Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Old Ward Funeral Home

Opelika, Alabama

The old Ward's funeral home
Avenue A
 Opelika, Alabama 2018

The old Ward Funeral home in Opelika, Alabama was built in 1870 (according to unofficial record). It’s funerary and cremation services served the community for more than half a century before it closed its doors and relocated to a neighboring city. Many prominent Opelika families used the services at Wards during the post civil war era and well in to the 1950’s. Wards was considered to offer the best and most distinguished funeral services of the time. 

Historical records indicate that the sur name “Ward” may come from one of Lee county’s earliest settlers; a mixed race Creek Indian known as Joe Marshal. He had a sprawling plantation known as, “The Ward Place”. Joe Marshal was a slave holder, many of which would have been given the last name, “Ward”. It is suspected that this is the origin of the name associated with the Ward family and the old Ward funeral home.
The casket room, which was located on this side of the funeral home, has now been torn down. 

The house alone is indicative of a rotting corpse, a seemingly timeless wreck of what was once a glorious and grand reconstruction era home. It’s skeletal, Victorian charm is still stunning and the architecture of the time is still visible to the trained eye. They definitely don’t make them like this anymore. 
Remnants of Victorian-style wallpaper and the shadows of ornate mantels are all that's let of this once magnificent funeral home.

An interesting feature of the old Ward place are the flakes of turquoise that scarcely drift down from the porch ceiling. Older photos show there was once a pale blue paint that covered the underside of the front porch. In ancient African and Native American cultures, particularly those that were once very prominent in the American south, a common practice was to paint ceilings and porches in light blue. It was said that the color resembled water and evil spirits could not pass over it. Today, even paint companies list certain shades of blues and turquoise as, “haint blue”. 

It may be a coincidence that the funeral home was owned by African American families with the last name Ward; whose descendants may have come from a plantation of a mixed race Creek Indian, and that the porch is painted in a traditional African/Native way to deflect negative forces, but it does lead one to wonder if this is possibly where the term, “ward off evil” comes from? Probably not, but it’s an odd coincidence indeed.

The building is now condemned and unsafe to enter but urban legends involving the old house are as thick as the kudzu that is slowing devouring it. Many explorers have come here to see and photograph the old building, most are smart enough not to enter but a few braver souls have and been scared out of their wits either on a dare or by sheer morbid curiosity. 
The funeral home has been condemned by the city of Opelika. 

To date, sightings of ghostly figures in the windows, strange floating apparitions in the hallways, and the haunting but playful voices of children are just some of the reports from the old Ward Funeral home. No official investigation can be conducted here due to the condition and on going deterioration of the building. As paranormal phenomenon around the the Ward place continues to grow, it’s likely the spell of the haint blue paint has been broken. But thinking back, why’d they paint the porch blue in the first place? 

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