At a plain, black well pump in the small southern town of Tuscumbia, Alabama, one of the world’s great miracles took place. It began one bright, spring day in 1887. Puffy white clouds floated overhead on a background of blue, while birds fluttered through oaks and maples and flowers burst forth from the fertile soil in an array of colors - all unheard and unseen by a pretty girl of seven.
Standing at the side of the totally blind and deaf Helen Keller was a young woman, Anne Sullivan. Miss Sullivan was steadily pumping cool water into one of the girl’s hands while repeatedly tapping out an alphabet code of five letters in the other - first slowly, then rapidly. The scene was repeated again and again as the young Helen painstakingly struggled to break her world of silence.
Suddenly the signals crossed Helen’s consciousness with a meaning. She knew that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the cool something flowing over her hand. Darkness began to melt from her mind like so much ice left out on that sunny March day. By nightfall, Helen had learned 30 words.
Helen Adams Keller was born a healthy child on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. and Kate Adams Keller of Tuscumbia. At the tender age of 19 months, she was stricken with a severe illness which left her blind and deaf.
At the age of six, the half-wild, deaf and blind girl was taken by her parents to see Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Because of this visit, Helen was united with her teacher Anne Mansfield Sullivan on March 3, 1887. After Helen’s miraculous breakthrough at the simple well pump, she proved so gifted that she soon learned the finger-tip alphabet and shortly afterward to write. By the end of August, in six short months, she knew 625 words.
By age 10, Helen had mastered Braille as well as the manual alphabet and even learned to use the typewriter. By the time she was 16, Helen could speak well enough to go to preparatory school and college. In 1904, she was graduated ‘cum laude’ from Radcliffe College. The teacher stayed with her through those years, interpreting lectures and class discussions to her.
Helen Keller, the little girl, became one of history’s remarkable women. She dedicated her life to improving the conditions of the blind and deafblind around the world, lecturing in more than 25 countries on the five major continents. Wherever she appeared, she brought new courage to millions of blind people.
Her teacher, Anne Sullivan is remembered as “the Miracle Worker” for her lifetime dedication, patience and love to a half-wild, southern child trapped in a world of darkness.
Located on a 640-acre tract in historic Tuscumbia, Ivy Green was built in 1820 (one year after Alabama became a state) by David and Mary Fairfax Moore Keller, grandparents of Helen Keller. The simple, white clapboard home is designed in typical Southern architecture. Having survived untouched through the ravages of the Civil War, Ivy Green is maintained to the smallest detail in its original state. Particular pride is taken in the estate’s surrounding buildings, well manicured landscape and colorful gardens.
Since 1954, Helen Keller’s birthplace has been a permanent shrine to the “miracle” that occurred in a blind and deaf, seven-year-old girl’s life. At that time Ivy Green was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main house is of Virginia cottage construction, with four large rooms on the first floor bisected by a wide hall. Each room boasts an individual fireplace. Upstairs are three rooms connected by a hall.
The old “whistle path” carries the visitor to the outdoor kitchen from the main home. Sprinkled around the estate are the Lion’s Club International Memorial Fountain, the “Clearing” and herb gardens, the ice house and gift shop.
Helen Keller’s birthplace cottage is situated east of the main house and consists of a large room with a lovely bay window and play room. Originally, the small “annex” was an office for keeping the plantation books.
After the death of his first wife in 1877, Captain Arthur H. Keller remarried and brought his wife, Kate Adams, home to Ivy Green. At that time, the office had been refurnished and fitted for them as a bridal suite. Later, the cottage would serve as living quarters for Helen and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.
The homes and museum rooms are decorated with much of the original furniture of the Keller family. Each is highlighted by hundreds of Miss Keller’s personal mementos, books and gifts from her lifetime of travel and lectures in 25 countries for the betterment of the world’s blind and deafblind. Of particular note is her complete library of Braille books and her original Braille typewriter.
The actual well pump where Helen’s spirit was set free remains in its original location, between the main house and the birthplace cottage. The entire estate is nestled under a cooling canopy of English boxwood (over 150 years old), magnolia, mimosa, and other trees, accented by roses, honeysuckle, smilax and an abundance of English Ivy (for which the estate receives its name).
Performed on an outdoor stage at Ivy Green, weekends in June through mid-July. A nationally recognized production with authentic sets and costumes. (888) 329-2124, (256) 383-4066, or helenkellerbirthplace.org
Four days of events held in Tuscumbia to commemorate the lifetime of the town’s world renowned native, Helen Keller. The celebration includes a parade, stage entertainment, a fine art and craft show, tours of historic sites, athletic events and more. Free admission.
In 2003, the Alabama state Quarter was the 22nd to be released in the U.S. Mint’s 50 State Quarters™ Program. The design centers around the slogan “Spirit of Courage” and features Helen Keller reading a book in Braille. Keller’s name is also reproduced in Braille. She is framed by Southern Longleaf Pine branches (Alabama’s official state tree) and Camellias (Alabama’s official state flower).
In 1954, through the efforts of the Helen Keller Foundation Board and the State of Alabama, Ivy Green was made a permanent shrine and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ivy Green is located two miles off U.S. Hwys. 72 and 43 in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
School groups welcome
Closed most holidays
Senior Adults: $5
Youth (5-18): $2
Military (Active & Retired): $5
>Group rates for 20 or more.
Rates subject to change.
Check website for updates.
GPS Coordinate:34° 44’ 16.86”N
87° 42’ 22.42”W
ContactHelen Keller Birthplace
300 North Commons, W.
Tuscumbia, AL 35674
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The outstanding achievements and the music of Alabamians are presented in this state museum. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy, “Father of Rock and Roll” Sam Phillips and Percy Sledge (“When a Man Loves a Woman”), all Shoals natives, are among the prestigious inductees. You’ll hear rocking rhythms and soul touching melodies as you admire the vast memorabilia from the lives and careers of more than 1,000 stars, representing all styles of America’s music. The world-famous music recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is featured and a signature Mississippi Blues Trail marker recognizes the far-reaching influence of the Muscle Shoals sound and its originators.
Hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
FAME, established in 1959, was the first successful professional recording studio in Alabama. Arthur Alexander’s 1961 hit, “You Better Move On,” cut here, launched the famous Muscle Shoals sound. R&B classics by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, Etta James and others drew world-wide attention to FAME. Pop artists Liza Minelli, Tom Jones, Little Richard, and the Osmonds then brought their talents to studio owner/producer Rick Hall, who also produced some of the nation’s best Country artists, including Shenandoah, Mac Davis, Jerry Reid, and Darryl Worley. During the studio’s half-century history, releases from FAME have sold over 300 million copies world-wide. Current sessions produce some of the best new pop, rock and country music, including Dylan LeBlanc, Band of Horses, Angela Hacker, Jason Isbell, Drive-by Truckers, Jamey Johnson, Gary Nichols and Ugli Stick.
Public Tours offered Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. & 4:00 p.m.; Saturday 10 am - 2 pm (Unless studio in session) Admission.
This iconic address is one of the most photographed locations in the Shoals area for music pilgrims from around the world. Established in 1969 by a group of former FAME session musicians, this was the location where the Rolling Stones, Cher, Bob Segar, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkle, and many others created some of the most popular hits of the 1970’s. The session musicians were dubbed “The Swampers” in the lyrics of Lynrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Open Monday - Saturday 10am-4pm
Tours Given: 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio moved from its original location in 1978, converting this former Naval Reserve building on the Tennessee River to a multi-studio complex. Many of the most important recording artists of the era created their gold and platinum records here, including James Brown, Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffet, Bob Dylan, The Oak Ridge Boys, Julian Lennon, Melissa Etheridge and Little Milton. The building now houses Cypress Moon film production company with the historic recording studio still in use. Event space also offers regular concerts in Studio A or the Full Moon Theater.
Open for tours: Mon. - Fri. 10am-3pm and Sat. 11am-3pm
The early history of the City of Muscle Shoals, including Wilson Lock and Dam and Muscle Shoals Music, is showcased through visual displays and exhibits located along a special corridor within City Hall.
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am – 4:30 pm. Free.
Father of the Blues W.C. Handy was born in this simple log cabin. A collection of memorabilia, musical instruments, personal papers, and original sheet music are just a few items on display. Period furnishings. A week-long music festival is held the last week in July.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Admission.
If you’re looking for something unique, you can find it here. From organically grown foods, to designer clothing, fine arts, antiques, collectibles and one-of-a-kind gifts, our friendly area merchants can provide a memorable shopping experience.
Unique specialty shops in nineteenth century buildings attract visitors to historic downtown Tuscumbia. Savor roasted peanuts at the town’s oldest continuously operated store, Cold Water Seed and Supply, then check out the variety of merchandise in galleries, gift shops, and fashionable ladies clothing boutiques. Browse home décor shops then visit a delightful fabric nook where sewing and craft notions are shelved ceiling-high. Downtown shoppers will enjoy Cold Water Books with its plush leather seating and flavorful coffees to sip while reading the books and magazines or enjoy dining at Claunch Café in Spring Park, OH! Bryan's Downtown, Peaux Boys Cajun Grille, or City Café. Don't forget to go by Aunt Bea's Bakery and Bistro or The Palace Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop for a sweet treat.
Neighboring Sheffield, the city on the bluff, is undergoing an extensive period of revitalization. Stroll along Montgomery Avenue for a variety of shopping experiences. From trendy fashions at Zoey Belle's Boutique, The Rak, and Lorraine's Boutique, to Lola's Flowers and Gifts, a community cornerstone for over 40 years. Sheffield Hardware, located in a fully restored downtown building carries everything from paint, electrical and plumbing supplies, to housewares needs.
The shopping tradition continues in Muscle Shoals at The Village Shop, which has outfitted stylish ladies for over 45 years. Nearby, Lynda's Loft is another favorite for classic women's clothing and special gifts. Nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farms, featured in Bon Appetit Appalachia, is a year round farmers market that produces Certified Naturally Grown vegetables, local raw honey, fresh baked goods, and offers up other local culinary treats.
Antique Shops & Malls
A collection of antique shops are sprinkled throughout the Shoals, as diverse as the collectibles they offer.
Antiques Unlimited: 3909 North Jackson Hwy, Sheffield (256)383-2277 This 60,000 square foot, two-story building houses over 60 dealers. A little bit of everything, furniture, quality glassware, toys from the 40's and 50's, old ads, and knives.
Classic Antiques & Collectibles: 2905 29th St. Sheffield (256) 383-7418 5,200 square feet of antiques and collectibles. Large variety of advertising, soft drink memorabilia, peddle cars, furniture, glassware, hard to find items and collectibles.
Jack's Antiques: North Jackson Hwy, Sheffield. (Located across the street from Antiques Unlimited) Small antique shop with a lot of "stuff", including signs, old tools and primitives.
Nostalgia Vintage Furniture & Junk: 215 S. Montgomery Ave, Sheffield.
York Bluff Antiques & Collectibles: 409 N. Montgomery Ave., Sheffield.
Downtown Antiques: 203 E. 6th St., Tuscumbia. (256) 320-9536 A large variety of antiques and collectables. Glassware, furniture, vintage items and much more offered from many vendors.
Down on Main Street, Antiques and Uniques: 120 N. Main St., Tuscumbia. (256) 412-0008 Antiques, gifts, and creative home décor. Annie Sloan chalk paint retailer, classes also available for paint techniques.
Yesterday's Antiques and Architectural Salvage: 118 W. 6th St., Tuscumbia. (256) 386-1947 Over 3,000 square feet. Architectural accents are their specialty - collectibles, furniture, and a wide variety of vintage items.
LaGrange College Site
This annual event remembers LaGrange College, “West Point of the South,” and the destruction of the school and village by Union forces during the Civil War. Reenactment, living history encampments, funeral drama, music, crafts and food. 1st Sat in May. Free. (256) 446-9324 www.Recall-LaGrange.00me.com
1 Spring Park Rd., Tuscumbia A show of over 200 gleaming street rods and classics dating from 1972 and older. 1st Sat. in June. Free. (256) 383-0783
Willie Green Center
609 S. East St., Tuscumbia Event provides an opportunity to explore African culture – art, fashion, craft, music, dance, food. 1st Sat. in June. Free. (256) 383-0783
Each Saturday in April, Free Guided Walking Tours of historic districts take place in Sheffield and Tuscumbia. Led by knowledgeable guides, the tours travel past structures that date prior to the Civil War. Tuscumbia boasts one of the state’s best collection of antebellum structures and Sheffield offers Victorian and Craftsman-style homes and structures.
Trolley Tours of historic Tuscumbia are offered through public notice. These tours travel through the historic residential district and offer a “porch and parlor” tour of one house. Admission. (256) 383-0783
300 N. Commons W., Tuscumbia
Authentic costumes, stage sets, and absorbing acting are in store for you during the annual presentation of William Gibson’s play, “The Miracle Worker.” The two-hour play dramatizes the efforts of teacher Anne Sullivan to open the world of communication to 7-year-old, blind and deaf Helen Keller. STS* Top 20 and ABA* Top 100. Friday & Saturday, June to mid-July, 8pm. Admission. (256) 383-4066 www.helenkellerbirthplace.org
Downtown Tuscumbia & Spring Park
This popular festival pays tribute to America’s “First Lady of Courage” with four days of activities: parade, fine art & craft show, art exhibits, Keller Kids, staged musical entertainment, history programs and tours, two performances of “The Miracle Worker Play.” STS* Top 20 and ABA* Top 100 event. 4th weekend in June (Thurs-Sun). Most events are free. (256) 383-0783 www.HelenKellerFestival.com
The town of Cherokee celebrates with an Independence Day Festival that includes children’s games, bingo, food, street dance, music and fireworks. The Florence Spirit of Freedom Celebration offers musical entertainment, food and a big fireworks show.
Gardiner Farm, Tuscumbia
Horseback trail riding, auction and headliner concerts mark this two-day event. STS* Top 20. 3rd. F & Sa in July. Donations. (256) 383-0783. See us on Facebook.
In tribute to the “Father of the Blues,” the area comes alive for a full week with music performed day and night in auditoriums, parks, restaurants, and other venues. STS* Top 20 and ABA* Top 100 event. Last full week in July. Free & ticketed events. (256) 766-7642 www.wchandymusicfestival.org
The Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration is held at the world’s only Coon Dog Cemetery. Enjoy “old time” bluegrass music, buck dancing, barbecue, and a liar’s contest. STS* Top 20. Labor Day. Free. (256) 383-0783 Labor Day in Spring Park, Tuscumbia, is celebrated annually with a parade, live music, the traditional political speeches and a beauty contest. This is the nation’s oldest labor union celebration. Free. (256) 383-0783
1 Spring Park Rd., Tuscumbia Native American Culture is showcased in story telling, dancing, music, art and crafts and a torch-lighting ceremony. Over a dozen American Indian tribes return to their southeastern homeland. STS* Top 20. 2nd Friday & Saturday in Sept. Free. (256) 383-0783. www.okakapassa.org
From Chattanooga, TN – Waterloo, AL
American Indian pow-wow and activities such as drumming and dancing, vendors in Waterloo, with stops all along the ride. 3rd Saturday in September. Free. (256) 383-0783 http://al-tn-trailoftears.net/
Belle Mont Mansion
1569 Cook Lane, Tuscumbia One of Alabama’s most distinguished mansions is opulently decorated for Christmas when “the Old South” is recreated with period music, dancing and refreshments. STS* Top 20. 1st Sunday 1-5pm in Dec. Admission. (256) 383-0783
Tennessee Valley Museum of Art
511 N. Water St., Tuscumbia During December, two spacious galleries are filled with the sights and scents of Christmas, displaying towering live fir trees, lavishly decorated with themes. Museum hours. Admission. (256) 383-0533 www.tvaa.net
Dickens Christmas Y'all
Downtown Tuscumbia in various locations. Holiday festival reminiscent of the holiday classic "A Christmas Carol," carriage rides, snow falling, music, arts and crafts vendors. Sponsored by Tuscumbia Retail Development. Admission for some events. 2nd Saturday in December. (256) 383-9797
Be sure to check out our full Calendar of Events.
The Muscle Shoals area and Colbert County are less than a day’s drive from anywhere in the mid-South!
Birmingham is only 95 miles southeast via I-65; Memphis is approximately 125 miles to the west via U. S. Hwy 72; Nashville is 100 miles to the north via the Natchez Trace Parkway; and Atlanta is only 200 miles to the east.