The Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, aims to broaden the knowledge of the role that transportation played in Tuscaloosa’s development and culture. The museum is situated in the historic Queen City Pool House on the banks of the Black Warrior River. It is operated by the University of Alabama Museums.
Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum The building in which the museum is located was the pool house for Tuscaloosa’s first community pool. It was constructed in 1943 through the efforts of Herbert David and Mildred Westervelt Warner, whose son David died at age 15 in a swimming pool accident. (Mildred Westervelt Warner was inducted to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984 for her work as president of her father’s Tuscaloosa-based Gulf States Paper Corporation from 1938 until 1957.) The park in which it was constructed was created in 1932, during the Great Depression, with support from the Civil Works Administration relief program and the pool complex through the Works Progress Administration and its contribution of $100,000. The Warner family raised an additional $25,000 through the foundation created in their son’s memory.
Native American Canoe Known as the Queen City Pool and Pool House, the complex was designed by architect Don Buel Schuyler, an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright. (Schuyler designed many buildings in Tuscaloosa as well as Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Mobile County.) The complex featured a concrete Art Moderne bathhouse, wading pool, and Art Deco fountain. The original pool house was circular with two small rectangular sections on either side. On the north and south sides, it featured two clerestories, or raised sections of the upper walls that contain numerous windows. The interior was lined with tile and had showers for 15 men and 11 women.
The pool, measuring 168 feet by 60 feet, was closed in 1989 due to safety issues and was filled with concrete. The building remained vacant for several years. Because of its architectural and historical significance, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. It was not until 2005 that plans to convert the bathhouse into a local history museum were executed, however. The city was awarded a $1.04 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program to establish a museum that emphasized the history of transportation in Tuscaloosa. The renovation project was designed by the Eclectic Group, Inc. of Huntsville, Madison County, and also Ward Scott Veron Architects of Tuscaloosa. The Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum officially opened on December 13, 2011.
1909 Maxwell Runabout Visitors to the museum have the opportunity to learn about the region’s geology, various modes of transportation used by the region’s residents, and the history of the Black Warrior River. The museum exhibits trace the city’s history through the development of its transportation systems, particularly rivers, roads, and rail lines. The exhibits feature artifacts, replicas, photographs, interactive media displays, and other digital media.
The museum is operated and maintained by the University of Alabama Museums, which also oversees the Gorgas House Museum, the Alabama Museum of Natural History, and Moundville Archeological Park. One of the first exhibits displayed at the transportation museum was titled Courage Under Fire: The 1961 Burning of the Freedom Riders’ Bus, on loan from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It was a collection of photos documenting the event. More recent exhibits include Lost Antebellum Alabama, Lost and Found Treasures of Alabama, the South, and the United States, and Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowder. The museum’s connection with the University of Alabama affords its students the opportunity to design exhibits. The museum sponsors monthly and annual events that include guest speakers and art and book talks.
The museum is located at 1901 Jack Warner Parkway. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free though donations are accepted. The museum encourages field trips and group tours. The grounds are also available for private events such as weddings and business conferences.