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Spring pilgrimage shows off rich history

By BLAKE DESHAZO | The Demopolis Times 

The Marengo County Historical Society shared some of Demopolis’ rich history with visitors Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12 during the 2015 Spring Pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage is held every two years and gives people a chance to tour historic homes and learn about their history.

“Just being able to share with [visitors] all of our historic resources here in Demopolis … really is nice,” said Kirk Brooker, Marengo County Historical Society operations manager. “They appreciate what we do, and it is nice to see them enjoying it.”

While much of the state saw rain showers over the weekend, Brooker said Demopolis had great weather that helped draw a crowd.

“We had a decent crowd,” Brooker said. “I think we had just under 100 people all total both days.”

This year’s pilgrimage featured six homes and exhibits for people to tour.

“We had four private residences open in addition to two historic houses, being Bluff Hall and Gaineswood,” Brooker said. “Those were all available to tour.”

The private homes that opened their doors to visitors were the Hayden-Travis-Wingfield-Compton home, the Michael-Welch-Lower-George-Hallmark home, the Pake-Watlington-Mason-Jones-Brooker home and the Alston-Webb-Collins home.

Brooker said one of the favorite homes of the pilgrimage was the Pake-Watlington-Mason-Jones-Brooker, which is owned by his brother.

“He purchased the house next door to his house, and he and his family have basically restored the house for the past 15 years a little bit at the time,” Brooker said.

His brother, Brian Brooker, is an architect that specializes in historic preservation.

“He took an attic and added three bedrooms and two baths and added a master suite downstairs with a closet that everybody that walked through just raved about,” Brooker said. “He took an 1884 house and really modernized it but at the same time kept a lot of the original features and played those features up.”

The homeowners take pride in being able to show off their homes, Brooker said.

“You could see them kind of beaming with pride in telling the story of their house to guests, being able to tell what they’ve done to the house since purchasing and maybe what they’ve uncovered within the walls and things like that,” Brooker said. “They definitely enjoyed it.”

While the houses received much of the attention, the pilgrimage also played host to Christopher Lang, a Road Scholar, who talked about antique Alabama furniture.

“We had about 25 people that came to the talk, and I’ve heard nothing but good things,” Brooker said. “They all enjoyed it and walked away with some new information.”

This year’s pilgrimage also featured a Smithsonian exhibit, “The Way We Worked.” The exhibit teaches people about the history of American workers. It will be on display at the Marengo County History & Archives Museum at the Rosenbush Building.

The historical society will offer people more learning opportunities to discover Demopolis’ history with events throughout April.

For more information, contact the society at 289-0282.