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MCHS’s pilgrimage of homes part of bicentennial celebration

The People’s City, founded by French exiles in 1817, has been opening its doors to visitors for the past 200 years. Dempopolis will be welcoming visitors, past residents, and locals for a homecoming Sept. 15-17, 2017 as the Marengo County Historical Society celebrates Demopolis’ Bicentennial with a weekend of events, including a pilgrimage of historic homes dating back to 1832.

Tour decades of Southern architecture, art, and decoration; explore 1817 French wallpaper with historical scholar, Betje Klier; admire original paintings by prominent artist Julyan Davis inspired by Demopolis and the Black Belt. Watch Davis create new pieces featuring the interior of Lyon Hall during a live painting exhibition. Get your groove on with the Lamont Landers Band at the Black-Tie Gala at the Demopolis Civic Center, including fireworks overlooking the Tombigbee River. Celebrate 200 years in one jam-packed weekend.

The Helms house was constructed in 1902.

Centered around Public Square, dedicated in 1819, historic downtown Demopolis features structures dating back to 1843. Explore downtown during an extended-hours open house and art walk sponsored by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Sept. 15, 5 to 7 p.m. Just a block away, at Lyon Hall, artist Julyan Davis’ Demopolis works will be on exhibit with a talk by the artist at 6 p.m., sponsored by Marengo County Historical Society. Then walk back to the Public Square for live music from 7 to 11 p.m., sponsored by the City of Demopolis.

The Bicentennial Pilgrimage of Homes kicks off Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. Tour over 16 houses, including Lyon Hall, where Julyan Davis will be painting scenes of Demopolis from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Davis’ Demopolis works will be on exhibit at Lyon Hall on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Guest can obtain copies of “Visions of the Black Belt” and meet authors Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burns at Bluff Hall from 1 to 3 p.m. Pilgrimage tickets are $30 per person and are available at Bluff Hall, 407 N. Commissioners Ave., beginning August 15, or call 334-289-9644. A VIP Pilgrimage ticket is available for $50 that includes a tour of all the pilgrimage houses plus a boxed lunch and tour of Rooster Hall with a talk on the Rooster Auction of 1919, at  noon on Saturday. In addition, at 2 p.m., VIP ticket holders will be treated to a guided tour of Lyon Hall including the second floor and roof. VIP tickets are available through Sept. 8. Regular pilgrimage tickets are available prior to and on the day of the event.

To celebrate this one-time historical event, guests may attend a formal event, the Bicentennial Gala. This black-tie event at the Demopolis Civic Center, perched on the White Bluffs overlooking the Tombigbee River, features the joyful noise of soul, funk, and R&B known as the Lamont Landers Band. Born and raised in Alabama, Lamont Landers grew up absorbing the soulful sounds of the south that surrounded him and became a YouTube sensation when his sister posted a candid video of him performing that went viral. Finish the night with fireworks over the Tombigbee sponsored by the City of Demopolis. Bicentennial Gala tickets are $50 per person and are available at Bluff Hall.

The Bicentennnial Pilgrimage of Homes continues on Sunday, Sept. 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. VIP ticket holders will tour one additional house at 1 p.m. Learn about Demopolis’ French roots and the French wallpaper at a talk given by independent scholar Betje Klier at the Coplin Building, 203 E. Washington St., at 3 p.m. Klier has spent years researching the Vine & Olive Colony wallpaper painted in 1817, and will share with us interesting facts recently discovered. Klier’s talk is free to the public.

For more information, contact the Marengo County Historical Society at 334-289-9644, email to marengohistory@bellsouth.net, or mail to PO Box 159, Demopolis, AL 36732.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, August 23, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)