Tourist in My Own Backyard

Last week, Av and I spent part of one day in Cullman and Winston County, and here are some of the pics….

This is the Hubert Richter chapel in Cullman – some people use this little chapel for weddings:

Hubert Richter Chapel, Cullman AL

We drove over to Clarkson Covered Bridge after that – it’s on Hwy 278 toward Winston County (I’d really like to take a weekend and visit all the covered bridges in Alabama! My pics of the covered bridges in Blount County can be found here).

The bridge isn’t far from where the Battle of Hog Mountain took place. The state historic marker for the battle says:
“April 30, 1863. Here Gen. Forrest overtook Col. Streight’s raiders in hand-to-hand battle after dark. 3 horses short from under Forrest. Union force fled southward with Forrest in relentless pursuit.”

Clarkson Covered Bridge, Cullman County AL

The bridge’s historic marker says:
Clarkson Covered Bridge
Sometimes called Legg Bridge

This 270 foot bridge was constructed in 1904, destroyed by a flood in 1921 and rebuilt the following year. The only remaining covered bridge in Cullman County, it was restored by the Cullman County Commission in 1975 as an American Revolution Bicentennial Project.
Named to National Register of Historic Places on 6-25-74.

This grist mill is also there:

Grist Mill at Clarkson Covered Bridge, Cullman County AL

We continued driving out Highway 278 until we turned off at the caution light at Dripping Springs. Off another of those roads I saw this truck in the middle of a field – it’s been there so long that there are two trees growing through the flat bed. It reminded me of this wonderful picture on Flickr of a truck in Georgia.

Trees Growing Through Flatbed Truck, Cullman County AL

We also took pictures at this building:

Mountain Fried Shell Bell Station.  Free HBO. Cullman County AL

We then went on over to Winston County, and the first thing we stopped at was this old steel bridge on County Road 66 between Addison and Arley – it was open until just a few years ago, but it’s closed now – soooo pretty!

Steel Bridge (no longer in use), Winston County AL

After that, we drove over to Houston. This is the old jail – it used to be just a log building, then it appears that someone came along later and added this ‘cover’ over it to try to preserve the structure:

Old Jail, Houston, Winston County, AL

The National Register of Historic Places lists the jail’s ‘period of significance’ as between 1850-1874. All through the wooden walls are nails. It’s thought by some that the nails were put in to keep inmates from trying to saw out or be sawed out.

After we left Houston, we went over to Looney’s Tavern, which is where 2500 or so anti-secessionist citizens of Winston County met to organize in 1861 (they later referred to their county as the ‘Free State of Winston’) to voice their opposition to the war (Christopher Sheats, who was their representative in the Alabama House of Representatives, was thrown out of the House in 1862 and later arrested for treason, although it never went to trial). Today, Looney’s Tavern is the site of an amphiteather where ‘The Incident at Looney’s Tavern’ – a show about these events – is performed regularly during the summer.

Av and I knew we’d see the amphitheater if we drove there, but we didn’t realize they also had “Looney Putt” – complete with war props like cannons, etc….

We went back out Highway 278 and found this dog trot cabin. The dog trot is an old style here in the South – essentially, it’s two rooms, or cabins, really – joined by one roof going over both structures. There’s an open space, letting in a good breeze between the left and right to cool things off in the summer.

Dog Trot Cabin, Winston County AL

In Double Springs is the Winston County Courthouse. Across the street, in front of a bank, is this memorial:

It’s called ‘Dual Destiny’, and the last paragraph of the plaque reads:
This Civil War soldier, one-half Union and one-half Confederate, symbolizes the war within a war and honors the Winstonians in both armies. Their shiny new swords in 1861 were by 1865 as broken as the spirits of the men who bore them, and their uniforms of blue and gray, once fresh and clean, were now as worn and patched as the bodies and souls they contained. Johnny Reb and Billy Yank, disillusioned by the realities of war, shared dual destinies as pragmatic Americans in a reunited nation.
Donald B. Dodd

Natural Bridge isn’t far away – it’s the “longest natural bridge east of the Rockies”:

Natural Bridge, Winston County AL

It’s 60 feet high and 148 feet long. Sooooo pretty!

After walking around, we went back inside and talked to the gentleman who owns the property – Jimmy Denton. He’s very, very nice, and we chatted for a long time. He said he’s pretty close to retiring and putting everything up for sale, so if you’re in the market for a natural bridge….

Ave Maria Grotto, The Most Wonderful Religious Folk Art, in Cullman AL

Colisseum in Miniature at Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL//

My interest in religious folk art started when I first visited the amazing works of Brother Joseph Zoettl in my hometown – I’ve probably been there thirty times or more. His works have been written about countless times; people come from all over the country – all over the world – to see his creations. 

There are so many great folk art displays here in the South….I’ll post pics of more places soon.

In super-wonderful news, I got an email last week from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art – my fav museum – in New Orleans that everything is okay; there really wasn’t a flooding problem where they’re located and they weren’t broken into. Yay!

BTW, pics I’ve taken of Margaret’s Grocery are here; pics of William C. Rice’s Cross Garden are here; I’ll post pics of Palestine Gardens soon.

Ave Maria Grotto is on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey (it’s “bernerd”, not “Ber-nard”, like Bernard Parrish or the Saint Bernard dog) in Cullman, AL. All the pieces in the Grotto are the works of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a monk at the abbey, who had a hunchback due to an accident he had as a child. Luckily, this injury made it more comfortable for him to work on miniatures, which he started as a hobby. As the interest in his creations grew, the abbey dedicated space for him to be able to make and display even more of his works.

People would send him all kinds of things help build his models, and he used everything – marbles to dishes to shells and even toilet floats. A truly great folk artist.

Brother Zoettl died in 1961 after completing about 125 works.

It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to walk through the Grotto; the distance is actually pretty short, but there’s so much to look at you’ll want to stop and view everything. Admission is $5 for adults (if you have a AAA card, it’s $4).

All of the pics from Ave Maria Grotto are in a set here on Flickr.