From Birmingham we made our way northeast to the town of Florence. Florence sits on the Tenneesee River and is located in the northwest corner of Alabama in the Shoals. Florence is also home to the University of North Alabama (UNA),the oldest university in Alabama.
Florence is a beautiful town with many well preserved historic homes and buildings, including some grand buildings on the campus of the university which sits in the middle of town.
Florence was not in our original travel plans, but when we mentioned to some folks we met in Birmingham that we were going to Muscles Shoals they recommended a visit to Florence (right across the river).
You may recall from previous trips that we are fans of Frank Lloyd Wright structures (see previous post Falling for Falling Water). An added bonus of visiting Florence is that it is the home to the only FLW design in Alabama.
We were fortunate that the Rosenbaum House was open for tours while were in town and that we had a very knowledgable volunteer guide. We spent about an hour inside the house and then did a walk around to view the outside of the home.
Construction of the Rosenbaum House began in 1939 and was completed during 1940. Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum and their children were the only people to reside in the home. After Stanley passed away, Mildred continued to live in the home until 1999. She could no longer maintain the home by this point and none of her sons wanted the home. Fortunately, the City of Florence acquired the home that year and has worked to preserve the home – making repairs to the roof and other areas – that were much needed when the family sold the house to the city. The city did a wonderful job restoring the house.
This house is an example of what Wright called a Usonian House. Usonian Houses were intended for Middle Class Americans – simple but stylish and affordable – also small. That is not how things worked out in many cases. Most of his commissions were for wealthy families such as the Rosenbaums. Additionally, as with a number of the other homes Wright designed, he also designed most of the original furniture in this home.
Another feature of the Usonian House was that it was designed to grow with the family. In the case of the Rosenbaums, they had four sons. Wright designed a significant addition which was completed in 1948 and included dormitory style space for the boys, a larger kitchen and a guest room.
For more information regarding the Rosenbaum House: https://www.wrightinalabama.com/
Muscles shoals sound studio
The Muscle Shoal Sound Studio (MSS) opened in 1969. The studio was founded and owned by the Muscle Shoals Rythm Section also famously known as The Sawmpers. The Swampers had established a reputation as super-tight R&B and Funk studio session musicians.
Between 1969 and 1978 the Swampers played on 200 albums. Seventy-five of those album went Gold or Platinum. Some examples of the groups that Swampers recorded with include: Boz Scaggs, Rolling Stones, Lulu, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Leon Russell, Willie Nelson and the Staples SIngers.
The studio was abandoned in in 1978 when the Swampers moved to a larger studio in Sheffield. Incredibly, while the studio was occupied by several different businesses and then sat vacant for many years, all of the studio equipment remained intact. The studio was purchased by a non-profit that now gives tours. The studio is once again being used for recording utilizing all of the original gear. For more information on the history of the studio and the Swampers: https://muscleshoalssoundstudio.org/
The shoals: Best food and coffee
306 Barbecue https://306bbq.com/
Turbo Coffee https://turbocoffee.co/pages/about-us
Our next segment will take us across Northern Mississippi, primarily on dirt and gravel roads. We will pick up the trail south of Corinth, Mississippi and attempt to follow it to the terminus at the Mississippi River. We will jump off the trail at regular intervals to visit some of the tiny towns scattered across this area of the state. Also, in keeping with our visit to Muscles Shoals Sound Studio, we will be visiting Clarksdale while in Mississippi – the epicenter of the Delta Blues.
Be seeing you!