Red Bay Museum

The Red Bay Museum is a local history museum located in downtown Red Bay, Franklin County. The museum aims to preserve and interpret the history and culture of the town. Most of its second floor is devoted to country music star Tammy Wynette, who spent much of her youth in Red Bay.

Red Bay Museum Walker County native Carl Elliot (1913-1999), the former congressman known for championing education legislation, conceived of the idea for a museum. While conducting research on his book One Hundred Years of Memories: An Oral History of Red Bay, Alabama 1888-1988, Elliot realized that many people had historical artifacts related to Red Bay history. It was published by the Red Bay Civitan Club in 1995, and club members urged local citizens to hold on to these artifacts and historical photos for future use by the club. In 2004, the Civitan Club acquired a building in downtown Red Bay and renovated it for use as a museum. The Club maintained certain original parts of the building, and other parts of the buildings are taken from historic places in town and restored, such as the staircase from the Red Bay Hotel. The museum officially opened in 2006.

Each museum exhibit replicates an important space in Red Bay history, starting with the original Red Bay Hotel lobby. There were several iterations of the hotel. The present building was constructed in 1923 and opened in 1924; it is located just west of the museum. It had closed in the late 1970s and was later refurbished and reopened but closed again at the end of 2018. The museum has the original counter, neon sign, key holder, and a room door that was restored for exhibition. There is a reconstruction of the town’s former general store displaying items that would have been used to conduct business, such as scales, a cash register, calendars, wrapping paper, and other objects. Another exhibit depicts the town drug store, displaying an old soda foundation, and original chairs and tables. An exhibit of the former Bay Theater highlights its original player piano, original window glass, theater seats, and its tin ceilings. The museum also showcases replica objects to depict the Red Bay Depot that was constructed in 1907 by the Illinois Central Railroad and destroyed by fire in the 1990s. The church exhibit houses items from multiple churches in the area, including stained glass windows, a pulpit, an organ, and a piano. This display also interprets the role of churches in small-town life as both serving religious and social needs.

Other exhibits include military items, a school display, a Native American display, and an exhibit about Johnny Mack Morrow, who was an archaeologist and state representative. In addition, the museum replicates a typical older home in the area and displays period furniture such as an oak mantle, a dresser, and a sewing machine and it houses items from the Red Bay School such as desks. The museum also recreates the Bank of Red Bay, the town’s first, with its cashier windows and restored Tennessee marble counters. Former congressman Zadoc Lorenzo Weatherford (1888-1983), a physician, also served as president of the Bank of Red Bay from 1938 until 1970, in addition to serving as mayor from 1945 until 1948.

Tammy Wynette Costumes On the second floor, the main attraction is the Tammy Wynette display dedicated to the popular country singer and songwriter. Wynette was born near Tremont, Mississippi, which is just over the Mississippi-Alabama state line, but she considered Red Bay her adopted hometown, having spent much time there with relatives during her childhood. The exhibit displays clothing, including her wedding dress from her marriage to musician George Jones, album covers, photos, and other items from Wynette’s storied music career.

Overall, there is more than 7,000 square feet of display area in the museum. It is primarily funded through sales from a thrift shop next door and from rummage sales held throughout the year, as well as museum store sales of ornaments and afghans that show landmarks from the town.

The museum is located in downtown Red Bay at 110 4th Ave SE. It is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Large groups are requested to make appointments. The museum charges admission fees, except for children under six years of age.

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