Tourism Tuesdays November 29, 2016

Obama will sign proclamation in January designating national historic civil rights area in Birmingham

Governor Bentley to light official state Christmas tree Friday

Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours

Book talk at Archives by Ed Bridges, Alabama: The making of an American state

Replica of Columbus’ ships Pinta and Nina will land in Rogersville

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming event

Obama will sign proclamation in January designating national historic civil rights area in Birmingham

By Roy S. Johnson,, Nov. 28

President Obama will sign a public proclamation in January designating portions of the Civil Rights District in downtown Birmingham as a national historic monument, according to informed sources.

The signing, which is allowed under the Antiquities Act of 1906, is slated to occur in Washington, D.C.

The footprint of the historic area will include the A.G. Gaston Motel, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, Masonic Temple, Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, and the 4th Avenue business district.

The area will be declared a national historic monument, rather than a national park because it is being created by presidential public proclamation. National historic parks may only be created by the U.S. Congress.

Now is the time for Birmingham to take its “rightful place as a city that was pivotal to the civil rights movement,” said U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell as a Birmingham Civil Rights Historic District could soon be in the national spotlight as a national park.

In March, Sewell introduced legislation to create a Birmingham Civil Rights National Historic Park with the aim of securing bipartisan support. The bill, however, is stalled in committee.

The proclamation will create federal funding for the renovations, park rangers, and marketing support

Sewell will presumably continue to push for Congressional approval of the national park designation, despite the presidential proclamation.

In October, during a visit to Birmingham and Anniston by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, Brent Leggs, senior field officer for the preservation division for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told that while national parks and national monuments are created differently, they are treated the same by the National Park Service.

The national monument proclamation is expected to create federal funding for the renovation of the A.G. Gaston Motel, located at 1510 5th Ave. North, as well as providing park rangers, technical assistance and marketing support designed to spur visitation to the area, Mayor William A. Bell has said.

The motel, which was built in 1954 and is owned by the city, has been closed since 1986 and is in significant disrepair. The city deeded a small portion of the motel–as little as 20 feet–to the federal government, essentially the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. In order to qualify for federal funding, the National Park Service must own at least a small a small portion of the project.

Motel renovations will include a restaurant, classrooms, retail space and archival area for the Institute.

The National Park System says it received over 292 million visits to its sites in 2014, adding that those visitors spent $15.7 billion in areas within 60 miles of the park, and contributed 277,000 jobs (108,000 of which were in the hospitality industry–lodging, restaurants, and bars, according to the NPS).

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Governor Bentley to light official state Christmas tree Friday

Governor Robert Bentley will light the State’s official Christmas tree during a special ceremony Friday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. on the front steps of the State Capitol.

“Our tree lighting ceremony is more than just a way to kick-off the Christmas season” Bentley said.  “It is an opportunity to honor the birth of Jesus Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.”

Joining the Governor at the tree-lighting ceremony will be Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, State Treasurer Young Boozer, Secretary of State John Merrill and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.  Christmas music will be performed by The Secret Sisters, the singing and songwriting duo from Muscle Shoals, and the 151st Army Band of the Alabama National Guard.

The tree-lighting ceremony will be followed by a Capitol Open House from 6-7 p.m. with refreshments. Santa Claus will also be available for photos.  Visitors are encouraged to bring canned foods to donate to the Montgomery Area Food Bank.

The Christmas tree is a 35-foot Eastern red cedar grown in Bullock County that was donated by Ray Allen, owner of Feather’s Properties.  It is adorned with more than 35,000 LED lights and 67 stars representing each of Alabama’s counties.

More information is available about the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony online at


Governor’s Mansion open for Candlelight Tours

Gov. Robert Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Designers have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours.  “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and I want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Bentley. 

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Lynne Coker Interiors and Katherine Trantham Interior Design.

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Trinity Presbyterian Children’s Choir from Montgomery on Dec. 5, Forest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School Choir from Montgomery and Albertville High Vocal Ease on Dec. 12, Oxford Christian School Choir and Alabama School of Law’s The Footnotes on Dec. 19.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry St. in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5, 12 and 19.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online at


Book talk at Archives by Ed Bridges, Alabama: The making of an American state

A Book Talk by Ed Bridges, Director Emeritus of the Alabama Archives

A book talk by Ed Bridges, author of Alabama: The making of an American state, will be at the Alabama Dept. of Archives & History on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at Noon.

Alabama: The making of an American state, released in the fall of 2016 by the University of Alabama Press, is a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated new resource for anyone seeking a broad understanding of Alabama history.  With the approaching bicentennial of statehood in 2019, this book offers a fresh perspective on the unique social, political, economic, and cultural forces that have shaped our state.


Replica of Columbus’ ships Pinta and Nina will land in Rogersville

The ‘Pinta’ and the ‘Nina’, replicas of Columbus’ ships, will be open for inspection in Rogersville on Thursday, Dec. 1.  The ships will be docked at Joe Wheeler State Park, 4403 McLean Drive, until their departure early Monday morning Dec. 5.

The replica of the ‘Nina’ was built completely by hand and without the use of power tools.  Archaeology magazine called the ship “the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.”  In 2005, the replica of the ‘Pinta’ was launched in Brazil.  The ‘Pinta’ was the first ship to site land in the New World.  Historians consider these caravels, small, highly maneuverable ships built by the Portuguese, the Space Shuttle of the fifteenth century.

Both ships tour together as a new and enhanced ‘sailing museum’ for the purpose of educating the public and school children on caravels, the Portuguese ships used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover the world.  Before him, the Old World and the New remained separate and distinct continents and ever since their fates have been bound together for better or for worse.

While in port, the general public is invited to visit the ships for a walk-aboard, self-guided tour.  Admission charges are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for students 5 – 16.   Children 4 and under get in free.  The ships are open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.    No reservations necessary. 

Teachers or organizations wishing to schedule a 30-minute guided tour with a crew member should call 1-787-672-2152 or email   Minimum of 15.  $5.00 per person.  No Maximum. Visit the website at

The ships arrive on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and there will be a private viewing of the ships for the media after docking. 



Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Dec. 2, 5:30 p.m. – Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting & Open House          Alabama State Capitol


Dec. 5, 12 & 19, 5:30 p.m. –  Candlelight Tours                                            Governor’s Mansion



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