Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Upcoming 'Homes of the River's Bend Tour' exciting for history buffs

Dale Masonic Lodge in Camden, Ala.
This past week was an exciting week for local history buffs as the Wilcox Historical Society released the official brochure for the upcoming “Homes of the River’s Bend Tour,” which is set for Sat., March 25.

This tour will provide a rare opportunity for history and architecture lovers, who will get to enjoy tours of some of the county’s most famous antebellum homes and buildings. This one-day event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and wrap up at 4 a.m.

The tour brochure was officially released last Thursday evening, giving history enthusiasts a preview of the tour’s featured locations. Those locations will include the Dale Masonic Lodge, the Wilcox Female Institute, the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club, the Canton Bend United Methodist Church, Dry Fork Plantation, Liberty Hall, the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home, the Beck-Miller Law Office, River Bluff Plantation, White Columns (the Tait-Starr Home), the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center and the Gees Bend Ferry Terminal.

I have to admit that I’ve had several of these locations on my “bucket list” for some time, and, like a lot of folks, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see them up close on March 25. More than a few of these locations are usually closed to the public, and a few of them are private residences that people still call home. Organizers have said that photography, for the most part, will be allowed on the tour, but because some of the homes are lived in, owners may ask that certain areas not be photographed.

I’m especially intrigued by the opportunity to see the interior of the Dale Masonic Lodge. By their nature, Masonic lodges, especially the second floor, are typically closed to outsiders, so the upcoming tour will perhaps allow the public to see portions of the building usually closed to non-Masons. From the point of view of a “history explorer,” the rare opportunity to see otherwise closed portions of this historic building is exciting and cannot be overstated.

Dale Masonic Lodge and its many members, living and dead, have a proud history, and this building is one of the oldest Masonic lodges in the state. As many readers know, Dale Masonic Lodge was organized in 1827 at what is now Prairie Bluff, but moved to Camden in the 1840s. In fact, it’s said that Union troops actually camped at the building when they passed through Wilcox County in 1865.

My children and I have taken the self-guided Camden Walking Tour several times over the years, and the tour route has taken us by the old Masonic lodge each time. On every occasion, we’ve peered through the front porch windows, and I’ve always left knowing that the view through the dim glass doesn’t do this majestic, antebellum building justice. I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that having this building on the upcoming tour will attract many visitors and history lovers.

In the end, anyone interested in taking this tour can buy tickets at the Gees Bend Ferry Terminal and at Black Belt Treasures. Cost is $20 for adults and $10 for young people. Children six and under get in free. For more information, including advanced tickets and group rates, call 334-682-4929.

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