First Selma pilgrimage was unique experience

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, March 19, 2016

Since I’ve arrived in Selma, I have always been curious of how the insides of the grand old homes and buildings looked. It wasn’t until Friday night that I was able to satisfy some of my curiosity by visiting the Smith-Walker house on Church Street during the annual Historic Selma Pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage is an experience completely unique for me. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Over two days, both Selmians and visitors are given the opportunity to take a look inside the homes, churches and establishments to gain a deeper understanding of Selma’s history.

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Some of the buildings, like Sturdivant Hall, are in the pilgrimage lineup regularly. Other buildings are cycled out so others can be included.

The Smith-Walker house for the first time since new owners purchased the home.

Since moving here in December, I had never stepped foot into the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum until Saturday. I was surprised to find a hospital on the third floor complete with a nursery and lab, and to learn the motive for the metal spiral staircase in front of the building.

On Saturday, I visited several homes including the Parkman-Smitherman house, where I was shown a secret compartment under the floorboards on the second floor.

Selma has history and it’s just waiting to be shared. Having young native girls as junior hostesses share that history adds to the experience.

While wearing period dresses, it gives the girls a chance to gain a better understanding of the community they are a part of and to make memories for a life time.

Although the homes are beautiful, one of my favorite things about pilgrimage are other interactive activities such as the Old Live Oak Ghost Walk Tour and plein air artists.  The ghost tour is a rich interactive tour featuring the characters of Selma’s past.

On both Friday and Saturday each year, 25 plein air artists from all over the south come to Selma to paint scenes of historic homes and beautiful riverscapes.

Many of the artists use oil paint but others use pencil and watercolor to capture the scenes. Oil paint dries slowly, so the paintings are still wet for the Wet Paint Sale Saturday evening. With a city as rich in history as Selma, I’m glad there are outlets such as the pilgrimage to turn an ordinary weekend into something more fascinating.