Tourism Tuesdays May 28, 2019

Revitalizing Montgomery as it embraces its past

Nominations for the 2019 Tourism Awards by May 30

Welcome Center greeting tourism partners on May 30

Last American slave ship is discovered in Alabama

Legends in Concert brings the superstars to Coastal Alabama at new OWA Theater

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Revitalizing Montgomery as it embraces its past
From the article by Keith Schneider on

No other Southern city is arguably tied as closely to the history of race relations in America as Alabama’s capital, considered to be the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Not until recently, though, have the story of suffering and the response from activists translated into economic benefit for the 200-year-old river city.

Now, thousands of visitors arrive every day to experience new expressions of racial injustice, represented in a national monument to victims of lynching and an accompanying museum of slavery and mass incarceration. The two projects and the throngs of people who visit them are encouraging a surge of downtown construction.

Both attractions were the inspiration of Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. They express a contemporary narrative of bigotry that ties slavery, the Civil War, lynching, segregation and civil rights to the current era of street shootings and mass incarcerations of African-American men.

Since they opened in April 2018, the monument and museum are responsible for attracting 400,000 more visitors to Montgomery and selling 107,000 more hotel rooms in 2018 than the year before, according to city figures.

From the steps of the State Capitol, overlooking a historic business district, the ripple effects of the museum and monument are visible on almost every street. New hotels and thousands of square feet of retail space, offices, entertainment venues and residences are under construction.

Three more hotels and some 300 more residential units are planned by local and out-of-state builders, bringing the number of downtown units to 800 and the number of downtown residents to roughly 1,000. At the start of the decade, almost none of Montgomery’s citizens lived downtown, according to city figures.

The burst of development, the second wave of downtown construction since 1990, is reinventing the city. And it mirrors the experiences of other once-drowsy Southern state capitals that are being reshaped by strong downtown investment.

For example, developers spent almost $1.3 billion over the last decade in Baton Rouge, La., on mixed-use construction including nearly 800 residential units. Some 41 projects are under construction or planned, according to Downtown Baton Rouge, a development group.

In Columbia, S.C., an undeveloped 181-acre tract, most of it formerly owned by the state, is being converted into the Bull Street District, a walkable neighborhood with offices, residences, restaurants, stores, a new baseball stadium and a park.

And city leaders in Jackson, Miss., collaborated on an $800 million program of renovation and new construction. Since 2005, the city has added new downtown residences, office buildings, retail space, hotels, restaurants and two museums — the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, which were finished in 2017 at a combined cost of $74 million.

The museum’s opening coincided with the unveiling of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a short walk away. The six-acre collection of sculpture and commemorative architecture, constructed on an empty lot bought from the city, commands attention to the more than 4,000 lynchings that occurred in 800 American counties from Reconstruction to 1950.

Both the museum and the memorial were constructed at a cost of $20 million. Mr. Stevenson, a decorated human rights lawyer, earned his national reputation representing death-row inmates. He became a developer by necessity, he said.

“I became focused on cultural spaces for people to deal honestly with the past. We’ve done a terrible job in America of talking honestly about slavery and segregation,” Mr. Stevenson said. “I knew it was going to be significant because it hadn’t happened in America and it needed to be done. I just wasn’t sure how much interest there would be.”

It turns out there’s tremendous interest. Mr. Stevenson just spent almost $1 million to buy an empty city lot and a 25,000-square-foot warehouse near the museum for 150 parking spaces and a $4 million visitor center for the museum’s ticket office and store and for a soul food restaurant.

Elsewhere on Coosa Street, a 116-year-old brick furniture warehouse is being renovated as a $14 million, 103-room SpringHill Suites hotel. Down the block, the Murphy House, a two-story Greek Revival mansion built in 1851 that housed Union troops after the Civil War, was sold last year for $2 million and will be renovated into a 100-room Marriott Autograph boutique hotel.

The once-empty and dilapidated brick commercial buildings on Dexter Avenue, which were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were the endpoint of the 54-mile civil rights protest march from Selma in 1965, are being restored as retail, office and residential spaces.

Blocks away, close to where Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus, the 112-year-old, 12-story Bell Building, once the city’s tallest office structure, is being remodeled into 88 apartments at a cost of $25 million.

Around a corner, a 114-room, $12.5 million Staybridge Suites hotel is nearing completion. It’s within walking distance of a museum commemorating the Freedom Riders, housed in the Greyhound bus station where civil rights activists were attacked in 1961 by a white mob.

“The city has wonderful bones for redevelopment,” said Mark Buller, president of Marjam Supply, a construction supplier in Brooklyn, who bought a lumberyard in Montgomery in 2009.

Mr. Buller and his wife, Sarah Beatty Buller, spent $25 million to renovate the 90-year-old Kress Building on Dexter Avenue. Once a bustling department store, the building reopened last year with 110,000 square feet of retail space on the first and second floors, office space on the third floor, and 28apartments on the newly added fourth and fifth floors.

Inspired by the area’s history and business opportunities, the Bullers paid $5.2 million in 2014 to buy the Kress Building, eight other empty buildings near Court Squareand several city-owned lots. They plan to invest $100 million to redevelop the 247,000 square feet they own along Dexter Avenue and adjoining Montgomery Street, and 55.5 undeveloped acres elsewhere in Montgomery. All will be designed by local professionals and constructed by Montgomery tradesman and contractors.

“We’ve met wonderful people,” Mr. Buller said. “I feel strongly that we are on track to make things better, including for our family and our business.”

Montgomery’s ample assembly of historical museums is also registering strong increases in visitors. The First White House of the Confederacy, a mansion built in 1835, where Jefferson Davis lived in 1861 while serving as Confederate president, had 30,000 visitors last year, up from the typical 25,000, said Bob Wieland, its curator. Last year, according to city figures, Montgomery’s airport served nearly 339,000 passengers, 34,000 more than in 2017.

“We’re confronting our past. We’re owning the issues that Bryan is talking about,” the city’s mayor, Todd Strange, said. “The Memorial for Peace and Justice is amazing. It’s powerful.”

For the complete article please see

Nominations for the 2019 Tourism Awards by May 30
Nominations for 2019 end on May 30. Please submit your nomination for a tourism professional you feel has gone above and beyond the call of duty. There are 13 categories to choose from: Tourism Hall of Fame, Attraction of the Year, Event of the Year, Governor’s Tourism Award, Tourism Advocate Media, Tourism Advocate Government, Tourism Professional of the Year, Tourism Executive of the Year, Tourism Organization of the Year, Tourism Partnership, Welcome Center Employee of the Year, ATD Employee of the Year, Rising Star, and Themed Campaigns.

List of past “Tourism Hall of Fame” winners through the years:
2008 – Chalmus Weathers
2009 – Anthony J. Rane
2011 – Doug Purcell
2012 – Dr. Edwin Bridges
2013 – No nomination
2014 – Mary Ann Neely
2015 – Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr.
2016 – David Johnson, Elaine Fuller, Bellingrath Gardens, & Priester’s Pecans
2017 – Allen W. Mathis & J. Gary Ellis
2018 – Dr. William E. Barrick

If you have any questions please contact Cynthia Flowers at 334-242-4413 or by email:

Welcome Center greeting tourism partners on May 30
The Alabama Tourism Department-Welcome Center Program will be welcoming guests throughout the state to increase the awareness of the economic, social and cultural impact that tourism has on the local, regional and statewide communities. We invite our tourism partners to participate from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. (central standard time) by bringing special promotions, coupons, etc., and share in our hospitality on the following dates:

May 30: DeKalb Welcome Center

Please contact the Welcome Center managers to RSVP.

Last American slave ship is discovered in Alabama
From the article by Joel K. Bourne, Jr. on

The schooner Clotilda — the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to America’s shores — has been discovered in a remote arm of Alabama’s Mobile River following an intensive yearlong search by marine archaeologists.

“Descendants of the Clotilda survivors have dreamed of this discovery for generations,” says Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the State Historic Preservation Officer. “We’re thrilled to announce that their dream has finally come true.”

The captives who arrived aboard Clotilda were the last of an estimated 389,000 Africans delivered into bondage in mainland America from the early 1600s to 1860. Thousands of vessels were involved in the transatlantic trade, but very few slave wrecks have ever been found.

“The discovery of the Clotilda sheds new light on a lost chapter of American history,” says Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, which supported the search. “This finding is also a critical piece of the story of Africatown, which was built by the resilient descendants of America’s last slave ship.”

Rare firsthand accounts left by the slaveholders as well as their victims offer a one-of-a-kind window into the Atlantic slave trade, says Sylviane Diouf, a noted historian of the African diaspora.

“It’s the best documented story of a slave voyage in the Western Hemisphere,” says Diouf, whose 2007 book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama, chronicles the Clotilda’s saga. “The captives were sketched, interviewed, even filmed,” she says, referring to some who lived into the 20th century. “The person who organized the trip talked about it. The captain of the ship wrote about it. So we have the story from several perspectives. I haven’t seen anything of that sort anywhere else.”

In 1927 Cudjo Lewis, then one of the last living Clotilda survivors, shared his life story with anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. Her book Barracoon, finally published in 2018, includes Lewis’s telling of the harrowing voyage aboard Clotilda.

It began with a bet
Clotilda’s story began when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile landowner and shipbuilder, allegedly wagered several Northern businessmen a thousand dollars that he could smuggle a cargo of Africans into Mobile Bay under the nose of federal officials.

Importing slaves into the United States had been illegal since 1808, and southern plantation owners had seen prices in the domestic slave trade skyrocket. Many, including Meaher, were advocating for reopening the trade.

Meaher chartered a sleek, swift schooner named Clotilda and enlisted its builder, Captain William Foster, to sail it to the notorious slave port of Ouidah in present-day Benin to buy captives. Foster left West Africa with 110 young men, women, and children crowded into the schooner’s hold. One girl reportedly died during the brutal six-week voyage. Purchased for $9,000 in gold, the human cargo was worth more than 20 times that amount in 1860 Alabama.

After transferring the captives to a riverboat owned by Meaher’s brother, Foster burned the slaver to the waterline to hide their crime. Clotilda kept her secrets over the decades, even as some deniers contended that the shameful episode never occurred.

After the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, the Africans longed to return to their home in West Africa. Lacking the means, they managed to buy small plots of land north of Mobile, where they formed their own tight-knit community that came to be known as Africatown. There they made new lives for themselves but never lost their African identity. Many of their descendants still live there today and grew up with stories of the famous ship that brought their ancestors to Alabama.

“If they find evidence of that ship, it’s going to be big,” descendant Lorna Woods predicted earlier this year. “All Mama told us would be validated. It would do us a world of good.”

Mary Elliott, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, agrees.

“There are many examples today — the Tulsa race riots of 1921, this story, even the Holocaust — where some people say it never happened. Now, because of the archaeology, the archival research, the science combined with the collective memories of the community, it can’t be refuted. They are now connected to their ancestors in a tangible way, knowing this story is true.”

The hunt for lost history
Several attempts to locate Clotilda’s remains have been made over the years, but the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is rife with sloughs, oxbows, and bayous, as well as scores of shipwrecks from more than three centuries of maritime activity. Then in January 2018 Ben Raines, a local journalist, reported that he had discovered the remains of a large wooden ship during an abnormally low tide. The AHC, which owns all abandoned ships in Alabama’s state waters, called in the archaeology firm Search, Inc., to investigate the hulk.

The vessel in question turned out to be anothership, but the false alarm focused national attention on the long-lost slaver. The incident also prompted the AHC to fund further research in partnership with the National Geographic Society and Search, Inc.

Researchers combed through hundreds of original sources from the period and analyzed records of more than 2,000 ships that were operating in the Gulf of Mexico during the late 1850s. They discovered that Clotilda was one of only five Gulf-built schooners then insured. Registration documents provided detailed descriptions of the schooner, including its construction and dimensions.

“Clotilda was an atypical, custom-built vessel,” says maritime archaeologist James Delgado of Search, Inc. “There was only one Gulf-built schooner 86 feet long with a 23-foot beam and a six-foot, 11-inch hold, and that was Clotilda.

“Records also noted that the schooner was built of southern yellow pine planking over white oak frames and was outfitted with a 13-foot-long centerboard that could be raised or lowered as needed to access shallow harbors.

Based on their research of possible locations, Delgado and Alabama state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn focused on a stretch of the Mobile River that had never been dredged. Deploying divers and an array of devices — a magnetometer for detecting metal objects, a side-scan sonar for locating structures on and above the river bottom, and a sub-bottom profiler for detecting objects buried beneath the mucky riverbed — they discovered a veritable graveyard of sunken ships.

Prior to the state survey, Raines continued his own search for the wreck, enlisting researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to map the contours of the riverbed and detect any submerged objects. The USM survey revealed the presence of a wooden wreck bearing some hallmarks of a 19th-century vessel.

“The dimensions of the ship have not been determined yet,” Raines reported in June 2018. “It also remains unclear what type of vessel was found. Answering those questions will take a more thorough and invasive examination, precisely the expertise of Search, Inc.”

Delgado’s team easily eliminated most of the potential wrecks: wrong size, metal hull, wrong type of wood. But the vessel Raines and the USM survey had highlighted stood out from the rest.

Over the next ten months, Delgado’s team analyzed the sunken vessel’s design and dimensions, the type of wood and metal used in its construction, and evidence that it had burned. It “matched everything on record about Clotilda,” Delgado said.

Samples of wood recovered from Target 5 are white oak and southern yellow pine from the Gulf coast. The archaeologists also found the remains of a centerboard of the correct size.

Metal fasteners from its hull are made of hand-forged pig iron, the same type known to have been used on Clotilda. And there’s evidence that the hull was originally sheathed with copper, as was then common practice for oceangoing merchant vessels.

No nameplate or other inscribed artifacts conclusively identified the wreck, Delgado says, “but looking at the various pieces of evidence, you can reach a point beyond reasonable doubt.”

A national slave ship memorial
The wreck of Clotilda now carries the dreams of Africatown, which has suffered from declining population, poverty, and a host of environmental insults from heavy industries that surround the community. Residents hope that the wreck will generate tourism and bring businesses and employment back to their streets. Some have even suggested it be raised and put on display.

The community was recently awarded nearly $3.6 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon legal settlement to rebuild a visitor center destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. But what’s left of the burned-out wreck is in very poor condition, says Delgado. Restoring it would cost many millions of dollars.

But a national slave ship memorial — akin to the watery grave of the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor — might be an option. There visitors could reflect on the horrors of the slave trade and be reminded of Africa’s enormous contribution to the making of America.

“We are still living in the wake of slavery,” says Paul Gardullo, director of the Center for the Study of Global Slavery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a member of the Slave Wrecks Project that was involved in the search for Clotilda. “We continue to be confronted by slavery. It keeps popping up because we haven’t dealt with this past. If we do our work right, we have an opportunity not just to reconcile, but to make some real change.”

For the complete article please see

Legends in Concert brings the superstars to Coastal Alabama at new OWA Theater
From the article on

Legends in Concert kicks off its all-new location and residency with an incomparable cast of music legends this summer at OWA, with the show set to debut at its new home beginning Friday, June 7. The longest-running show in Las Vegas will bring audiences to their feet with performances paying tribute to Bruno Mars, Reba McEntire, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Rod Stewart and Garth Brooks, at the newly constructed OWA Theater. The show will feature not only the world’s greatest tribute artists, but also dancers, back-up vocalists, a live band, magnificent costumes, elaborate theatrical sets, a full array of incredible special effects and much more.

“Partnering with a world-class show like Legends in Concert creates another great opportunity for guests to enjoy a memorable night out at OWA,” stated Cody Williamson, President/CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority. “We will continue investing in exciting entertainment elements not only for our destination, but to encourage year around appeal of the Gulf Coasts for both visitors and locals alike.”

Audiences will “Treasure” the sensational tribute to Bruno Mars, portrayed by Isaiah, and “Turn On the Radio” with Corrie Sachs’ tribute to the music catalog of Reba McEntire. Witness the return of the King, Elvis Presley, portrayed by the “Hunk of Burning Love” Victor Trevino and experience the voice of a generation, with Jazmine’s powerhouse tribute to Whitney Houston. Rod Stewart is “Forever Young” with Rob Caudill’s rockin’ tribute to ‘Rod the Mod’ while “The Thunder Rolls” in Shawn Gerhard’s stunning recreation of Garth Brooks. Legends in Concert continues to celebrate the world’s most famous and influential icons, many gone too soon, giving audiences an extraordinary chance to experience live the most captivating music, fashion and memories of these true legends.

“Building on our show’s over three and a half decades of success, we are thrilled to unveil our legendary production to another fast-growing, family-friendly destination, and entertain guests visiting Coastal Alabama for many years to come,” said Brian Brigner, chief operating officer of On Stage Enterprises, producers of Legends. “The theater looks fantastic and possesses technical capabilities that are absolutely going to wow audiences.”

Since its debut in 1983, Legends in Concert has earned countless entertainment industry awards including “Show of the Year,” “Entertainers of the Year,” “Grand Slam,” and the prestigious “Show of Shows” awarded by the International Press Association and was most recently awarded the 2018 “Casino Production Show of the Year,” at the sixth annual Casino Entertainment Awards, presented by The Global Gaming Expo (G2E).

Legends in Concert will perform Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with additional matinee shows available at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Adult tickets go on sale Saturday, May 25 at 11 a.m. for $34.95 (+taxes/fees) and Child (ages 4-12) tickets starting at $17.95 (+taxes/fees). Legends in Concert also offers discounted Military tickets for $27.95 (+taxes/fees). VIP balcony section and preferred seating will also be available.

For the complete article please see,77630

2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 17-20, at the Von Braun Center and Embassy Suites in Huntsville. The conference provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

Registration and Reservations at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Would you like to be featured in the 2020 Alabama Vacation Guide? Login to your Partner account and submit your events by June 30. Be sure to include an image.


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