Meet the Young Couple Transforming a Crumbling Alabama Town into a Modern "Mayberry"
“We’re turning history into an experience.”
Just outside of Huntsville, Alabama, Whitney and Bethany Dean are creating their own little version of Mayberry, and they’re doing it one forgotten building at a time.
The couple first stumbled upon tiny New Market seven years ago and have spent the better part of a decade revitalizing the “cool little gem” of a town.
“There’s this little down-home Mayberry that’s forgotten and fallen apart,” Whitney explained. “It has a romance to it.”
New Market’s renaissance began when the Deans purchased Winchester Manor, a historic house that came with a barn, a tiny cottage, and a beautiful grove of trees. Recognizing a need in the local wedding market, the professional photographers transformed the 110-year-old home into a wedding venue. Ceremonies took place in the grove and receptions took place in the barn, followed by a honeymoon for the newlyweds in the cottage.
The success of the honeymoon cottage got the Deans thinking about vacation rentals.
A friend suggested the give Airbnb a try. “It was an immediate fire we couldn’t put out." Whitney recalled to AL. Before they knew it, he says, "we needed more spots to put people.”
Fortunately, there was no shortage of spots available in New Market. The couple started buying buildings in various states of disrepair, renovating them, and listing them with Airbnb and Vrbo.
“We’re turning history into an experience,” Whitney told Southern Living.
Today, the Deans own and operate eight buildings throughout New Market and have ceased hosting weddings at Winchester Manor. Now, they live there full-time with their newborn son Lorin. The former honeymoon cottage, which is now known simply as The Cottage, was named the most popular Airbnb listing in Alabama in 2018. There’s also The Loft, and The Bank, a 1926 bank they divided into two distinct spaces: The Vault in the front and The Teller’s Quarters in the back. And don’t forget The Greenhouse, a former florist shop, or the Spartan Glamper, a vintage camper built out of WWII airplane parts.
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In each spot, the Deans manage to create a unique escape without sacrificing the building’s original charm and integrity.
“People are looking for an experience,” Whitney told AL.com. “They don’t want to stay in a hotel. They want to eat dinner in a bank vault, stay in a weird downtown, in a place where you can get away but not go too far away from a major city. It’s just 25 minutes from here to a spaceship. They can stay here, eat at a meat-and-three and have a Mayberry experience in this little bubble of time.”