Monday, February 27, 2017

Selma Shots

As a followup to my review of a recent history of Selma, I'd like to share some photographs of my hometown I took a few years ago (2010 - 2011) when I was trying to experience it as a tourist might.

Sturdivant Hall, easily in the running for Selma's most picturesque building. Originally a home, it now stands as a museum with gardens around it. There are several private residences that rival it for sheer beauty, but Sturdivant Hall  is often used on tourism brochures.

My favorite house in Selma, sited on Lauderdale street. 

A similar home on Parkman Avenue. 

Brown Chapel, headquarters of the Selma movement during the Civil Rights era. 

Temple Mishkan, testament to a Jewish community that was once considerable. In the late 19th century, Jewish merchants lined Broad Street. The interior of the Temple is unusual for having stained-glass windows depicting David and Esther; images of people are not common in Jewish houses of worship. 

My favorite building in Selma. St. Paul''s Episcopal.  When I began walking around Selma I found St. Paul's particularly irresistible. I believe  part of the magic is its courtyard; partially enclosed from the street by a low brick wall, it's framed by the church on the left, a parish hall on the right, and cloistered administrative offices in the rear. 

The tower of First Baptist edges out its neighbors' -- Cornerstone Presbyterian, St. Paul's Episcopal, and Church Street Methodist. It's a neogothic structure that gives Selma part of its signature skyline. 

Who knew Baptists like gargoyles? 

Curiously,  there are just under a dozen homes in the city that have a marked Spanish-southwestern influence to them; some merely used stucco, and one looks like a hacienda buried in the jungle.  This is a sedate example. 

There is no shortage of fine homes standing in Selma,  and since the obscene destruction of the Hotel Albert, the city's citizens have been more conscience of the need to keep some abandoned beauties in good repair.  Many former residences are now offices for lawyers, dentists, and the like. 

Live Oak Cemetery, running alongside Dallas Avenue, is an eerie place to visit; filled with ornate monuments to previous generations, guarded by Spanish moss. 

Not all of Selma's downtown buildings are in use, but both the government and private foundations do their best to ensure that this kind of heritage is preserved. 

Let's end this little peek at Selma with its most iconic structure, the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  That little yellow building on the right is the Bridgekeeper's house, which formerly controlled another bridge which could pivot to allow ships passage. These days the only ships on this stretch of the Alabama are pleasure craft -- fishing boats and the like -- though bodies like the Black Warrior River still bear the odd cargo ship. 


  1. Stephen,

    Thanks for the photo tour of Selma. I am certainly familiar with the name, but I really had no idea of Selma itself.

  2. I enjoyed your photo essay! You remind me of one of first questions from southerners when someone moves into their town: What church do you attend? Yes, if anyone believes America is a secular nation, that person needs to visit a typical southern town.

    1. Oh, I don't believe that *anyone* believes America to be a Secular nation!

    2. CK: Oh, perhaps I over-stated the case; however, from my perspective -- for a long time within academia -- the culture wars are alive and well in the U.S., and one of the secular humanists' targets is religion (especially Judeo-Christian religions). But that is just my limited perspective. Others may be better informed.

    3. Selma used to have a sign that said "Welcome to Selma, City of Churches". The sign was destroyed in an incident involving an automobile, whiskey, and a few of my relatives...

      Take a look at this photo:

      On the left there's the tower for St. Paul's; in the center are First Baptist and Church Street Methodist; and on the far right virtually cut off is the belltower of First Presby, also known as Cornerstone Presby.

      It's quite the sight.

    4. @ Tim: The US is well known as being unique in one real sense - it's the only advanced Western nation that *hasn't* become increasingly secular over the last century.

    5. I think that varies depending on where you are, and what you mean by religiosity. Some cities take non-religion for granted and are hilariously illiterate, as far as religion goes. A family like the one featured in "Hillbilly Elegy" might reference religion from time to time, but it has virtually no influence on their behavior, for good or ill. Many of those who claim to be religious hold to some fuzzy version of a creed that is merely politics rendered in 'religious' language -- sometimes neoconservative, sometimes progressive. Genuine religion has, with the exception of places like the Mormons, largely faded. Certainly the basic culture is no longer Christian, as is the case with Europe...we're all hedonic individualists. One could argue that enthrallment with the state -- finding meaning in the state's mythos -- is another religion. I would be willing to entertain that notion!

  3. Replies
    1. extraordinary buildings; we've nothing like that in nw oregon

    2. Depending on where you are, you may have the mountains and ocean for consolation. I'm clueless when it comes to central and eastern Oregon geography!

  4. These are some wonderful buildings. I wish that I knew more about architecture but they are so impressive.

    Looking upon one's local area from the perspective of a visitor or tourist has many benefits. One notices and experiences all sorts of worthwhile things.

    1. Thank you, Brian! I was very new to digital cameras back then, and it was an older model, but I hope I did them a little justice. I think architecture is eclipsed only by literature and music as my favorite human art.


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