You might not think of the history to be explored during a visit to the beach, but during your next beach vacation consider taking time out to travel back in time.
There are numerous unique spots that do a great job unveiling the unique history of the area, including the Holmes Medical Museum or Stacey’s Antique Soda Fountain in Foley; the Swift-Cole mansion in Bon Secour; and Fort Morgan, situated at the end of Ala. Hwy. 180.
Once called the Sibley Holmes Memorial Hospital, the Holmes Medical Museum, located at the corner of Ala. Hwy. 59 and U.S. Hwy 98 still appears today practically unchanged from when it served as an operational hospital. It is known for being Baldwin County’s first hospital and closed in 1958.
Many of the items on display are original medical artifacts, including surgical instruments, operating room equipment and even a human skeleton.
Other items on display include a re-created operating room, patient rooms, an x-ray room and a pharmacy from the time period.
Admission to the museum is free. Here are more fun and free things to do in the area.
On the same block as the medical museum is the nostalgic Olde Tyme Soda Fountain, a Foley landmark, which, until recently was a fully operational pharmacy.
Soda fountains were often located in pharmacies, as was this one when it opened in 1929. It has been a popular hangout spot for generations.
Step inside, and you’ll immediately notice the model train that travels around the ceiling. Display cases are open and feature items you might have seen decades earlier.
While you’re there, be sure to order a key lime milkshake or a banana split. Be sure to pick up one of its famous toasted egg salad sandwiches or a 10-cent cup of coffee.
If you enjoy shopping for antiques, there are several options in and around Foley.
Heading south toward Gulf Shores, pay a visit to the Swift-Coles Historic Home, which was originally built in 1882 as a four-room cabin.
The home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located at 17424 Swift-Coles Lane in the sleepy fishing community of Bon Secour.
In 1898 Charles and Susan Swift purchased the cabin and moved in with their eight children. The couple added the west wing and an upstairs, creating a 6,000-square-foot home with 3,000 square feet of porches.
In 1976, Nik Coles bought the home and filled it with antiques from around the world. Before passing away in 2007, Coles gifted the home to the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission.
Today, people enjoy events at the home such as “Live Music on the Lawn,” as well as tours. Tours are held on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Historic Fort Morgan, a dog-friendly site, is another must-do for history lovers or even those who want to let the kids run in a wide-open space during a beach vacation to the Gulf Shores area.
Situated on Mobile Point, at the end of scenic Fort Morgan Road, the site is home to nature areas, a boat launch, a picnic area, beaches, and Fort Morgan, which served as the first line of defense for the city of Mobile and provided protection for blockade runners entering the bay during the Civil War.
On Aug. 5, 1864, Union naval forces fought their way past the fort and defeated a Confederate naval squadron that included the ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee. Union land forces began the siege against the fort on Aug. 9 and, following an intense bombardment on Aug. 22 where 17 men were killed, the Confederate garrison’s 581 men were forced to surrender on Aug. 23 of that year.
While it might not be your first thought to explore the history of the communities of South Alabama during your vacation, doing so will add another layer of fun to your visit for all the history buffs or nostalgia lovers in your group.
Book your family’s vacation now in a condo or beach house in the peaceful Fort Morgan area.