Tourism Tuesdays March 27, 2018

Efforts to get U.S. Civil Rights sites on the World Heritage list
Kiwanis Club connects Vulcan to downtown Birmingham
Alabama Shakespeare Festival names new executive director
Montgomery building wins Excellence in Construction award for best historical restoration
Statewide walking tours begin in April
Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Efforts to get U.S. Civil Rights sites on the World Heritage list
From the article by Maria Saporta on

An exhaustive effort is underway to catapult the international recognition of the modern Civil Rights movement in the South.

Thanks to a grant from the Alabama Department of Tourism, Georgia State University is shepherding the effort to get about a dozen Civil Rights landmarks to be nominated as World Heritage sites.

“It will be a big deal when it happens,” said Anne Farrisee, project manager of GSU’s World Heritage Initiative. “When the nomination happens, it’s going to raise the awareness of not only these sites but of Civil Rights sites nationally.”

Earlier this month, GSU received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to support the nomination of U.S. Civil Rights Sites to the World Heritage list.

Farrisee explained that getting a place declared as a World Heritage site is a long and arduous process – one expected to take years.

And this “serial” nomination of about a dozen Civil Rights sites in the South can feel a little unwieldy at times.

But already the initiative has had a major victory.

In January, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail was announced by TravelSouth. The work to develop the trail was part of GSU’s World Heritage team’s effort to evaluate more than 160 places associated with the modern Civil Rights movement. Information on those sites were part of the serial nomination for the U.S. Civil Rights Sites potentially being included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Glenn Eskew, director of GSU’s World Heritage Initiative, explained that there are 1,073 World Heritage sites globally with only 23 of them in the United States.

World Heritage sites have to be internationally significant, and several conditions must be met for a site to be included on the list.

“We have looked at over 150 places,” Eskew said. “They must have ‘outstanding universal value.’ And preservation is an issue. You have to guarantee that the site will be preserved in perpetuity.”

Farrisee explained that by the end of this year, GSU should have a tentative list of nominations to present to the National Park Service.

GSU will use the funds from its most recent grant for its community outreach work – talking to property owners and stakeholders. It expects to go on its first round of visits this summer.

The list will then be reviewed by the National Parks Service, and then it is reviewed by the U.S. Department of Interior. Then it has to be reviewed and revised before being presented to international bodies with final approval coming from UNESCO.

“We are talking years,” Farrisee said.

For this nomination process, Eskew said they are looking for “sites of conscience” – places that tell a story “of people overcoming oppression” and sites that are recognized as being globally important. The modern Civil Rights Movement continues to send out ripples nationally and internationally.

“They were singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ when the wall came down in Berlin,” Eskew said.

Once these landmarks become designated as World Heritage sites, they will become hubs for global tourism. Farrisee said World Heritage sites are much better known internationally than in the United States, and they are magnets for global tourism.

It was in that spirit that Alabama initiated the effort to get three historic black churches listed as National Parks sites to be converted to World Heritage sites. The National Park Service said there should be a broader nomination for a series of Civil Rights landmarks.

That effort was daunting, so Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell made a request for bids. Georgia State University and Glenn Eskew won a $650,000 contract in 2016 to prepare for the World Heritage nomination.

Eskew said Alabama has been ahead of other states, including Georgia, in recognizing the historic significance of the African-American Civil Rights sites as well as their value for global tourism.

“Back in the 1980s, during the last term of George Wallace, Alabama hired Ed Hall to pull together a black heritage tour,” said Eskew, who is a Civil Rights scholar . “Alabama was the first state in the nation to start marketing black heritage for tourism back in the 1990s.”

The World Heritage nomination – through the U.S. Civil Rights Trail and other 50th anniversary events underway – already is shining a spotlight for the movement. They include Central High in Little Rock, Ark., the site of the sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C., the three churches in Alabama as well as sites in Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina.

“We are looking regionally,” Eskew said. “The modern Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It was a struggle against legal segregation. It was the struggle of the Deep South.”

For the complete article please see

Kiwanis Club connects Vulcan to downtown Birmingham
The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham has officially cut the ribbon on the Kiwanis Centennial Park and Kiwanis Vulcan Trail. As a gift to the community, this project marks Kiwanis’ 100 years of service. The $5.8 million enhancement to Vulcan Park and Museum was spearheaded by the 550-plus members of the club in cooperation with Vulcan Park and Museum and Freshwater Land Trust.

“We’ve reconnected Vulcan to its WPA roots and to the people of downtown Birmingham. With the trail we have created sort of a Central Park. You have to see it to believe it.” said Tom Thagard, Kiwanis Centennial Park Committee Chair. “Ninety-years later we have finally realized Olmstead’s vision to create a linear park from Vulcan across Red Mountain to George Ward Park. We’ve preserved the north face of Red Mountain for our children and grandchildren forever.”

The Kiwanis Centennial Park Project has three components: The north side of Vulcan Park, once in significant disrepair, has now been transformed into Kiwanis Centennial Park, a new municipal park and event space that can be used by Birmingham residents communitywide. A new plaza, fountain and steps leading up to Vulcan connect Downtown Birmingham to Vulcan both physically and visually.

“Just as the Statue of Liberty stands for our country, Vulcan serves as the unifying symbol of our city for generations past and generations to come,” said Lawrence Whatley, Vulcan Park and Museum Foundation Board Chair. “Though forged from elements that lay beneath us, he stands tall above us, reminding us of what we came from and what we can achieve as a community. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, the committee and all who made this project possible.”

The second component is Kiwanis Vulcan Trail, a 2-mile jogging and biking trail extending to Green Springs Highway and serving as the future hub for the planned 750 miles of Birmingham’s Red Rock Trail System.

Libba Vaughan, Executive Director, Fresh Water Land Trust added, “When I look at Vulcan, everywhere Vulcan can see, this trail will be. And to me it represents just not where we’ve been, but our collective future and how we can spur economic development through trails and greenspace. How we can improve our quality of life and collective health and how we can attract people to stay and move to our community.”

The third component is a dynamic, multi-colored light show projected onto Vulcan each night, to be completed later this year.

“For me it’s one word, connectivity. We know the history of our city and our region, and we know what Vulcan stands for and how he links to our past. But this trail and this park is a spark in our present and future as it relates to connectivity for our entire city and region,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. ‘We have to be in a place where we talk about improving quality of life, and what better way than parks, greenspaces and trails where people can walk, can bike, can run and do anything they want as an individual or family. The Kiwanis Centennial Park and Kiwanis Vulcan Trail are very impressive and I am, just as a Kiwanian, glad to be a part of it. We’re excited as a city to support all of the work that’s been done, and personally I look forward to riding my bike on the trail.”

Alabama Shakespeare Festival names new executive director
From the article by Mark Bullock on (WSFA-12)

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has a new executive director. The theater’s board of directors announced Friday that Todd Schmidt will join the recently appointed artistic director, Rick Dildine, as co-leaders of Alabama’s state theater. Schmidt is currently the managing director of Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, where he has staged a number of U.S. and world premiere productions.

“The board and staff of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are delighted to welcome Todd Schmidt as our executive director,” said board chair Laurie Weil. “His award-winning expertise and experience in finance, fundraising, and marketing will enable our artistic director, Rick Dildine, to work his magic on stages both within the magnificent ASF facilities and beyond its walls.”

Schmidt is an Alabama native, having grown up in Jackson and Vestavia Hills. He received his BS in Business Administration from Auburn University and went on to complete an MFA at the prestigious Theatre School at DePaul University.

“I am honored and excited to return to Alabama and help guide the Alabama Shakespeare Festival,” he said.

Schmidt also has held management positions at theaters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Fish Creek, Wisconsin, and he has worked closely with three theater companies in Chicago.

“Todd Schmidt has a track record as a dynamic executive leader,” said ASF Artistic Director Rick Dildine. “I am excited to partner with him as we seek to make Alabama Shakespeare Festival a vibrant, transformative theater company where all our communities feel welcomed, engaged, entertained, and inspired.”

The job of executive director is a new position at ASF. It replaces the job once known as chief operating officer. Mike Vigilant served in that role until his departure in 2017. Vigilant had worked at the theater for nearly two decades. Ed Crowell later served as interim executive director.

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is among the largest Shakespeare theaters in the world. The professional theater has been located in Montgomery since 1985 when Mr. and Mrs. Wynton Blount donated a performing arts complex in the 250-acre Winton M. Blount Cultural Park.

For the complete article please see

Montgomery building wins Excellence in Construction Award for best historical restoration
On March 21st, the Kress Building, which had formerly been in disrepair, on Dexter Avenue was given the ABC Excellence in Construction Award for best historical restoration under $25 million. Led by community developer, Montgomery BUILDS, and through collaboration with local architects Seay, Seay & Litchfield and contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, they transformed the three-story building into a five-story 110,000-square-foot mixed-use property with office space, retail, and 26 residential units.

The Kress building was originally built in 1898 by owner Samuel L. Kress and rebuilt in 1929 after a fire. However, due to years of water damage, 60 percent of the original ornamental plasterwork was destroyed.  To replicate as close to the original design as possible, 1929 ornamental plaster was cast and local craftspeople worked for months restoring the deco elements. They abated and demolished and rebuilt the buildings on either side of Kress to fuse the original building with the new construction for elevator and mechanicals. To support the additional floors, 164 tons of new structural steel was added to the existing 411 tons of steel in the building.

In addition to architectural feats, Montgomery BUILDS worked alongside the community to ensure that Kress on Dexter encapsulated the deep history of Montgomery. The new tongue and grove wood flooring on the second level of the building were milled from beams salvaged from demolition of the oldest theatre in the state of Alabama – the 1860 Montgomery Theatre (later called the Webber Theatre). The Webber Theatre is where John Wilkes Booth performed regularly, and performed just weeks before assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

During renovation, construction crews also uncovered two oversized slabs of marble engraved with the words “white” and “colored.”  These slabs backed Kress’s segregated water fountains. Displayed inside Kress’s Monroe Street entrance, the relics serve as a way of bearing witness to a complex and painful history; they will be unveiled in a special ceremony on April 12th.

Statewide walking tours begin in April
Some 30 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours.

A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours will start at 10 a.m. on April 7, 14, 21 and 28.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Decatur, Rose Garden at Delano Park; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Elkmont, Elkmont Depot; Enterprise, The Rawls Hotel; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Eufaula, Eufaula Barbor County Chamber of Commerce; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 7 & 14 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 21 & 28 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Monroeville, Old Courthouse Museum; Montgomery, Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Troy, Pike County Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department. “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours. These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state. More than 35,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program 15 years ago and the tours keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Spring Tourism Workshop
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Wednesday, April 11. The workshop will be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee. For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email atRosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Connect with us on Facebook! We’ve launched a new Facebook page for industry partners. We want to tell you about exciting updates, hear your thoughts and know what you’re up to so we can share them with our networks. Follow the link, give us a “like” and get connected. Email Jo Jo Terry, for more information.


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