By Edna Ward
There is a “Green Head” in Opelika. He has been here more than 127 years and what a delightful discovery.
Harold Cooper, life-long area resident, loves history and especially old photographs of buildings and anything related to Opelika’s history. He noticed the Green Head. It’s an architectural decoration in the center of the apex of the façade at the front entrance to the Lee County Court House.
From a March 25, 1897, issue of the Opelika Industrial News, there was an article describing “The New Temple of Justice, A Credit to the County and State.” This reference was to the Lee County Courthouse, which was nearing completion. The article tells that the design of the building was by Andrew J. Bryant & Co of Atlanta. Andrew and Stevens of Opelika built it. The article states: “The entire building is perfect in every detail.”
Parts of the additional details given include, “The exterior is designed in the Corinthian order of classic architecture. Projecting fifteen feet from the main body of the building in front is a beautiful façade, the main feature of which is a long colonnade of Corinthian columns with very elaborately ornamented windows on each side … Just below the main cornice is a wide frieze of terra cotta, beautiful in detail with bold relief work, the same color of pressed brick, which are of the best manufacture. Above the main cornice is a massive balustrade and heavy pedestals, which add much to the beauty of the structure.”
Although 127 years have passed since the Opelika Industrial News gave this information, all of the above is still there and still beautiful. The frieze is now painted white.
Architectural decorations changed over the years; however, important buildings were once highly decorated, including our nation’s capitol as well as churches all over the world. These decorations vary. Vines, leaves, rosettes, tendrils and yes – Green Heads – were sometimes part of those decorations. The hair and beard of Green Heads were often a leaf design, giving them another name, Foliate Heads. A variety of explanations are available as to the meanings of all this, even down to each individual part of the relief. Decoration was the most prevalent reason found in this limited research. Green Heads are sometimes called Green Faces or Green Men, too.
Isn’t it wonderful old things can become excitingly new again?