Image above: Street scene in Old Alabama Town with the North Hull Street Grocery, 2010. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Spotlight on Lesser Known History
Old Alabama Town, Alabama
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Old Alabama Town, Alabama
Reflecting the small town life of central Alabama, Old Alabama Town in Montgomery is a collection of historic structures from around the rural part of the state. The collection, with grocery stores, churches, homes, and a total of fifty structures saved from destruction elsewhere, allows the visitor to wander, and wonder, back in time to slower back yard porches and a neighbor who owned the livery. Yes, this is not a restored town per se, but restored buildings in a make believe town. No matter which, you'll be transported to a slow walk through pleasant history, although we'll certainly acknowledge that the pleasant history had not pleasant history all around it during much of the era it represents. But these one room schoolhouses and small country homes show much of what was good in rural Alabama during that same difficult era, and that's Alabama, too. Take a walk back in time to the good south. Photo above: One of the buildings in Old Alabama Town, 2010. Courtesy Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Library of Congress.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Old Alabama Town
Six blocks of restored buildings have been brought to the site, a project of the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery since its founding in 1967. Since that time, more than fifty structures have been saved from destruction somewhere else, and representing a cross section of central Alabama life in the 19th and early 20th century, these buildings provide the backdrop for taking a step back in time. How old are some of these structures? The Ordeman Townhouse, for one, dates back to 1850.
All the buildings are original and restored, not constructed to look like old buildings, so there's definitely a genuine vibe to the structures, even though they've been transported from various small Alabama towns around the state. You can almost imagine the two women in the picture above coming to one of these buildings at some time in their life, or one almost exactly like them.
Photo above: Alabama farm women spending a day in a typical Alabama Town, Eden in 1936, Dorothea Lange. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Where Is It
Old Alabama Town is located at 301 Columbus Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104. That's about three blocks north and three blocks west of the state capitol grounds. The area is a bit hardscrabble, with an old industrial feel until you get inside the grounds.
What is There Now
More than fifty buildings within a six block area of Montgomery, Alabama. There are self-guided tours of the buildings, and a guided tour of the Ordeman House included in the admission. Picnics are allowed in the park next to the reception center, although no food, except soft drinks, are sold on site.
When Is Old Alabama Town Open and How Much to Visit?
Old Alabama Town is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is a charge for those days; $10 adults, $5 children 5-18. On the second Saturday of each month, the site is also open and is currently free of charge on that day. Not open on the other Saturdays of the month, Sundays, and federal holidays. There is free parking on the site across from the Loeb Reception Center.
Old Alabama Town
Visit Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama is the capitol, and it has a variety of tourists attraction within the city, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Civil Rights Memorial and Center, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, the Freedom Rides Museum, and the Alabama State Capitol. For national parks and national historic sites within the state, you have the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail, as well as the Trail of Tears, Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, amongst many more.
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
History of Old Alabama Town
In 1967, the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery was formed and within one year began collecting and restoring structures for what would become the Old Alabama Town of today. The first building was the Ordeman House and the site opened in 1871. It's still a work in progress as their goals today are to find reuse and restoration for the historic Chappell House and the antebellum Montgomery Theater.
There are a variety of events held in association with the town throughout the year. For example, in 2019, a series of lectures about the Old Federal Road and an Old Alabama Town Revue were part of February's schedule. Check with the Visitor Center for additional events throughout the year when you might visit.
Photo above: Interior of one of the history museum homes, 2010. Courtesy Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Library of Congress.
Buildings You Can Visit
Among the fifty structures are the 1850's era Ordeman House, Molton House, Dogtrot, Cram-Lakin House, Ware-Farley-Hood House, and the Thompson Mansion. Even older than them, however, are the Lucas Tavern (1834), the Martin-Barnes House (1834), and the Graves-Haigler House (1841). But it's not all homes, that's for sure. Take a step back into schools (Adam Chapel School), churches, and grocery stores where I'm sure the owner remembered his customers names and didn't require you to check yourself out.
Photo above: Small restored home in Old Alabama Town, 2010. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
One Small Town in Alabama
The two women, perhaps mother and daughter in the large photo above, came to Eden, Alabama from a farm in the rural landscape nearby. Eden is located west of Pell City off Interstate 20 and Highway 78 today, and considered part of Pell City, which has just north of twelve thousand residents. For those not familar, that's thirty-three miles east of Birmingham.
Pell City was founded in 1890 by railroad investors with Eden just an eventual collection of houses, churches, and stores two miles west. Surrounding those two towns, known for the Avondale Mill, were cotton, soybean, and cattle farms. In 1890, there were ninety-eight residents in the Pell City census; in 1940, there were nine hundred. So the big city day for those residents in poor central Alabama was a trip to a town with nine hundred residents, and they chose to visit the small suburb section of it. Eden became part of Pell City in 1956.
Photo above: Real Alabama movie theater in 1936, Walker Evans. Courtesy U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, Library of Congress.
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Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.