An August 2002 trip
to Montgomery by chadk78
Quote: Montgomery played a prominent role in two of our nation's greatest struggles. It witnessed the creation of a Confederate government destined to fail and the rise of a great hero in pursuit of equal rights for his people.
Some interesting places to visit in Montgomery are Maxwell Air Force Base, the Civil Rights Memorial, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Jasmine Hill Gardens, the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, and the Rosa Parks Museum.
Maxwell Air Force Base is home to Air University, the Air Force's professional education center. It sits on the site of Orville and Wilbur Wright's 1910 flying school, the first of its kind.
The Civil Rights Memorial is a stirring tribute to those who died as part of the struggle for racial equality. A round, black marble table covered by flowing water is inscribed with the names of martyrs of the mid-20th-century Civil Rights Movement. A black marble wall behind the table is inscribed with quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is a landscaped park surrounding several theatres, which present both classical and contemporary plays. Jasmine Hill Gardens is a 20-acre park featuring a wide variety of blooming trees and flowers, as well as statues, fountains, and other works of art.
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is housed in a building once occupied by the couple. F. Scott Fitzgerald, an important literary figure of the 1920s and '30s, and his wife Zelda, a Montgomery native and noted author/artist, lived in this house during the early years of their marriage. Many of their belongings and memorabilia are on display. The Rosa Parks Museum is a relatively new addition to downtown. It features many displays and exhibits pertaining to Ms. Parks (mainly her role as a Civil Rights activist) and the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. As you can see, Montgomery is home to a wide variety of attractions. My favorites were the Hank Williams Museum, Alabama State Capitol, First Confederate White House, Old Alabama Town, and the Lightning Route Trolley tour.
Interesting displays and a short film give a nice introduction to the city's history and what there is to see and do here. After checking out the visitor center, I would advise getting on the trolley here for a good overview. For more information about attractions, events, etc., go to www.visitingmontgomery.com.
While driving downtown, be wary of one-way streets, as many in this area are. The downtown area is accessible from I-85 and I-65, both major interstates.
Despite great success in his career, a turbulent personal life led to severe alcoholism. On New Years Day 1953, en route to a show, he died of a heart attack at only 29 years of age. His funeral was held at the old Montgomery Auditorium, where he performed many times, and he was buried at Oakwood Cemetery.
The museum, housed in a building once occupied by Williams, contains many of his personal belongings, a collection of his records, and other memorabilia. The two things that I remember most about our visit are the large wooden Indian "Kaw-liga" and the blue 1952 Cadillac that he was riding in the night he died. Also on display are the clothes he was wearing when he died, as well as some of the costumes he wore during performances.
The gift shop offers a variety of souvenir items. I purchased a cookbook chock-full of jambalaya recipes. I can't help but to hum the tune of "Jambalaya" every time I see it.
The museum also offers free maps, directing you to other Hank sites around Montgomery, such as his final resting place at Oakwood Cemetery and a life-sized statue located across from City Hall.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sundays from 1 to 4pm. Admission is $5/adult. For more information, please visit www.hitdude.com.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 11, 2005
Hanks Williams Museum
118 Commerce Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Built in 1851, it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. This building played a vital role in the creation of the Confederate government and served as its first capitol for 3 months in 1861. The Confederate Constitution was drafted in the Senate Chamber, which was also the site of Jefferson Davis' election as president. Davis took the oath of office on the building's front steps. The spot where he was inaugurated is marked by a bronze star. A statue of Davis also stands nearby this spot.
An impressive monument outside the capitol's north entrance honors the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy. It was under construction and covered with scaffolding when we were there.
The rotunda in the center of the building is adorned with murals depicting scenes from the state's history and a three-story, double-spiral stairway. The Senate Chamber, House of Representatives, Supreme Court Chamber, and the governor's office appear much as they did in the 1860s. Allow yourself about an hour to check out the inside of the capitol, plus an additional 30 minutes or so to tour the grounds. Open Monday through Friday from 9amto 5pm and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm. Admission is free. For more information, call 334/242-3935.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 11, 2005
Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Living historians portray farmers, craftsmen, townsfolk, and musicians. They are all more than happy to tell you about their trade or time period.
An herb garden on the premises features a variety of plants. This site provides a really neat experience that will definitely transport you to another time. You can take a self-guided tour, or, for groups of 10 or more, guided tours are available. Open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 3pm. For more information, visit www.oldalabamatown.com.
Old Alabama Town
301 Columbus Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Guided tours take you through the library, double parlors, reception halls, and bedrooms. Surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, the front lawn still displays Confederate flags, as it may have in 1861. Open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit www.alabama-travel.org/central/fwhc.html.
First White House of the Confederacy
644 Washington Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
The tour we took seemed to focus on four different historical figures and their time periods. Hank Williams rose to stardom as a country singer in Montgomery from 1937 to 1947. Many of the places that he performed are located along the route.
The place where Rosa Parks lived, where she worked, and where she often got on and off the bus in 1955 are pointed out on the tour. The story of that fateful day when she would not give up her seat at the front of the bus is relayed by the tour guide.
Several sites significant to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are also located along the route. The Ben Moore Hotel was the site of many of King's Civil Rights meetings, and we see the location of the barber shop where he got his last haircut. The City of Jude is the hospital where his two oldest children were born and the final stop on his Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. King's home from 1954-60 is located at 309 Jackson Street. (It is not open to the public.)
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is a National Historic Landmark, where Dr. King preached many sermons about freedom and equality. King served as the church's pastor from 1954-60. The 1955 Bus Boycott, a result of the Rosa Parks incident, was initiated here. A mural inside the church depicts scenes from Dr. King's nonviolent crusade for equal rights. Guided tours of the church are given at various times (call ahead for more information at 334/263-3970), and admission is $2/person.
Jefferson Davis and the early days of the Confederate government are also a recurring theme on the tour. The State Capitol and First Confederate White House are described in separate journals.
While living in Montgomery, Davis attended church at St. John's Episcopal on Madison Avenue. The pew where he and his family sat is marked by a small plaque. Built in 1855, the church features a tall yellow steeple and stained-glass windows made by Tiffany's of New York. The Winter Building on Dexter Avenue was where Confederate Secretary of War L.P. Walker sent a telegraph on April 11, 1861, authorizing General P.G.T. Beauregard to attack Fort Sumter, thus initiating the Civil War. Just across the street is the Court Square fountain. This magnificent structure was built in 1885 over an old artesian well. This was once the site of an old slave market.
If you do nothing else while in Montgomery, I would encourage you not to miss out on this tour. You will see and learn about many things that you would not know about otherwise. What you get for $1 here, you would easily pay $15 for in some other cities. I'd say that $1 for a tour of one of the most historically significant cities in the South is a bargain by any standard. It is very highly recommended.
Blacksburg, South Carolina