Montgomery Stories and Tips

The Lightning Route

Montgomery Photo, Montgomery, Alabama

These trolleys have clanged along the streets of Montgomery since 1886 and still provide a viable form of transportation, as well as sightseeing opportunities. For only $1, you can ride all day long to your heart's content. A one-way pass is only $0.25. Passengers may board or get off at a variety of stops throughout the city. I highly recommend parking at the visitor center and riding the entire route in order to get a good overview of the city and learn some of its history. The trolley driver doubles as a tour guide and narrates the tour as you go.

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.

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