Rainer-Lewis House

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Union Springs, Alabama flourished. Two major railroads intersected in the small town, making it an important hub of the state and the South. The booming industry and commerce in Union Springs made many inhabitants very wealthy, which led to the many graceful Southern mansions being built all around town. From the days of Reconstruction onward, the architecture of homes built in Union Springs was as diverse as the aristocrats that constructed them. Known today as the Rainer-Lewis House, construction began in 1902 on this impressive twelve-room mansion. The Neo-Classical Revival style home, completed in 1904, features an ample portico with four large Corinthian columns, a romantic second-floor balcony, and a stained-glass window on the interior stairway. Although the house is attributed to Sterling Price Rainer, Jr., he would have been a teenager at the time of its construction. According to Bill Rainer, the grandson of Rainer, Jr., the house was likely built by Sterling Price Rainer, Sr.’s older half-brother, William Walton Rainer.

William Walton Rainer was born on February 12, 1853. He was the oldest son of Captain Joel H. Rainer, a pioneer citizen and leader in the early history of Union Springs and Bullock County. W. W. Rainer served as president of the Merchant and Farmers Bank of Union Springs for over 20 years. In addition to his connection with the bank, Mr. Rainer had been for many years one of the largest planters in the area. He died on October 21, 1929, at the age of 77 following a major operation at a Montgomery hospital. W. W. Rainer had always taken an interest in politics and served as a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee and School Board. At the time of his death, he was the oldest businessman in Union Springs.

Sterling Price Rainer, Sr. was a successful merchant and served as Probate Judge of Bullock County. He served on the city council for four years before becoming Mayor and finally served in 1907 as a State Legislator from Bullock County. He lived just a few blocks away in a modest home built in the 1800s. Sterling Price Rainer, Jr. was born on January 24, 1885, and raised in Union Springs. He attended the University of Alabama and started a cotton warehouse business known as Dixie Warehouse in 1908. Sterling Price Rainer Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps serving as Probate Judge of Bullock County and later was elected Mayor of Union Springs. Sterling Price Rainer, Jr. married Jean Lacoste Evans in 1909, and they welcomed their first child, Sterling Price Rainer III, in 1911. The couple had three children by 1918. Rainer, Jr. spent his entire life in Union Springs. He died on May 29, 1967, at the age of 82. His obituary states that he was a deacon for 42 years at Union Springs Presbyterian Church. The Rainer family is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Union Springs.

In 2012, the Rainer-Lewis House sold to Dr. Marcy Hikes-McDonald, who discovered the home for sale through the internet. She purchased the home and moved to Union Springs to retire after working for the Veterans Administration for many years. Dr. Hikes worked to restore and furnish the stately home. Her brother, Robert Hikes, retired from Honeywell Corporation in Massachusetts and moved into the home with her. In 2015, Marcy and Robert decided to move to Georgia to be closer to family and vacated the Union Springs property. Due to the either age or illness, the address is exempt from property taxes and has been left abandoned. In February 2022, workers were seen around the property, and lift trucks were parked out front leaving many to wonder if a renovation was pending. As it turns out, the equipment was for an ongoing restoration next door and not the Rainer-Lewis House. A neighbor emailed me over the summer and said the house had been purchased by a contractor who plans to restore and live in the home.

Rainer-Lewis House

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You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. For more amazing abandoned places from across Alabama, check out Abandoned Birmingham and Abandoned Alabama: Exploring the Heart of Dixie.

11 comments

  1. Several years ago I stumbled through Union Springs on my way home from a 4H weekend in Eufaula. Travelling down South Powell St., I fell in love with the old houses but this grand lady stood out to me. I stopped, wanting to ask the tenants there questions about it but my kids freaked out so we just drove around the block a few times while I covertly snapped a few photos and then headed home. I later looked it up but at the time it wasn’t for sale and there wasn’t much to learn and no interior pictures that I could find. It was in decent-looking shape then and that was, at most, 6 years ago so this deterioration was either undetected or the house was hard hit by a storm since then. It breaks my heart to see her go down like this. I’ve often dreamed of how she would look restored to her grand glory and how I could move or replicate it here, closer to home. I can hear the echo of feet on the staircase, the smell of ozone as a storm blows through while I watch from a safe recess on the porch, the warmth of summer sun filtering through the window. I’ll never forget how she stood towering over the wide street, foundations firmly planted on her corner lot overseeing everyone and everything on South Powell Street like a mother watching her brood: stoic, proud, quiet but full of life and energy. I fell for that house that day like I never have any other object in my life. My dear, you are fading away but you will always be vibrant and beautiful, even if only in my dreams.

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