story gable-framed bungalow with lap siding and exposed rafters at the eaves. The guard room, with 9-pane jalousie windows to provide views, was built on the east side of the half-width brick porch. A two-room addition to the rear, no longer existing, housed a laundry service owned by Revis' daughter LaVerne Martin. The house was damaged by a bomb that LaVerne, as a girl, had noticed coming home. Will Hall, a church member, carried the bomb away from the church to the street where it later exploded.
In the early 2000s the house, which is no longer occupied, began to deteriorate. Bethel has offered to buy it, but Martin has refused to sell. By 2007 the structure was in evident danger of collapse. She and her son Larry McWilliams fought to prevent its demolition by the city of Birmingham, winning a temporary restraining order in court, based on their commitment to stabilize the property. According to city attorney John Edens, the exterior renovations are satisfactory and some interior work remains to bring the structure up to code. Martin hopes to use the house as a reading center and a souvenir shop with items relating to the building's history.