The property on 470 South Union Street is the final home of Victor Tulane (April 20, 1874 – January 9, 1931), who was a prominent, influential African American in Montgomery from the late 1800’s until his death from kidney failure in 1931. At the age of 15, Victor Tulane walked from Wetumpka, Alabama (his place of birth) to Montgomery. He was determined to become a businessman and make a difference in society. Mr. Tulane was hired as a porter in a saloon. After a few months, he saved enough money to purchase a grocery store for $90. He opened his grocery shop while also working as a cashier at a local African American bank. When Mr. Tulane ran his grocery store, he was a pharmacist as well as a cashier. As Mr. Tulane saved money from his additional jobs, he upgraded his grocery store and purchased additional real estate around Montgomery. The downstairs remained the grocery shop and eventually, Mr. Tulane renovated the upstairs as a home for him and his family before purchasing his final homestead at 470 South Union Street. Mr. Tulane owned one of the most successful grocery shops in Montgomery. It was Victorian style architecture on the corner of High and Ripley Streets.
Mr. Tulane became a highly respected and influential African American businessman in Montgomery. Mr. Tulane was leader and activist in his community. Listed are just some of his community service:
-Served on the Board of Old Ship AME Zion Church (oldest African American church in Montgomery)
-On the Board of Trustees of Hale Infirmary
-Member of the Swayne School Board
-Member of the Executive Committee of the National Negro Business League
-First African American on the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee Institute
Mr. Tulane was also a civil rights activist. It is retold by his grandchild, that he once hid a man under the floorboards of his house to save a fellow black man from an angry white mob. The mob searched his house but found nothing. Mr. Tulane later snuck the man from house to the train station and helped him to leave town safely.
Mr. Tulane also served as the chairman of the colored division of the “Great Man Power” celebration, which prompted men of color to register in the draft. Mr. Tulane, on many occasions, spoke alongside Booker T. Washington.
Mr. Tulane was a wealthy, influential man, and he was widely known for his generous donations to charity. He was one of the first African Americans to donate to the YMCA, which was a white-only organization at the time. In recognition of his leadership, Mr. Tulane was accepted as an honorary member of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce – he was the first African American to receive this honor. Many influential black leaders of the time were known to visit and be entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Tulane, including Dr. Booker T. Washington.
Tulane Court housing projects, later rebuilt and currently named Tulane Gardens, were named in honor of Victor Tulane. Mr. Tulane’s tenacity, work ethic, integrity, leadership, influence and contributions left an indelible mark on the Montgomery community and as an African American legacy.
In 1913, Mr. Tulane purchased the property on the corner of Union and High Streets (470 South Union Street.) where he lived until his death in 1931. His wife, Willie Lee, remained on the same property until her death in 1954. Currently, Mr. Tulane’s grocery store on the corner of Ripley and High Streets has been left to the elements and is in disrepair. 470 South Union Street is the only physical property left to honor Mr. Tulane. This property represents the life and legacy of Mr. Victor Tulane. Alabama PTA is honored to reside in, and care for this Historic Building. The Tulane-Simmons House is listed on the Montgomery City Historic Sites and the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.