Demopolis, Demopolis

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When we were going to Greensboro, we went through Demopolis. This sign was close to downtown - Demopolis used to be known as the 'Vine and Olive Colony' because it was founded in 1817 by a group of French expatriates whose plan was to grow grapes and olives here.

I think this is the old firestation, now called 'Rooster Hall' and it's where they can hold town meetings, etc.

One of the most famous things about Demopolis is that when the first highway to cross the country (from San Diego to Savannah) was being built, the people there in 1919 held a fundraiser to "Bridge the 'Bigbee with Cocks" - that's the Tombigbee River - because cars were still being ferried across. And the last part of that is all because they did it by selling roosters. Financing the construction of a bridge by selling roosters might seem like setting up a lemonade stand to build an airport, but guess what?

It worked.

Here's how. This is from an article in an 1919 AAA American Motorist magazine:

As the result of a sale of some 5,000 roosters on August 15, a bridge is to be built across the Tombigbee river at Demopolis, Alabama. Thus another obstacle on the Dixie Overland highway is to be removed. The bridge is to cost about $175,000. The rooster sale netted about $250,000 (approximately $50 each). The additional funds will be utilized to improve the road and the approaches to the bridge in Marengo and Sumter counties. The work will be carried on under the direction of the State Highway Department of Alabama.

Four of these birds were donated by President Wilson, Lloyd George of England, and Premiers Clemenceau of France and Orlando of Italy. The idea of the rooster sale came from F. L. Derby, a stockman of Alabama. He was the originator of the bull sale last year at the same place which netted the Red Cross $208,000.

Well, maybe I should say "it almost worked" because although on paper they netted $250k, a lot of people wound up not following through and paying. So when it was all over with, they only came up with $45k and the bridge wasn't opened until 1925.

The original bridge has been rebuilt, and the Alabama Legislature, in honor of the rooster sale, decreed that any bridge crossing the river at that point shall be named "Rooster Bridge". Love that.

Oh, and another famous thing is that Lillian Hellman wrote The Little Foxes based partly on her family in Demopolis.

Okay! So anyway, here are just a few other things - this gorgeous house:

...and this house that I'm showing because....

...the owner has messages in her front yard and you know how I am about that.

So not only is there a public health advisory, but a tribute to Michael Jackson:

And then there's Gaineswood:
This is how the Alabama Historical Commission describes it:
One of America’s finest Greek Revival houses, Gaineswood is a masterpiece. Exceptional interior spaces have domed ceilings, elaborate plasterwork, and a facing pair of gilt mirrors that endlessly reflect each other. Designed by owner and amateur architect General Nathan Bryan Whitfield, Gaineswood was constructed during 1843-1861. Some of the elaborate work was executed by African American slaves. The house museum contains many original Whitfield family furnishings and objects. The grounds feature a gazebo, a slave house, and a small building that was most likely a detached kitchen.
They do tours in certain days each hour, but we decided not to do it this time.

Oh wait! One last thing about the Rooster Bridge. This.

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