As mentioned previously we are really enjoying our stay in Decatur Al a neat town located on the Tennessee River. Since we really enjoyed the historical walking tour of downtown Albany (actually part of Decatur), we decided to take a tour of old downtown Decatur.
At our first destination of the tour, the Old State Bank, we met a gentleman there that asked where we were from. Once we mentioned College Station there was some banter about the newfound football rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies. This proud southern gentleman wanted us to see all the offerings for tours in the area and was excited to share his knowledge of the history surrounding his town. He explained that Decatur was a very strategic location during the Civil War for the South due to its location on the Tennessee River and its extensive rail system. The Old State Bank was once a Union Hospital for a while once the Yankees won control of Decatur near the end of the war.
The area known as Decatur was originally a river crossing for settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains. Named Decatur in 1820 and by 1836 it was home to the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad and thus became an important industrial hub in Alabama.
Decatur was the site of several encounters during the American Civil War. During this time the city changed hands several times as opposing armies struggled to control the important railroad and shipping port. After the war by the late 1880's Decatur was again expanding. In 1886 a new city to the southeast of Decatur called New Decatur was formed.
We expressed confusion to the gentleman about these two separate old downtown areas so close together, one named Albany and the other Old Decatur. He explained that after the war many Yankees came to Decatur via train to settle here and set up manufacturing businesses. As a new downtown area sprung up from the migration, the town leaders wanted to name it New Decatur and as a gesture of unification named alternate streets after Southern and Northern Civil War Generals. Well, the southern population would not accept this idea at all (they didn’t think very highly of the Yankees). Old Decatur renamed the other side of town Albany after Albany, New York forever marking it as the Northerner’s part of town. However, when the Union Army occupied the city early in the war a commanding general ordered all but four buildings in the town destroyed. Those four buildings are still standing) and the Old State Bank was one of them. The Old State Bank, on the edge of downtown, is the oldest bank building in the State of Alabama, at 173 years old. When it was built it cost a total of $9,482.00.
We thanked the gentleman for his time and continued the tour. We passed an old southern cemetery destroyed in the war and a beautiful late 1800’s Methodist Church. The rest of the tour wound through gorgeous mature trees shading sidewalks in front of many historic homes (some Willow Oaks over four feet in diameter). This town has the largest Victorian era home district in all of Alabama and we were the beneficiaries of some really interesting sights. We saw examples of Victorian, Queen Anne, Edwardian and even one Art Deco home.
To our delight we found another of Decatur’s many beautiful parks. This was a Japanese Garden near the end of our tour and we paused to enjoy the serenity of the art and water displays here.
So glad are we that we extended our stay. Sadly one of our plans to hike in the National Wildlife Refuge may not happen because of the shenanigans of our representatives in Washington who callously and recklessly allowed a government shutdown. Worse for the many federal employees without a paycheck and for the International visitors who shelled out a lot of money to visit our beautiful National Parks… Sigh, don’t you just hate what is going on?