CULLMAN, Ala. – A great crowd came out Saturday morning for the third April Walking Tour this month. Cullman County Museum Director Drew Green and Ben Johnson South were the guides for the tour, which had a special “Cullman Cakewalk” theme and featured several stops including the newly reopened All Steak Restaurant for warm orange rolls.
South focused in on the abundance of wonderful art and artists in Cullman as well as a few of Cullman’s delicious culinary offerings. Edgar Veigl also joined South to explain the beautiful architecture of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The first stop on the tour, Sacred Heart was the second church in Cullman.
Veigl explained, “The initial Sacred Heart Church was a very small, spartan and plain little structure. I understand when you walked across the floorboards, they would rattle. As the town grew, they wanted a proper church.”
The church was renovated 20 years ago and the steeples are 170 feet high.
Laughed Veigl, “There are all kinds of stories about who had the tallest church. Apparently the Baptists thought they did, but we got to measuring things and nah, it’s the Catholics. When we did the restoration back in 2000, we added a couple of more feet just in case.”
The finial under the north cross contains a time capsule for future generations to eventually find and open. The original plans for the church called for the building to be 40 feet taller, including a clock tower.
South said, “They had the money, but a fellow working at the German Bank embezzled the money from the funds that the people raised so they had to bring down their expectations.”
The theft caused the failure of the bank and the employee disappeared and was never caught.
The group was able to tour the inside of Sacred Heart and see its magnificence. The stained glass windows of the church were made in Germany and were buried in Germany during World War I to guard them from being destroyed. With its Romanesque architecture and Munich windows, Sacred Heart Church is one of Cullman’s greatest treasures.
After leaving the church, the tour stopped by The Cullman Tribune. The Tribune is Alabama’s oldest continuously published weekly newspaper. There, South announced to the crowd a project by Cullman’s Will Justice Drake, sharing, “He is a published poet and really gifted. His poetry is accessible. It makes nature and the South come alive.”
Tour participants were given poetry published by Drake as well as newspapers containing South’s “67-County Alabama Garden Party” series, which is being published throughout 2019 for the state’s Bicentennial.
Before leaving, guests posed for pictures in front of The Tribune windows painted by talented local artist Seth Miller.
The next stop was the All Steak Restaurant. On the way, South pointed out the location where the Esther Opera House once stood. The opera house also had an ice skating rink inside. The bricks from the opera house were used to build the current All Steak location.
Dyron Powell and Zac Wood are the new owners of the All Steak, which is probably best known for its orange rolls. The pair has brought back the original orange rolls recipe, using real oranges.
Plump with orange roll goodness, the group strolled over to Cullman Florist, the location of which was originally a saloon, until Prohibition when it became a bowling alley and luncheonette. After Prohibition, it went back to being a saloon.
“At one time, Cullman had more bars than it did churches,” South laughed.
The building has had several transformations but the florist has taken it back to its original look.
Cullman Florist Manager Stephanie Cook gave two lucky winners beautiful Easter Lilies. Prior to leaving, Daisy the cat came out to say hello to everyone.
In keeping with the fine arts theme, the tour’s next stop was the Brooke Desnoes Ballet Studio. Desnoes has recently moved back to her native Cullman from Paris where she owned a ballet studio for many years.
“This is the first time for Cullman to have really classical ballet. Her classes are going to be for experienced dancers who want a master class with her as a choreographer and instructor, “ South explained.
The final April Walking Tour of the year will be this Saturday, April 27 starting at 10 a.m. at the Cullman County Museum. Southern Ghost Girls founder Lesley Hyde will be the guide. The tours are free to the public and last approximately one hour.
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