May and Cooney Dry Goods Company

Also known as: Elbert H. Parsons Law Library
205 E. Side Sq., Huntsville, Alabama

One of the few extant, glazed terra cotta, commercial buildings in Huntsville


Front Fašade

Photo taken by J.R. Manning


Street View 


"This is a three-story, attached, commercial building with mezzanine and full basement measuring 40 feet on the street by 100 feet deep. Of masonry and steel construction, it is faced with glazed terra cotta. The facade is flat with five window bays; the windows are recessed and decrease in height at each floor. An ornate, polychromed, terra cotta cornice projects beyond the wall plane while a molding of bay leaf garlands extends across the facade between it and the third story windows.

"The first floor facade is defined by a large arch set in a frame of white bay leaf clusters on a dark blue field and flanked on either side by a row of alternating red and green rectangles. During the 1974 renovation, the entire wall area under the arch was filled with glass having an arched door in the middle.

"The most notable feature of the interior are the exposed steel trusses that span the building at regular intervals and support each floor. The bottom member of each truss is curved, and this curve is duplicated in the arched opening of the facade. A narrow wooden stairway encircles the elevator at the back. The small mezzanine floor is edged with a wooden balustrade composed of alternating narrow and wide slats, the latter pierced with triangle and diamond patterns. It is identical to the stairway balustrade.

"May and Cooney was a locally owned dry goods firm that had lost its building during a fire in 1911. In April, 1913, the owners signed a lease with Mrs. P. Milligan to erect a new building on East Side Square to cost $30,000. They occupied this structure until 1931 when they went bankrupt as a result of the Depression. The firm was reorganized as May Dry Goods Company and continued business another year until it too went bankrupt, and the stock and fixtures were sold at auction. In 1934 the J. C. Penney Company moved into the vacant building and remained there until 1965. In 1973 Madison County purchased the structure and renovated it for use as the county law library.

"It is one of the few extant, glazed terra cotta, commercial buildings in Huntsville, two of which were designed by local architect Edgar Love. The construction was supervised by Mrs. Milligan's son who died before it was completed. The initials "KM", for Kate Milligan, appear at each end of the facade arch. Only the ground level was altered during conversion to a library, and this remodeling was done in a manner sensitive to the original lines of the building. It is notable for the use of decorative, exposed steel trusses to support each floor."

Quoted from the original submission to the NPS for inclusion of the building on the NRHP.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on September 22, 1980
Reference number
Areas of significance
Commerce; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Department store
Current function
Period of significance
Significant year

Update Log 

  • February 11, 2020: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • June 3, 2017: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Description and photos