We begin our tour in the upstairs court room of the 1932 classic Greek Renaissance style Elmore County Court House. Wisdom of the day suggested a permanent, commodious and beautiful structure that would satisfy the most exacting for all time. The courtroom is immense, running the full width of the rear wing . No expense of enrichments was spared on the marble-walled entrance lobby, marble stairs between two Tuscan piers cased in salmon marble, the elaborate windows and doors opening into the courtroom, the fine metal balustrades and the elaborate plasterwork of the second floor. The building cost $210,500.00.
Immediately in front of the Court House we will see the Court Street District including a row of buildings built in 1855, replacing buildings destroyed by a fire in 1832. These commercial buildings have housed a variety of businesses including a continuously operating drug store for over 100 years.
Just across Bridge Street we see another row of commercial buildings from 1855. Many of the businesses suffered losses in the great flood of 1886 and businesses through the years have had to deal with flooding from the Coosa River. The City Council Chamber was housed on the second floor of 109 East Bridge from 1885-1903 At the east end of this row of buildings is “Due Corner”. This building has played a significant role in the history of Wetumpka having survived three fires and the great flood of 1886. Horatio Tulane, of the family that founded Tulane University, owned the building and had a business there at one time. In his will, probated in 1897, he left the building to his nieces and nephews for their lifetime , then it was to go to Elmore County for “the care of the poor and destitute”. Revenue from the building still goes to the aid of the “poor and destitute”.
Crossing the Bibb Graves Bridge, built in 1931, we can see “The Old Calaboose” built in the early 1800’s and regarded as Wetumpka’s first jail. It was in use until the mid 1830’s. A little further along, as we cross the Coosa River, we can see remnants of the western rim of the Wetumpka Meteor Impact Crater in the unusual rock formations rising from the waters of the river. The bridge itself is one of the most admired in the state as one of only two known bridges suspended by reinforced concrete arches in the United States.
At the western end of the bridge we walk up North Bridge Street where once was located the West Wetumpka business district. Being a river town businesses sprung up on both sides of the river. Each business district was in a different county . West Wetumpka was in Autauga County and East Wetumpka was in Coosa County until Elmore County was formed in 1866.
Walking west on Tuskeena Street we pass several historic homes including a home that had its beginnings as a theater in East Wetumpka and another home lived in continuously by members of the same family for 104 years.
Proceeding up Tuskeena we come to the First United Methodist Church, completed in 1854 and one of the three antebellum churches located in West Wetumpka. Across the corner from the church is a house built in 1892 by Benjamin Fitzpatrick, an attorney and circuit solicitor and the son of Benjamin Fitzpatrick, eleventh governor of Alabama.
Just across the street from the church is the “Rose Cottage” which served as the Methodist meeting house from 1843-1854. In this house a very important session of the Alabama Methodist Conference was held in 1845. Delegates voted at this meeting that the churches of this conference would become a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, thus separating itself from the General Conference.
Starting back toward the bridge we see the other two antebellum churches in this district. On the south side of North Bridge Street is the First Baptist Church building completed in 1852. On the north side of the street is the First Presbyterian Church building completed in 1856.
As we proceed east over the Bibb Graves Bridge, take note of the lock on the west bank of the Coosa River. This is a remnant of an ambitious government project in the 1890’s to make the Coosa River navigable from Wetumpka to Wilsonville in Shelby County, Alabama.
Back in East Wetumpka we end our tour at the end of Wharf Street where we see the oldest remaining commercial building in town, an 1820’s trading post, later known as the Alliance Warehouse. The building houses the Elmore County Historical Museum and is presently closed for repairs.
Our last stop will be Wetumpka’s old Post Office building, dedicated September 9, 1937. This building is owned by the City of Wetumpka and is being renovated for use as a public meeting space. We invite you to have some refreshments, visit the rest rooms and souvenir shop in this building and we hope you will visit us often to explore more of the wonders of Wetumpka.