A few years ago while in northern Florida to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the Florida State Capitol, The Budweiser Brewery and a few other attractions, we took a couple extra days and went up to Montgomery Alabama to meet some friends that live in Tennessee (read my post about our visit to the Jack Daniels Distillery), and tour the Alabama State Capitol Building.
For those you may not know, Montgomery is the county seat of Montgomery County. Named for Richard Montgomery, it is located on the Alabama River, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. The capitol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the First Confederate Capitol, and was declared a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960. It is also here that the third Selma to Montgomery march ended on March 25, 1965, with 25,000 protesters at the foot of the capitol steps on Dexter Avenue. Prominent protesters included Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy,Coretta Scott King, Ralph Bunche, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, and Joan Baez.
A note of interest is that the Confederate flag no longer flies over the Alabama State Capitol today and the old building stands as a reminder and witness to the dramatic changes that have come to Alabama. I also thought it was interesting that they had a clock on their dome. We have been to quite a few capitol buildings and can’t recall ever seeing a clock on a dome.
The thing we noticed as we walked up was the giant set of steps. This is actually where the Selma to Montgomery march ended, at the foot of the steps. The steps have continued to be the rallying point for civil demonstrations over the succeeding years. Memorial Selma to Montgomery marches have ended at the steps on several occasions.
We also noticed the Avenue of Flags, which is a major feature of the Alabama State Capitol grounds. It is a grouping of the flags of the U.S. states, with a native stone from each state, engraved with its name, set at the base of each flagpole. The flagpoles are arranged in a semi-circle between the Ionic portico of the capitol building’s south wing and Washington Avenue. It was completed during the term of Governor Albert Brewer, being officially dedicated on April 6, 1968.
We eventually made our way inside and were given a map to begin our self guided tour. This was when I found out that our friends had never been on a tour of any capitols. I was excited to be able to share this with them. We looked through their map to see what we wanted to check out first. Some of the highlights were the old senate floor, the house floor, the supreme court room and library, the rotunda and dome. We decided to start in the rotunda, and found that it is the most beautiful part of the capitol with portraits of recent governors along with amazing murals recounting Alabama history. It was amazing.
Another must see on my list was the chambers, so we made sure to check them out. We found out that the chambers for the house and senate were used from the 1800’s until 1985. I found it interesting to learn that the Confederacy began in the original Senate chamber. So much history in the building. It was amazing. Made me wish I had paid more attention in my history class. Sorry Mr. Loftus, lol.
We had a great time, but I really wish we had been able to take a guided tour. I mean, we learned a few things from some of the workers walking around, but I think we would have enjoyed it a lot more if we had been on a docent lead tour. Oh well, we still enjoyed our visit. While walking around the building I kept looking for a bronze state seal anywhere, but never saw one. I finally asked one of the workers where it was. He stated they currently did not have one, but was glad for the idea to mention at a future meeting. Who knows if it will happen, but I may have helped make the Alabama State Capitol better in the future! You never know. Hope you enjoyed reading about our visit and learning a little about the Alabama State Capitol history.
Here is some info about the tours. Check out their website for more information:
Monday – Friday: Self-guided tours are available daily to individuals and small groups from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST. Pre-arranged guided tours are offered hourly for groups of 15 or more. Saturday: Guided tours are available at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. to individuals and groups. Closed Sundays and state holidays. Groups: All guided tours must be pre-arranged through the Tour Office. Telephone: (334) 242-3935 Email: email@example.com
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