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Weekend in Time

With ties to Hollywood, Tiffany and more than one resident ghost, Selma’s Historic Pilgrimage weekend offers a glimpse into the area’s past.

by Erin Z. Bass

Selma, Alabama, lays claim to the largest historic district in the state with more than 1,200 historic structures. The town’s tree-lined streets hold Antebellum and Victorian homes, century-old buildings that once housed King Cotton and Civil War munitions, along with Greek Revival mansion Sturdivant Hall. The best time to take in Selma’s history and architecture is during the Historic Selma Pilgrimage, happening this weekend.

New to Pilgrimage this year, a “Town & Country Tour” follows the Alabama River from Selma to Cahawba, Orrville and Molette’s Bend. Three homes and one church are on tour in Orrville, and four homes are on view in Selma.

Notable sites include Tasso (The Bower House), a pre-Civil War plantation that features original French wallpaper, Weaver Castle (pictured on the right), an 1868 Gothic mansion built by the father of Tiffany designer Clara Weaver Parrish, and Carpenter Gothic Church.

This year’s big star is the Tudor-style Holly/Skinner House (pictured below). On tour for the first time and owned by Cypress Moon Productions movie producer Tonya Holly, whose credits include “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and currently “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” being filmed in the Selma area, the home was built in 1929 by nationally prominent orthopedic surgeon Dr. Marcus Skinner. Holly plans to take visitors back to the 1930s with guides dressed in period attire and several period vehicles on site. Dr. Skinner’s granddaughters will also be present to share the home’s past history and point out notable architectural details like leaded-glass windows, carved cypress paneling and an ornate staircase of wrought iron.

This year, visitors can also get a sneak peek inside St. Luke’s Episcopal/Azion Baptist Church (pictured below) at Old Cahawba, Alabama’s first permanent capital. The Carpenter Gothic church was moved after Cahawba became a ghost town but has recently been returned via the skills of Auburn University’s Rural Studio architecture students. The “ghost” of the church’s architect, Richard Upjohn, will appear at the church to tell his story.

Other Pilgrimage activities include  lunch and a quilt show courtesy of the ladies of Orrville, Alabama Plein Air Artists “painting the town” and offering their works for sale, art shows at the Selma Art Guild and Carneal ArtsRevive, a tour of a working 1860s gristmill and an Antique Symposium.

“We’re bringing back the evening house tour with a Friday night reception at the antebellum Mabry-Jones House, and during the day, we’re delighted that several  artisans will demonstrate pottery, soap making, quilting, basket weaving and more at Heritage Village,” adds Pilgrimage Co-Chairman Jacque Johnson.

Historic Selma Pilgrimage begins the morning of Friday, March 16, and runs through Saturday, with rural tour times from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. St. Luke’s Church at Cahawba will be open from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Venues include Tasso at Molette’s Bend, the Ben Ellis Dunaway House,  a former boys’ academy in Orrville, and the Craig Wilson House, a Greek Revival Raised Cottage located on the Cahaba Road.

Afternoon tours in Selma feature three homes open from 1-5 p.m. and a Friday evening reception at the Mabry-Jones House from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Homes include Sarah’s Place, an 1870s Victorian that is a combination of two houses moved from Cahawba to Selma, Weaver Castle, an 1868 Gothic mansion built by the father of Tiffany designer Clara Weaver Parrish, and the Holly House/Skinner House.

Vaughan-Smitherman Museum services as the weekend’s official headquarters, with tickets available for purchase from 8-4 p.m. on both days. The museum, built in 1847 by Selma’s Masonic Lodge #27 as a boys and girls school, is also open for tours. Visit selmapilgrimage.org for more information and ticket prices.

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