The Twickenham Historic District
The Twickenham Historic District is just one of three historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in Huntsville. Twickenham, which was an early name for the City of Huntsville, was named after a London suburb where the poet Alexander Pope lived. He was a relative of one of the early settlers in Huntsville. Twickenham is the largest antebellum district in Alabama, with many fine examples of early nineteenth-century homes in Federal, Italianate, and Classical architectural styles. Many were designed by Virginia-born architect George Steele. The oldest home in the district dates from 1814, and most were built around 1818.
The city's early attorneys, bankers, and merchants built fashionable brick homes in the area, many of which were seized by the Union army during the American Civil War. This probably saved them from being destroyed during the war.
The Twickenham Historic District is roughly bounded by Randolph Avenue on the north, Lowe Avenue on the south, California Street on the east, and Franklin Street on the west.
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Occupying 67 acres (27 hectares) among the rolling hills south of the downtown area, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a nice place to visit in order to relax and enjoy plants, flowers, and landscape design. It is the most visited free attraction in Alabama.
The botanical gardens contains more than 12,000 plants and features over 30 themed gardens with different categories of plants classified into one of three types: Gardens of Collections, Gardens of Nature, and Gardens of Culture. Gardens of Collections focus on plants from one genus, family, or other identified group. Gardens of Nature feature trees and plants native to the southeastern United States. And Gardens of Culture showcase particular styles of landscape design or aspects of human culture.
There are miles of walking trails that wind through the gardens and trees, more than 30 works of outdoor sculpture, and benches and swings conveniently situated to offer a place to rest or just enjoy nature. Visitors can also visit the Garden Center, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Library (which is the largest public horticultural library in the United States), the Conservatory (which is the largest glass greenhouse in the Southeast), the Gatehouse Gift Shop, and the Café de France.
One of the most popular places on the garden grounds is the Japanese Garden (pictured here) which includes a Japanese tea house and Zen garden.
Overlooking the city of Birmingham from the top of Red Mountain, Vulcan is a cast-iron statue that depicts the Roman god of fire and the forge. It was intended to reflect the city's iron- and steel-producing heritage. At 56 feet (17 meters) tall, it is the largest cast-iron statue in the world, and the second-largest statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Vulcan was commissioned by the Commercial Club of Birmingham for the city's exhibit in the 1904 World's Fair in Saint Louis. It was designed by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who began work in 1903. He sculpted a clay master model in New Jersey which was shipped to Birmingham for casting. The frame is composed of 29 cast-iron components that are bolted together internally. The castings were made in Birmingham entirely from locally produced iron. The heaviest casting is the head, which weighs 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms), and the statue's total weight is 120,000 pounds (54,431 kilograms).
After the 1904 World's Fair, Vulcan was moved to the Alabama State Fairgrounds in West Birmingham. Unfortunately, the statue's arms were reassembled incorrectly, and its spear turned up missing. At the fairgrounds, it was used for advertising purposes, and over the years its then-empty hand held advertising displays that included an ice cream cone, a bottle of Coca-Cola, and a jar of Heinz pickles.
Vulcan was returned to Birmingham in 1936 and installed in its present location, the ten-acre (four-hectare) Vulcan Park. A 126-foot (38-meter) sandstone pedestal was constructed especially for it, and during installation the statue was completely restored and outfitted with a new spear. The statue has since become an iconic symbol of the city of Birmingham.
Vulcan has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been the recipient of the National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Southern Museum of Flight
Founded in 1966, the Southern Museum of Flight is one of the largest and most comprehensive aviation museums in the South. Its main focus is on civilian, military, and experimental aircraft, as well as the history of early aviation and the pioneers who made flight possible.
The museum's exhibits are housed in a 75,000-square-foot (6,966-square-meter) facility which contains more than 90 aircraft, 38 engines, 200 models, artifacts, and hundreds of photographs and paintings. Some of the more noteworthy aircraft include a Fokker D-VII and a MiG-15. The collection of artifacts includes pieces from the Red Baron, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the light bulb used by the Wright Brothers on their first night flights.
Major exhibits feature certain aspects of aviation history and include Korean War Jets, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Lake Murray B-25 (a Second World War-era craft that was recovered from the depths of Lake Murray in South Carolina after being submerged for 62 years), Vietnam War Helicopters, and Huff- Daland Crop Dusters.
The Southern Museum of Flight also houses the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, which contains over 65 biographical plaques honoring inductees who have made significant contributions to aviation.
The EarlyWorks Children's History Museum
The EarlyWorks Children's History Museum is the largest hands-on history museum in the South. Exhibits portray Alabama's early history in ways that are fun, and at the same time educational, for children.
All the exhibits are designed for touching and learning. Older children can explore The Gallery, where they can hear stories told by the Talking Tree, play giant instruments at the Alabama Grandstand, build a house at the interactive architectural exhibit, explore a 46-foot (14-meter) river keelboat, buy and trade at the General Store, sign Alabama's constitution at the courthouse, learn facts about the state from the Talking Clock, and try on clothing from the 1800s at the Federal House.
Toddlers and younger children will enjoy Biscuit's Backyard, which features touch-and learn exhibits, including a general store, barn, garden, post office, treehouse, water table, and even karaoke.
The Birmingham Museum of Art
Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art is the largest municipal museum in the Southeast, with over 24,000 works of art from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Its collection is housed in a building that was designed by the architectural firm of Warren, Knight and Davis. Completed in 1959, the building has since undergone several major expansions, giving it its current total of 180,000 square feet (16,723 square meters) of space.
The collection, which dates from ancient to modern times, includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, decorative arts, and textiles. The museum contains one of the finest collections of Asian art in the Southeast, and its collection of Vietnamese ceramics is arguably the most comprehensive in the nation. And it houses the world's largest museum collection of Wedgwood china. The museum also has an impressive collection of paintings, ranging from Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the thirteenth century to the 1700s, to contemprary American works. Some of the more notable artists whose works are represented in the museum's collection include Georgia O'Keeffe, Frederic Remington, and Andy Warhol.
Other features of the Birmingham Museum of Art include its multi-level Charles W. Ireland Sculpture Garden and the Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. Library, one of the leading art-research libraries in the Southeast.
The Birmingham Museum of Art also hosts over 15 traveling exhibitions and more than 250 special events per year.
The Huntsville Museum of Art
The Huntsville Museum of Art is northern Alabama's premier visual arts center, and has been named as one of the state's top ten destinations by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.
The museum was established in 1970, but did not put on its first gallery exhibit until 1973. Its collection was first housed in the Von Braun Center in 1975, and it was moved to its present location in 1998. The museum's new building has a total of 52,000 square feet (4,831 square meters), including 15,000 square feet (1,394 square meters) of gallery space.
The museum's seven galleries house a 2,300-piece permanent collection divided into two categories: American art and regional artists, and other arts from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Notable artists represented in the American collection include Andy Warhol and James Whistler. Examples of works from around the world include European and Japanese prints, Chinese glassware, and African sculptures. The museum also features the world's largest collection of silver animal figures and a Southern photography collection which contains over 200 works.
In addition to is permanent collection, the Huntsville Museum of Art offers a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, including traveling exhibits and the works of regionally and nationally known artists.
Visitors can also shop in the Museum Store and even take classes in the Museum Academy.
The Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
The two-story Greek Revival Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens is a fine example of the antebellum plantation houses that were once a common sight in the South. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful homes were destroyed during the American Civil War. The Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens is the only antebellum mansion left in Birmingham.
The house was built between 1845 and 1850 by Judge William S. Mudd, one of the ten founders of Birmingham. It was originally located in the town of Elyton, the former county seat of Jefferson County. As nearby Birmingham grew and expanded, it eventually enveloped and incorporated Elyton, which no longer exists as an independent municipality.
During the American Civil War, the mansion was used as a regional headquarters by Union troops as they planned the burning of the University of Alabama.
Nowadays, the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens serves as a decorative arts museum and features a collection of nineteenth-century furniture, silver, textiles, and paintings. It is situated on six acres (two hectares) of landscaped grounds in a pleasant neighborhood west of downtown Birmingham.
The Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Birmingham Zoo
Opened in 1955, the Birmingham Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Alabama. It is situated on 122 acres (49 hectares) of wooded land south of the downtown area and features over 800 animals representing more than 200 species from six continents.
Special habitats include the Alligator Swamp; the Savannah, which recreates the African veldt and includes giraffes, greater kudus, gazelles, and ostriches; the Flamingo Lagoon; the Macaw Plaza which features these large, colorful parrots; the Children's Zoo; and an interactive aviary where visitors can feed and pet lorikeets and parrots. Another popular attraction is the sea lion show that is staged at different times throughout the day.
In addition, situated among the grounds of the zoo are different buildings which house exhibits restricted to certain families or categories of animals, including the Predator House, the Primate House, and the Reptile House.
The Weeden House Museum
What is now the Weeden House Museum was built in 1819 by Henry Bradford. The two-story brick home was built in the Federal style, a type of of architecture popular at the time. It was later owned by Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John McKinley. However, the house is better known as the birthplace and home of poet and artist Maria Howard Weeden, whose poetry and paintings captured the essence of nineteenth-century Southern culture. Dr. William Weeden purchased the house in 1845, and Maria Howard Weeden, the youngest of the Weeden children, was born in the house in 1846. She later went on to become a noted watercolorist and poet.
During the American Civil War, the house was requisitioned for use by Union officers, which probably saved it from being destroyed.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Weeden House is now a fine museum that depicts Southern life in the 1840s. It is furnished with period antiques from the mid-1800s, and prints of Maria Howard Weeden's watercolors and books of her poetry are on sale in the gift shop.
The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame was founded in 1978 to honor great jazz musicians with ties to Alabama. The museum opened in 1993 in the historic Art-Deco Carver Theatre, one of the few theaters in Birmingham that allowed blacks as patrons before desegregation.
The museum contains 2,200 square feet (204 square meters) of exhibit space, and features jazz memorabilia that includes instruments, paintings, quilts, and personal effects from such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Nat "King" Cole, Erskine Hawkins, and Sun Ra, to name but a few.
One of the missions of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is to educate and cultivate a general appreciation of the medium of jazz and its history. To that end, some the programs it sponsors include jazz performances in its 504-seat theater and around the Birmingham area, school visits by jazz musicians, free jazz classes every Saturday, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame Student All-Star Band, "Fun with Jazz" educational programs, and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame Jazz Band Festival.
The Alabama Theatre
Nicknamed the "Showplace of the South," the Alabama Theatre was built in 1927 as the southeast region's flagship theater of Paramount Picture's Publix Theatre chain. When it was completed, the Alabama Theatre was one of the most elegant and elaborate theaters in the nation. The 2,500-seat theater hosted vaudeville performances, performance arts, nickelodeons, and movie premiers. It hosted the Miss Alabama Pageant until the 1960s, and in the 1930s the theater was also home to Birmingham's Mickey Mouse Club, the largest in the world, with over 7,000 members.
Due to financial difficulties, the Alabama Theatre closed in 1981. It was purchased shortly thereafter by a nonprofit organization which eventually completely restored the theater to its original splendor. Nowadays, the theater serves as an arts center, hosting around 250 events per year, including Broadway-type plays, ballet, opera, music concerts, and films.
The centerpiece of the Alabama Theatre is a functional Wurlitzer organ that was used during showings of silent films. Called a Crawford Special-Publix One Mighty Wurlitzer, the organ is one of 25 of its type ever built, and is one of only three such organs still located in their original sites.
The Alabama Theatre has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Russell Cave National Monument
Russell Cave is located in what is now the Northeast corner of Alabama. Archeological findings have shown that the cave has been used as a campsite and a home since around 7000 BC. Here you can see the Visitors Center which also houses several interesting displays about the geology of the cave and the people that have visited the cave and/or called it home; take the boardwalk trail to the cave and see more displays inside the cave; hike the .6 mile nature trail; and aanother 1.2 mile hiking trail. There is also a picnic area.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
What to do in Monroeville
Monroeville, the county seat of Monroe County has a population of over 7000 people. It is located in Southeastern Alabama near US Highway 84. The town started in 1822 with one store. The Monroe County Court House was built between 1903 and 1904 and was designed by famous Southern Architect Andrew Bryan, using the Romanesque style of architecture with a Georgian influence. The old courthouse is now a museum. Monroeville has a nice historic district with several buildings of historic and architectural interest, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was born and raised in Monroeville. The fictional town of Maycomb is modeled on Monroeville. The novel received the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Truman Capote, a childhood neighbor and friend of Harper Lee, grew up in Monroeville. Novelist Mark Childress was also born there. As of 2006, an estimated 30,000 tourists visited Monroeville annually because of its association with To Kill a Mockingbird. Each May the Monroe County Heritage Museum stages an amateur play based on the book. The all-volunteer cast has been invited to perform in Washington, D.C., Hull, England, and Jerusalem. In 1997 the Alabama Legislature designated Monroeville and Monroe County the "Literary Capital of Alabama."Related to:
- Road Trip
- Theater Travel
- Historical Travel
What to do in Mobile
Mobile is a large city located in Southern Alabama along Mobile Bay. Mobile has many interesting things to do with beaches, museums (like the Mardi Gras Museum, the Exploreum, and a nice little fire museum), art and music venues, historical sites (like Fort Conde, the Conde Charlotte House, and Oakleigh Pantation) and friendly people. There are also lots of nice resorts, hotels and lots of good food. There are other nice attractions nearby like Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, and Bellingrath Gardens.
For more information and photos see my Mobile Page.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
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the drury inn & suites is a very good moderately priced hotel located south of downtown. the drury...more
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