Historing to visit in October

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Over three decades ago, hundreds of visitors from across Alabama and the southland flocked to the Camellia City to enjoy a tour of some of Greenville’s finest old homes, churches and landmarks.

The gala occasion was the Alabama Historical Association’s (AHA) Annual Fall Pilgrimage. The Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society (BCHGS) played local host for that 1972 tour.

Community spirit seen

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Local scout troops, city workers and the faculty and students of the GHS North Campus joined forces in a city clean-up campaign in the fall of 1972.

Garden clubs and owners of homes included on the tour worked on supplying plenty of &uot;spit polish and shine&uot; to the homes’ historic interiors, while local florists supplied flowers to decorate the churches on tour.

The community’s efforts seemed to have paid off.

According to an article written by Virginia Webb Plummer in ‘The Greenville Advocate’, dated October 26,1972, the AHA members &uot;liked what they saw in Greenville Saturday.&uot;

The article also stated &uot;The 500 out-of-towners … seemed quite happy with what the Camellia City had to offer in the way of interest and beauty. Also people.&uot;

Returning to the Camellia City

Nearly 32 years later, visitors will once again flock to Greenville this fall, as the city welcomes historians, educators and those who simply love Alabama history, especially its wonderful old churches and homes.

The Annual Alabama Historical Association Fall Pilgrimage is slated for Saturday, Oct. 9.

An informative morning program at the city’s Art Deco gem, the Ritz Theatre, will be followed by a buffet luncheon at the First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center. That afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. six historic homes and two churches will be open for the tour.

In conjunction with the pilgrimage, a display at the Whitney Bank on Friday and Saturday will spotlight artwork, photography and craft work created by members of the Greenville Area Fine Arts League.

Excitement in the air

The BCHGS is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and the AHA pilgrimage will play a big part in the continuing festivities.

&uot;We are so glad the AHA decided to return to Greenville this year for the pilgrimage,&uot; says BCHGS President Barbara Middleton.

The AHA’s choice proved serendipitous for the local historical society.

&uot;We had already planned to have a fall tour this year as part of our fortieth anniversary celebration. When the AHA contacted us about the pilgrimage, well, we decided to celebrate together,&uot; she explains.

BCHGS Librarian and Historian Judy Taylor points it is &uot;quite an honor&uot; for Greenville to be chosen for this statewide pilgrimage. &uot;There will be some magnificent homes on tour, some never opened to the public before,&uot; Taylor comments.

Middleton hopes the hundreds of visitors to the area will take advantage of all the opportunities that will be offered that weekend.

&uot;We will have information and displays from Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and other local groups on hand at the Ritz Theatre on Saturday morning. We also have the art show going that weekend allowing visitors to see the wonderful work of our local artists,&uot; Middleton says. She adds, &uot;Friday, our research room will be open all day for anyone who wants to browse our collection…we want to offer to our visitors a sampling of all the good things we have to offer, past and present, in our hometown.&uot;

Middleton says she also plans to revise her &uot;Camellia Trail Driving Tour&uot; brochure in time for pilgrimage visitors.

Then and now

Anne Feathers, a member of both BCHGS and AHA, is certainly thrilled to see the annual pilgrimage return to the city. She and husband John are co-chairmen for the event.

Even though the couple was living in Atlanta at the time, Feathers says she and John was a part of the first Greenville pilgrimage in 1972.

&uot;Even though we were still living in Georgia, we were already members of AHA…we felt the pilgrimages were a great way to get back into Alabama history and lore and visit all these wonderful towns and homes,&uot; Feathers explains.

She says they have become devotees of the annual pilgrimages and hope others will come to share in their enthusiasm and decide to join the AHA.

&uot;We have visited many Alabama cities over the years through these annual pilgrimages and have so enjoyed them all,&uot; Feathers adds.

Historic places

The Feathers’ own home on Herbert Street, a one-story Greek Revival cottage dating back to the mid-19th century, is just one of six historic Greenville homes included on the October tour. The antebellum home still features its original heart-pine woodwork and wood-peg construction.

Other homes slated for the fall pilgrimage include the Dunklin-Beeland-Frakes Home, yet another classic antebellum Greek Revival house; the Gamble-Crenshaw-McGowin Home, a handsome one-and-a-half story Victorian with a wrap-around porch; the Flowers-Thigpen-Stallings-Smith Home, an elegant 1860s frame cottage featuring chimney pots imported from Bavaria; The Dunklin-Kendrick-Poole Home, an imposing white-columned two-story Greek Revival dating back to 1857, and the circa-1850 Parmer-Lane-Kendrick-Sherling Home, considered the Camellia City’s finest example of a raised Greek Revival cottage.

Visitors will also be able to tour Saint Thomas Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church (also the site of Saturday’s buffet luncheon).

Calling all members

The Fall Pilgrimage is open to members of the Alabama Historical Association and/or the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society along with their guests.

The cost of the luncheon and tour is $15 per person or $5 for the afternoon tour only. Advance registration is required.

Of course, the BCHGS always welcomes the opportunity to see new members come into its fold.

&uot;We hope this tour will bring new members into our historical society as well as the state association. We are certainly looking forward to hosting these visitors and having the chance to show off historic Greenville and Camellia City hospitality at its best,&uot; says Barbara Middleton.

To learn more about the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society and upcoming 40th anniversary events, contact Judy Taylor at (334) 382-6852 or at dwt720@camelliacom.com.