Attractions

Experience the adventure of the Downtown Turtle Trail! Learn more about Downtown Decatur, Alabama’s history by participating in our interactive scavenger hunt!

Up and down Second Avenue, ten turtles are hidden in various locations, each with a unique accessory revealing something special about Decatur’s history. Use the below clues to find the turtles on the Downtown Turtle Trail and learn about historical places and events along Second Avenue.

Take the Downtown Turtle Trail Challenge and win a prize!

It’s Simple:

  • Post pictures with all ten turtles on any social media platform using the hashtags #TurtleTrail and #DecaturDowntown.
  • Visit the Museum Store in the Cook Museum on Holly Street or Decatur Morgan County Tourism office on 6th Avenue and show your turtle pictures on social media to receive a SPECIAL PRIZE!

#1 Mikey

The Princess knows just what it’s like;
To be part of this 2nd Avenue hike;
A lamppost out front
Will aid in your hunt,
As Mikey sings into a mic.

Beginning in 1887 as a livery stable, the Princess Theatre was converted in 1919 to a silent film and vaudeville playhouse. A 1941 renovation of the Princess delighted local crowds with its modern art deco style and the addition of what was then the tallest marquee in Alabama, both of which are visible today. The Princess would later become a local movie theater before closing in 1978. The City of Decatur purchased and renovated the Princess, and it reopened as a performing arts center in 1983. Since that time, it has served as a mainstay of Decatur’s performing arts community. The Princess has featured many notable speakers and stars throughout its history, including Dr. George Washington Carver, Gene Autry (and his horse Champion), Roy Rogers (and his horse Trigger), Decatur native Dean Jones, and Ray Charles.
Read more about this location:

#2 Loyd

At Moulton there’ll be no mistake;
The old drug store’s the site of your break;
Solve this quick test
Of where bicycles rest,
To find Loyd enjoying a shake.

In a building constructed on this corner in about 1900 was Albany Drug Co., which became Loyd’s Drug Store in 1935. The basement of the building was the first home of the Decatur Daily, which began publishing in 1912. One of the first issues of the newspaper reported the Titanic sinking in April of that year. Loyd’s was a pharmacy and had a soda fountain, a popular gathering place for generations seeking a refreshing milkshake on a hot summer day. Loyd’s burned in May 1999, and the corner sat vacant until 2013 when Mellow Mushroom opened on the former Loyd’s site.
Read more about this location:

#3 Governor Albert

From Moulton towards Johnston you meander;
The crosswalk requires a good gander;
As a rising attorney
On a post office journey,
Governor Albert would lead with great candor.

On this block was the law office of Albert P. Brewer, a Decatur native who served as Governor of Alabama from 1968-1971. A political rival of Gov. George Wallace, Gov. Brewer was a leading voice of moderation on racial issues during this tumultuous period of Alabama’s history. As governor, he was a champion of ethics reform and public education and was the first gubernatorial candidate since Reconstruction to openly court African American voters. At age 34, Brewer was elected Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, the youngest person in Alabama history to serve as House Speaker. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1966. Gov. Brewer launched his 1970 gubernatorial campaign with a parade down Second Avenue. This turtle suggests Gov. Brewer as a young Decatur attorney walking to mail an important letter at the Albany Station Post Office that stood around the corner on Johnston Street from 1949-1965.
Read more about this location:

#4 Barbara

Past Johnston to Grant you’ll be there;
‘Round the corner at the top of the stair;
Believe it or not
With the clippers she’s got,
Barbara can also cut hair!

This space below street level served continuously as a traditional barbershop from 1935-2019. With photographs on the wall of Alabama football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe, Basement Barber Shop was uniquely accessible to its customers via this exterior staircase, marked by the trademark spinning red, white, and blue barber pole. For generations of Decatur residents, Basement Barber Shop offered a welcoming atmosphere for a quick trim, shave, or shampoo.
Read more about this location:

#5 Peggy

From the barber, cross Grant and then stop;
You can skip, you can saunter, or hop;
Though pigs cannot fly
Oh the groceries they’ll buy,
Just like Peggy who’s ready to shop.

While in the late 1880s, the neighborhood well and orchard were located on this site, this corner became the home of Decatur’s first Piggly Wiggly in 1921. The four-story building was, at the time, the tallest building in the city. Piggly Wiggly was the first self-service grocery store. Before Piggly Wiggly, customers provided a list of desired items to a store clerk, who would retrieve the items for the customer. Piggly Wiggly was the first supermarket to have checkout stands, shopping baskets, and marked prices for every item. Decatur’s Piggly Wiggly opened only five years after the original Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis and operated until 1940 when it closed. Years would pass before another Piggly Wiggly opened in Decatur.
Read more about this location:

#6 Nicky

Crossing Second is part of this game;
To the left and down the block you should aim;
While the changing of times
Means fewer nickels and dimes,
Nicky has coins just the same.

Second Avenue was the retail center of Decatur for much of the 20th century. The street was home to several department stores, clothing stores, drug stores, and grocery stores. Among the most popular retail outlets were five-and-dime stores, such as Woolworth’s, Grant’s, Elmore’s, and Pride’s Busy Store. Like the popular five-and-dime stores found nationwide, these stores sold a variety of household items, available for purchase with just a nickel or a dime. Due to their low price points, five-and-dime stores were especially popular with children. This building was home to Buttrey’s Department Store, Sterchi Bros. furniture, and other uses until 2017 when it was completely renovated into street-level retail shops with loft apartments on the top floor.
Read more about this location:

#7 Casey

Head north as your feet do propel;
Towards the old Casa Grande Hotel;
A ledge is your tip
Casey’s on her next trip,
With a suitcase on top of her shell.

Look up! Though the current structure was built in 1904, you can still see the name of the Casa Grande Hotel written in the stone at the top of the building. For the enormous sum of $300,000, the original Casa Grande Hotel was built in 1888, before burning and being rebuilt in its current form in 1904. Tunnels of unknown purpose and origin have been discovered in recent years below the sidewalk in front of the Casa Grande. The building that would later house the Princess Theatre served as the livery stable for guests of the hotel. During its time as a hotel, the Casa Grande was a convenient resting point for travelers arriving at the nearby L&N Train Station near First Avenue. President McKinley arrived at the L&N Station and possibly stayed at the Casa Grande during his 1901 trip to Decatur to visit his friend Gen. Joe Wheeler. Locals reported that, upon his arrival in Decatur, the President was greeted by children waving American flags, and Mrs. McKinley was welcomed with the gift of a silver cup from the ladies. McKinley’s visit to Decatur was less than two months after his second inauguration and less than five months before he was assassinated.
Read more about this location:

#8 Mason

On Johnston look this way and that;
Where the Cotaco Opera House sat;
Mason looks dapper
In chelonian wrapper,
While sporting his own top hat.

The Cotaco Opera House opened in 1890 at 115 Johnston St. and was the first opera house in the state of Alabama. The city of Decatur was the largest in North Alabama at the time, and the growing town needed a theater to showcase its fine arts. It was built by the Cotaco Opera House Company, which was incorporated on September 16, 1889. The theater hosted some of the nation’s top touring vaudeville acts. It later became the Masonic Lodge, Masonic Theatre, and Payne Theatre.
Read more about this location:

#9 Harry

Jones Park is where Harry has played;
Near a fountain of stone in the shade;
Sit back and relax
As he belts out the sax,
And musically joins the parade.

About this Location: On October 21, 1960, during the crucial final days of the 1960 Presidential campaign, former President Harry S. Truman came to Decatur to campaign for John F. Kennedy. Roughly 1,000 people greeted Pres. Truman as he flew into Pryor Field on a twin-Beechcraft. Wearing a light blue suit with a red carnation on his lapel and riding in the backseat of a baby-blue Cadillac, Truman paraded down Bank Street, Second Avenue, and Gordon Drive to Delano Park. Near the water tower at the east end of Delano Park, Truman delivered a rousing campaign speech to an estimated crowd of 12,500. In that speech, Truman commented: “I don’t know whether it is something in the air, or in the soil; but there is something somewhere about Alabama that produces many outstanding public servants.” Truman specifically lauded U.S. Sen. John Sparkman, a Morgan County native and Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1952.
Read more about this location:

#10 Sam

On the lawn of Decatur’s ACA;
It’s a hoot to find Sam here this day;
He honors our vets
So that no one forgets,
And waves a flag for the U S of A!

On May 9, 1919, following the conclusion of World War I, Second Avenue was the site of a grand parade. Decatur welcomed soldiers from Company E and other units of the 167th Infantry from across Alabama who had served in The Great War. During a stop at Decatur’s Union Station near Railroad Street on their return home to Alabama, approximately 500 veterans paraded down Bank Street and Second Avenue in their military uniforms. At the same time, thousands of appreciative locals cheered their service and celebrated the U.S. victory in the war. According to the Albany-Decatur Daily, school children tossed flowers and their parents wept from overwhelming relief, happiness, and respect as the soldiers from “14 coaches of khaki clad cargo, fresh from the fields of Flanders” took part in “the greatest parade which ever passed through the streets of Decatur and Albany.” Phase I and Phase II of the Alabama Center for the Arts, every 44,000 square feet, opened on this site in 2012 and 2016, respectively.
Read more about this location:

Congratulations! You did it!
Ready for your special prize?

Don’t forget to post photos of all ten turtles to your social media channel, including the hashtags #TurtleTrail and #DowntownDecatur! Once you’ve completed the trail and posted your photos, stop by the Cook Museum of Natural Science Museum Store or the Decatur Morgan County Tourism and show your pictures off to receive your special prize!

For Cook Museum of Natural Science Location and Hours, visit their website.

For Decatur Morgan County Tourism Office Location and Hours, visit their website.

Special thanks to Morgan County Archives and the Decatur Daily for much of the historical information.

Meet the Visionary & Creator of the Trail:
Lucy Orr

After seeing the small outdoor “Mice on Main” animal sculptures displayed in downtown Greenville, SC, Lucy Orr, a junior at Decatur Heritage Christian Academy, wanted a similar attraction for Decatur. While doing research, Lucy discovered that the state of Alabama is #1 in the number of different freshwater turtle species, and they are a routine sight in this area. Turtles in the Decatur area often sun on logs near streams that are Tennessee River tributaries. Lucy went on to plan the locations for the turtles on the trail, learning many fun facts about the history of downtown Decatur along the way. Lucy designed each turtle and sculpted the accessories for each. Local sculptor, Everett Cox, carved the shells and limbs and cast the bronze turtles based upon Lucy’s designs. Additionally, Lucy worked with local tourism officials to brand and develop a plan to promote the Downtown Turtle Trail.

Meet the Sculptor:
Everett Cox

Everett Cox graduated from Auburn University with a BFA and received his MFA from the University of Georgia. Cox sculpts and casts his works in his studio at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL.

Figure sculpting and casting has been a subject of interest in Cox’s work. The two are conjoined in that to make a clay sculpture permanent in metal, and it has to be molded, reproduced in wax, invested, burned out, cast, cleaned, welded, chased, and patinated. The dichotomy between the clay modeling and the soft forms of the figures and the heat of melting bronze, the force needed to make metal conform to one’s wishes, is the yin and yang of cast sculpture.

Find Us

210 E. Moulton St., Suite #2
Decatur, AL 35601

Get in Touch

P.O. Box 2126
Decatur, AL 35602

256.353.0075
Send us an e-mail

Follow Us

Copyright © Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority
Website Development by Red Sage Communications, Inc.