A new Catfish Alley monument remains covered on Fourth Street, immediately behind The Back Door restaurant. The monument is expected to be unveiled Sept. 5. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
August 22, 2013 9:46:49 AM
Catfish Alley committee members have set Sept. 5 as the date for a ribbon cutting and unveiling of a monument commemorating the historic area that was once the epicenter of the city's black business community.
Landscaping for a park area, street repaving and sidewalk improvements on Fourth Street between College and Main streets have been completed. The installation of ornamental, or "festival" lighting, is also on the way.
The Sept. 5 ribbon cutting is set to start at 4:30 p.m.
The ceremony will coincide with Main Street Columbus' Art Walk, an event that begins at 5 p.m. that encourages the public to visit and shop at downtown businesses.
Columbus Light & Water general manager Todd Gale said the festival lights will be installed after working out the logistics required by height clearances mandated by law. The materials needed to conform to that requirement have not been purchased yet. Between the cost of materials and labor, the estimated cost of that portion of the project is $39,000, Gale said, adding that it's unlikely installation will be done in time for the ribbon cutting. Alternatives are also being considered in the event that the clearance issue can't be resolved, he said.
"Below the top of the electrical portion of the pole itself is the communication portion," Gale said. "We have to keep 42 inches clearance. If we drop down below the communication portion, we may not be able to meet a height requirement from the center of the road at 13 feet. Instead of stringing them perpendicular to the road, the possibility is maybe doing a parallel or something along those lines. We've also talked about if it's not going to be aesthetically pleasing, we may back up and discuss banners. You would turn those around and they wouldn't hang out over the road. They may hang out over the sidewalk or they may hang parallel to the curb."
Complementing the area's restoration is a mural completed in June by art students at Mississippi University for Women that depicts the district across multiple eras of its history.
Main Street Columbus executive director Barbara Bigelow said the monument serves as the centerpiece of the reconstruction that has taken place around it.
"Columbus is rich with history and Catfish Alley reminds us of the very beginnings of our downtown area," she said. "The monument, as well as the landscaped area providing beautiful foliage and benches, will offer folks enjoyment at their leisure. This will certainly draw locals as well as visitors to Catfish Alley to reflect upon our cultural heritage."
A Catfish Alley Day also may be in the works. It could possibly coincide with Catfish in the Alley, an annual event usually held during February or March celebrating the area and its people. The event was not held this year. In 2012, it was staged at the nearby Hitching Lot Farmers' Market.
Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Nancy Carpenter said she hopes to bring the celebration back to its original setting.
"We are very hopeful we can move the event back to Catfish Alley in the early spring," Carpenter said. "We want to provide an event of wonderful memories."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.