Cullman County Museum

Cullman County Museum The Cullman County Museum in Cullman, Cullman County, is a local historical museum that illustrates life in Cullman County from the time of the earliest Native Americans through the present day. The museum was founded in 1973 by the Cullman Historical Association and is currently housed in a replica of the home of Col. Johann G. Cullmann, the German immigrant who founded the city and county of Cullman. His original home was destroyed in a fire in 1912.The Cullman County Museum currently includes ten separate galleries that highlight the natural, cultural, social, and military history of the city and county of Cullman.

The idea for a local history museum in Cullman emerged in the early 1970s as the centennial of the city’s 1873 founding approached. The Cullman Historical Association was established to plan a countywide celebration, and its efforts eventually culminated in the construction of a replica of John Cullmann’s home as a museum as well as the Cullman County Chamber of Commerce Building. The museum was founded in 1973, and the house was constructed in 1974-75; it originally also housed the Cullman County Chamber of Commerce until 2004. The museum was not officially dedicated until August 1975, with Margaret Farr serving as first director. Elaine Fuller first took the helm in 1987, when Farr went on sick leave and became permanent director when Farr died and served until her retirement in 2018. The current director is Drew Green.

The museum hosts exhibits that are designed to illustrate the natural, cultural, social, and military history of both the city and the county and the surrounding area. The Archaeology and Native Heritage Gallery recounts the earliest known history of present-day Cullman County through the display of Native American artifacts. Sponsored by the Cullman County Archaeological Society, the exhibit includes a collection of projectile points dating back almost 12,000 years from indigenous peoples in Alabama as well as pottery shards and a rare intact pot dating to the Woodland period found in a bluff shelter. The center of the room features a table with projectile points embedded in the top that children can create crayon rubbings from. Additionally, the exhibit includes a timeline of Native American artifacts, demonstrations of how points were made, and a statue of Native American carved from a tree that fell during a 1974 tornado.

Pioneer Room The Pioneer Room focuses upon life during Alabama’s territorial period. Items of note include commonly used items of the period such as churning equipment for making butter, turn-of-the-century tools, farm equipment, lanterns, plows, household items, wood-and-rope beds, and wooden rafters and walls salvaged from local barns. The Civil War Room contains many Civil War-era artifacts, including cannon balls, bullets, and uniforms (both Union and Confederate), as well as a documentary video explaining Union colonel Abel Streight’s raid through north Alabama. There is also an exhibit on local veterans, and the museum is a “By-way” stop on the Blue Star Memorial Highway, which pays tribute to the armed forces. The “Main Street” exhibit showcases daily life in Cullman County from a variety of eras, primarily the late nineteenth through the twentieth centuries. A general store display highlights commonly used goods from the period and a doctor’s exhibit includes tools and patent medicines. In addition, there are items from a historic saloon, old photographs, the bell from the first school in Cullman, the first lighted advertising sign in Cullman, school articles, early manufacturing and business samples, a mural of an early Cullman street scene, and children’s clothing. The Photography Shop exhibit contains pictures of people and places from Cullman’s history.

The Children’s Playroom focuses on the experience of growing up in Cullman County and includes historic toys, a painting of children at play, and a doll that was owned by Esther Beyer, daughter of former mayor George Beyer. The Parlor (Music & Photo) Gallery contains an interactive display that plays three types of music from Cullman’s past, including Sacred Harp singing, fiddle playing, and a German hymn. The room also contains a piano owned by former mayor William J. Nesmith, as well as commonly used instruments such as a mandolin, a pump organ, and a zither, a traditional German stringed instrument similar to an autoharp.

Colonel Cullman Room The final exhibit room on the first floor is the Colonel Cullmann Room, which contains assorted artifacts and memorabilia from town founder Johann G. Cullmann, a German businessman and political activist. Artifacts include a bust of Cullmann sculpted by Timothy Harrison, a priest at the nearby Saint Bernard Abbey, as well as a re-creation of Cullmann’s room that contains his bed, rocking chair, sofa, and various photographs of Cullman and his family. The room also contains a portrait of Col. Cullman along with his death certificate and a book containing his father’s signature.

Natural History Displays The museum’s second floor includes an exhibit on Cullman County’s natural history. The largest display in the exhibit showcases the underwater life of Lewis Smith Lake and surrounding bodies of water. Additionally, woodland scenes depict mammals and birds, butterflies, and other various insects from the area, as well as a golden eagle shot and preserved in 1917 and thereafter nicknamed “Eagle Eye.” The museum also hosts rotating exhibits and includes several exhibit spaces that highlight the family histories of early Cullman settlers, including decorations owned and used by Johann Cullmann, business ledgers from early Cullman businesses, and locally-made quilts.

The museum hosts a variety of activities, including walking tours, book signings, community workshops, brown-bag lunches, and Cullman County Historical Society meetings. The museum also offers professional guided group tours as well as two areas for small group meetings and a large multifunction room with a full kitchen and banquet tables and chairs in the basement.

Cullman Railroad Depot The Cullman County Museum is located at 211 2nd Avenue northeast. It is open Monday through Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m, with free admission on the first Saturday of each month. The museum is closed on Sundays and most major holidays. There are many historical markers in the vicinity. Several blocks south of the museum are a historic district that consists mostly of residences documented by the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1984 and a downtown commercial historic district that was documented by the NRHP in 1985. Nearby are the Cullman Railroad Depot (ca. 1913), Weiss Cottage, the town’s oldest known surviving building (ca. 1873), and the Ave Maria Grotto.

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