SHEFFIELD — The Colbert County Tourism/Convention Bureau's annual walking tours begin April 4.

The free tours will continue weekly through the month on April 11, 18 and 25 in Tuscumbia and Sheffield, each beginning at 10 a.m.

The Tuscumbia tours, organized by Colbert Tourism, begin outside Cold Water Bookstore at 101 W. Sixth St., while the Sheffield tours begin at the city's municipal building at 600 N. Montgomery Ave. Those tours are organized by the Historic Sheffield Commission.

Historians John McWilliams and Jimmy Austin will lead the tours in Tuscumbia and Sheffield, respectively.

In Tuscumbia, the 90-minute walks include a break for a program on the history of Tuscumbia, which predates Alabama becoming a state in 1819.

Sheffield was founded in the 1880s, and was first founded as York Bluff prior to 1820, according to Colbert Tourism President/CEO Susann Hamlin. 

"The tours provide an excellent opportunity to learn about early residents of the towns and histories of some of the oldest buildings," she said.

According to Austin, the Sheffield tours, which cover the business district as well as historic homes, began last year.

He said tours on April 4 and 18 will focus on historic homes along Montgomery Avenue. The April 11 and 25 tours will travel south of City Hall along the business district. Tours in Sheffield are about two hours.

Austin said the addition of the business district has been popular.

"I talk more about the history of the homes and buildings, such as the historic Sheffield Hotel, which burned down in 1948," he said.

On the residential tour, one Sheffield stop is at the Montgomery Avenue home of J.B. Lagomarsino, thought to be Sheffield's first millionaire.

"He had real estate, owning property all over Sheffield," Austin said. "It was his ice plant along the river that contributed greatly to his wealth. It was going to be a brewery, but prohibition hit in the early 1900s, and so it became an ice plant that made him wealthy. He had a horse-drawn wagon pulling ice blocks all over Sheffield."

The walking tours are part of an Alabama Tourism Department initiative and are taking place throughout the state.

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