Gulf Shores Museum Holds Past, Greets Future

Posted 8/18/17

Gulf Shores may seem like a hip, modern seaside resort town but this happening island started as a quiet, sleepy fishing port. In fact, the popular tourist destination started as a community of …

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Gulf Shores Museum Holds Past, Greets Future

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Gulf Shores may seem like a hip, modern seaside resort town but this happening island started as a quiet, sleepy fishing port. In fact, the popular tourist destination started as a community of several tightknit families and few visitors.

The best place to discover Gulf Shore’s history is at the Gulf Shores Museum, located at 244 W 19th Ave. in Gulf Shores. Inside, visitors can explore life on the island before it was discovered by tourists, learn about the founders of Gulf Shores and how life has changed in this island town over the years.

Tourists first began to notice Gulf Shores in 1937 after the completion of the Intracoastal Waterway. Two years later, Gulf State Park opened and a tourist mecca was born. After Hurricane Fredric devastated the region in 1979 Gulf Shores saw a construction boom as residents and business owners worked to rebuild.

It was after that storm that the building that now houses the city museum was donated. The building was once home to the family of Valerie Cole of Mobile. The house originally sat on West Beach and was built before World War II.

After Hurricane Fredric, the family donated the building to the city and it was moved to Gulf Shores to land donated by Wade and Pat Ward and Claude O’Connor. There the building sat empty for three years. In 1982, the city began to repair the historic building. In the years since, it has been used as a youth center, library and community center.

The steeple that stands tall in the garden behind the museum was donated by the Oyster Bay Baptist Church in 1999. Nelson’s Boat Yard donated a ship’s mast that dates back to 1940. It rests near the steeple and serves as a flagpole.

The Gulf Shores Museum is a great place to learn about the town’s history and bring a small piece of it home. In the museum shop visitors can purchase two carefully written and researched histories of the seaside town: Once Upon an Island, Volumes I and II.

The books were cooperative efforts between the GFWC Gulf Shores Woman’s Club and the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.