Old Alabama Town is an outdoor museum that focuses on life in central Alabama during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Located a few blocks west of the state capitol in downtown Montgomery, Old Alabama Town offers visitors a living-history experience and also provides a place for preservationists to house historic structures for protection and restoration. The facility, which stretches along six downtown Montgomery blocks, is home to more than 50 historic buildings. Self-guided tours, group tours, and demonstrations educate the public on aspects of past life in Alabama, and houses that line North Hull Street offer visitors a view of the architectural styles of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The impetus for the creation of Old Alabama Town lies in the efforts to preserve Montgomery's First White House of the Confederacy. The White House Association struggled for more than 20 years to restore the former capitol to its original state and to find a home for the house near the state capitol. This effort sparked the drive toward historical preservation in Montgomery and the rest of Alabama and set a precedent for relocating threatened historic buildings. In 1967, the Montgomery City Commission established the non-profit Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery Inc. (LFM) to preserve the history and architecture of the area. In 1968, LFM purchased the Ordeman House, an 1850s Italianate town house, which was the cornerstone of Old Alabama Town. By 1990, the LFM had purchased and restored more than 30 structures, including the 1850 Greek Revival-style Thompson Mansion, which was relocated from Tuskegee.
Old Alabama Town contains themed areas that illustrate how Alabamians worked and lived, and many of the homes showcase architectural styles of various periods in Alabama history. The Rose-Morris House, dating to the 1840s, marks the entrance to the Working Block, where visitors may tour buildings that recreate such nineteenth-century workplace scenarios as a cotton gin, a blacksmith's shop, a print shop, and a grist mill. The Lucas Tavern, built east of Montgomery at Line Creek (now Waugh) in approximately 1818 was a stopping point along the Federal Road where celebrated French general Marquis de Lafayette stayed in 1825. The tavern opens the way to the Living Block, which includes a schoolhouse, a doctor's office, a church, and a carriage house. North Hull Street is lined with residential buildings of varying size and grandeur that display the architecture of nineteenth-century Alabama. Examples range from the relatively modest Bush Cottage (ca. 1860), to the Nall-Young House (ca. 1850s and now hosts a restaurant), to the stately Ware-Farley-Hood House (ca. 1850s), a looming Italianate mansion restored with the aid of old photographs.
Old Alabama Town hosts numerous school groups and offers many cultural events, such as bimonthly traditional music jam sessions and the annual Alabama Book Festival, and occasionally opens the historic homes for public viewing. A virtual preview of the various tours offered is available on the Old Alabama Town Web site, and special tours are announced monthly. The Landmarks Foundation runs the museum and continues its mission to expand the preservation of central Alabama's history.
Neeley, Mary Ann. Old Alabama Town: An Illustrated Tour. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.