A Music Legend From Florence, Alabama

 
W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

 

You may have heard of the famous recording studios in North Alabama. I’ll have more on that in a later post. But there’s an older music legend from this area that left his mark on music to this day. On a recent trip to Florence, Alabama, I visited W.C. Handy’s birthplace. It’s part of the Mississippi Music Trail, also. In case you’re not familiar with the famous musician, scroll to see more about the “Father of the Blues.” Enjoy!

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

 
Please help support the mission of the Jazz Video Guy. Contributions of any size matter! https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-mission-of-jazz-video-guy W.C. Handy plays his composition, "St. Louis Blues," on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, 12/18/49
 
By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

 
Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh


"Listen, my children, and you shall hear ..."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

You’ve heard the words – probably even had to memorize “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in school. Often we learn about famous people and what they did. But do you ever dig deeper?

Dozens of events and places influence a writer, from births to deaths to illness to adventures and the people they came across in their lives. I’ve always believed, and we’ll learn below, that even the structure where one spends his time and sleeps and lives his life play a part as well.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, Maine, did serve as inspiration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), famed poet and national literary figure. Four generations of the family lived in the house, and all were significant contributors to New England culture and literature. According to the Maine Historical Society website, General Peleg Wadsworth built the house in 1785-1786. He and wife Elizabeth raised ten children here before retiring to the family farm in Hiram, Maine, in 1807. The last person to live in the house was Anne Longfellow Pierce, Henry's younger sister. Mrs. Pierce, widowed at an early age, lived in the house until her death in 1901. At that time, in accordance with a deed she executed in 1895, the house passed to the Maine Historical Society to be preserved as a memorial to her famous brother and their family. Virtually all of the household items and artifacts are original to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

Let’s take a quick look at the house and learn about it first-hand. 

My interview with John Babin, Visitor Services Manager, Wadsworth-Longfellow House

What does your job entail?

As the Visitor Services Manager at the Maine Historical Society, one of my duties is the management of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House; it includes scheduling of all the Guides and Docents who give tours in the home. Types of tours vary throughout the day, because we offer both guided and self-guided tours. For a guided tour, one tour guide will bring a group over and the group will view the house room-by-room, narrated by the guide. For a self-guided tour, a group is given an introduction and can walk through the house at their own pace with tour guides stationed in different areas to direct and answer questions. We also offer a free download for Android or Apple phones for our app. When using the app, the visitor can take an audio tour or read from the materials provided on the app. Scheduling of the guides and docents also includes daily historic walking tours of the city, all school visits which include viewing our exhibits, touring the house and historic walks through the city for the students; and scheduling of all private tours, bus groups and cruise ships. The job also includes management of the museum store staff and staff for our exhibit areas. Other duties include but are not limited to, weekly admission reports of numbers and metrics, working retail, tour guiding, opening and closing of the campus, hosting events and giving historic talks off-site to different venues throughout the state.

 

How did you get into this business?

I started as a docent giving tours of the Wadsworth- Longfellow House.

 

What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the house?

How very close and loving both the Wadsworth and Longfellow families were. This was the place where three generations of the same family lived and where some died. It’s also the place that inspired the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write poetry, writing his first published poem in the home at the age of 13.

 

What is the most popular item on exhibit in the museum?

The most popular item is a portable writing desk that belonged to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

What is your favorite item on exhibit in the museum?

The portable writing desk, because this is one of two pieces of luggage Henry took with him on his first trip to Europe. On this desk he wrote of his travels to family members and friends, describing in detail the different towns and villages and the people he met on his quest to learn foreign languages. He met Washington Irving in Madrid, Spain. As a child, a favorite book he enjoyed reading was “The Sketch Book” by Irving.

 

What is the oldest item in the house?

A table in the parent’s bedroom next to the bed underneath a painting of the poet. The table was inspected by an antiquarian who specializes in early American objects and said it was made in New England and dates back to around 1760.

 

Wadsworth/Longfellow House hours and admission:

Open May – October 
Closed May 23, 2019, 3-5 pm for staff-wide training.
School/educational group tours available year round by reservation only

Members: Free
National Trust Members: 20% off
Adults: $15
Seniors & Students: $13
AAA members: $14
Children 6-17: $4; 5 and younger, free
Family (up to 2 supervising adults + 3 children): $35
Groups: $10 per person
Price includes admission to gallery.

For more information, please contact:
Wadsworth/Longfellow House
Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
207-774-1822 ext. 212
hwlongfellow.org


It's Spring, and That Means Pilgrimage Time!

Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage

Saturday, April 6, 2019

I visited my hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi, this weekend to tour a few homes during its annual pilgrimage. I always enjoy this event, usually as a hostess at one of the homes on tour, but sometimes just to relax and enjoy the tour as a spectator. Two of the homes are new to the pilgrimage, and I was anxious to see them. My father joined me, and we visited Sunset Manor, McKinney House and Dunlee. These are by no means the only homes that were on tour; several more beautiful homes were open, but time did not allow us to tour them all. 

A note for blog readers not familiar with antebellum homes. To some, the word “antebellum” seems to mean “large,” but that’s not the case. Antebellum simply means “built before the war” – specifically, the American Civil War. An antebellum house can be a small cottage or a mansion or any size in between. Growing up in a town with these beautiful homes can either make one appreciate them all the more, or it can make one a little apathetic. I think when I was young, I was the latter. But the older I get, the more passionate I become for history and these lovely places enjoyed by families who lived here many years before I did.

When I tour any historic structure, I’m mesmerized with anything original: furniture, wallpaper, flooring, etc. I find myself slightly transformed to the 19th century, imagining the inhabitants walking the very floors I’m walking, or turning the actual doorknob I’m touching.

I hope you enjoy these photos and information on the houses we visited. Please check the website for next year’s pilgrimage dates, and plan to make a trip to Aberdeen and transport yourself back in time.

Photos are my own. Architecture and historic information on each house were taken from the Monroe Journal’s 44th Annual Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage booklet and aberdeenpilgrimage.org.

Sunset Manor, 1836

Sunset Manor, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1836

Sunset Manor, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1836

Architecture style: Greek Revival

Sunset Manor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Capt. Thomas Coopwood built the first variation of the home, two original rooms built circa 1836, and Charles Gates transformed it into a Southern town cottage in 1856. The house has four fluted Doric columns on the front, with four interior rooms measuring 20 x 20 x14 with a 16 x 40 division hall opening onto a loggia with bedrooms on each side.

Click thumbnails below for larger photos and captions.


McKinney House, 1902

McKinney House, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1902

McKinney House, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1902

Architecture style: Victorian cottage

McKinney House contains furnishings including period antiques from 1890 to 1900. In the master bedroom is a half-tester bedroom suite from New Orleans made between 1880 and 1890.


The Magnolias, 1850

Architecture style: Greek Revival

Dr. William Alfred Sykes built the home for his wife in 1850; she died a year later. The home was passed down through the family until Corinne Sykes Acker died. Clarence Day II purchased the home and deeded it to the City of Aberdeen. The Magnolias is open year-round from 1-4pm Wednesday-Friday or by appointment. A hostess can be reached at 369-7956 for tours and to arrange weddings and other events.

During pilgrimage, Civil War reenactors were to stage an encampment on the grounds, but because of the threat of rain, they used the kitchen building as their headquarters to showcase authentic items carried by a typical Confederate infantry soldier.

The Magnolias, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1850

The Magnolias, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1850


Dunlee, 1853

Architecture: Greek Revival

Dunlee never disappoints. Owned by friends of my parents, this house is a beautiful yet comfortable antebellum home. This one-and-a-half story cottage was built by Dr. William A. Dunkin, a local physician, planter and merchant. The front part of the house is original, but the posterior was rebuilt in the early 1900s. Paired Doric box columns support a pedimented gable set perpendicular to the main roof gable. The house rests on brick piers, and the original floor plan of a central hall flanked by a dining room and parlor is still discernible despite several alterations and additions to the back of the house.

Dunlee, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1853

Dunlee, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1853

Cornerstone of the Weekend - Clay County (Mississippi) Agricultural School

Clay County Agricultural School in Pheba, Mississippi, was built in 1909 as Pheba High School. Click here for more information from Preservation in Mississippi

Inscription: 1909 … H.L. Miller, Mayor … Aldermen … P.B. Cliett, W.D. Washington … E.E. Petty, J.B. Champion … M.B. Pulley … R.L. McMullen, Treasurer … McClanahan & Terry, Builder

Inscription: 1909 … H.L. Miller, Mayor … Aldermen … P.B. Cliett, W.D. Washington … E.E. Petty, J.B. Champion … M.B. Pulley … R.L. McMullen, Treasurer … McClanahan & Terry, Builder

Clay County Agricultural School

Clay County Agricultural School