Sarah Beatty Buller and her husband Mark renovated and refurbished the historic Kress building downtown, letting the landmark add a new chapter to the capital city’s story and inviting residents and visitors to do the same. She shared the motivation behind the transformation and the continuing vision.
What does the Kress building mean to you?
The Kress building is community. It’s about stories, entrepreneurship and innovation. It gives me an appreciation for history and reminds me how many people have struggled and strived before. It humanizes things for me. Our buildings contain and have absorbed so many things and movements of so many generations, their creative ideas and thoughts. They really are embedded in the walls. We have to honor and preserve those elements.
What was your first impression of Kress on Dexter?
In 2012, most of lower Dexter Avenue was a ghost town, with the exception of some fantastic buildings that had just been developed by the Foshee family. Most of the buildings were derelict and empty, completely deserted. I just couldn’t believe it. I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, a place that also holds a lot of American history. I knew that so many extraordinary, transformative moments in our history happened here, so to see Dexter Avenue deserted and to see the buildings and the historical relevance just crumbling was really surprising.
What do you tell people who haven’t been to Montgomery?
When friends visit Montgomery they say, “It was nothing like I thought it was.” That’s because there are these terribly old narratives that are not accurate. It doesn’t mean that at one point or another they did not reflect some component of history, but none of us should be painting one another with a broad brush. This country is as powerful and has been as successful as it is because we are a diverse country.
What lessons does this provide to your kids?
You have a personal responsibility for how you move into the world. You have an opportunity to be curious. They’ve definitely seen their parents commit themselves. When you’re in a position where you have the luxury to choose, you have a responsibility to help others.
What do you think the future holds for Kress and the surrounding area?
Dexter Avenue in my mind is one of the most important historical streets in America, and I do believe there will be a time that it will be a celebrated “main street USA” that also means so much more. It carries so much more weight. It’s so interesting that Montgomery is almost the nation’s crucible for its challenges yet also that place that the conversations have happened and issues have been hashed out. We have to tap into that resilience.
Learn More. #SerquestMBJ
Want to know more about the renovation of Kress? Check out #SerquestMBJ on Facebook to watch a short video produced by Serquest, a local organization that helps non-profits with their media and software needs to secure and source resources.