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Helen Keller Birthplace - Tuscumbia Alabama

Guest Author - Nick Greene

Most people know the story of Helen Keller. It was portrayed wonderfully in the film "The Miracle Worker," based on the play by William Gibson. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both won Oscars for their roles of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. If you aren't familiar with the story of the young Helen Keller, deaf, blind and trapped inside her own mind, you must read about her.

Helen Keller has been called "The 1st Lady of Courage," and after watching "The Miracle Worker, it's easy to understand how she deserves such a title. Let's take a tour of her birthplace, Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to learn a little more about this remarkable woman.

David and Mary Fairfax Moore Keller, grandparents of Helen Keller built Ivy Green in 1820, only one year after Alabama became the 22nd State of the Union. Located on a 640-acre tract in the historic town of Tuscumbia, Ivy Green is a simple, white clapboard home. There are four large rooms on the first floor with a wide hall running down the middle. Each of those rooms has its own fireplace. On the second floor, there are three rooms, connected by a hall. Ivy Green survived the Civil War intact and has been preserved in its original state to exacting detail.

On the grounds, visitors can follow the old "whistle path" to the home's outdoor kitchen. While touring the grounds, take note of the Lion's Club's International Memorial Fountain, the "Clearing" and herb gardens, the Carriage House where you will find a Gift Shop. Enjoy the beautiful English boxwoods (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). Close your eyes and enjoy the plants in the way Helen would have, through their rich aromas.

Just east of the main house, you'll discover Helen Keller's birthplace cottage. It was originally designed as an office for keeping the plantation's books. The cottage, mostly one large room with a lovely bay window and playroom, was re-furnished and fitted as a bridal suite for Captain Arthur H. Keller and his bride, Kate Adams. (This was Arthur's second marriage.) More importantly, the cottage later became living quarters for Helen and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Both the house and cottage have been painstakingly decorated with many original furnishings from the Keller family. You will also find many personal mementos, books and gifts belonging to Helen, herself, which she accumulated during a lifetime of travel and lectures in 25 countries. Be sure to look for her complete library of Braille books and her original Braille typewriter.

A special treat is to see the actual well-pump where the "miracle" occured. Depicted on stage and in the movie, Anne Sullivan placed Helen's hand under the flow and spelled "water" with her finger in the other hand. The pump is located between the main house and the birthplace cottage.

Ivy Green is open Monday - Saturday 8:30AM. 4:00PM and Sundays from 1:00-4:00PM, with the last tour starting at 3:45PM. It is closed most holidays. Dates times and prices are subject to change, so check the website for more information.

Ivy Green
300 West North Commons
Tuscumbia, Alabama 35674
(256) 383-4066
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Content copyright © 2014 by Nick Greene. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Nick Greene. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Amelia Maness-Gilliland for details.

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