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Arab Historic Village

Joshua Shiver, Auburn University
The Arab Historic Village in Arab, Marshall County, is a reconstructed historic site dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the early pioneer history of the town of Arab and north central Alabama. The village consists of 10 period and reconstructed buildings dating from the 1880s through the 1940s. The Arab Historic Village is operated by the Arab Historical Society in cooperation with the city of Arab and is located next to the city park.
Elvin Light Museum Porch
In 1990, in support of the town's upcoming 1992 Centennial Celebration, the Arab Historical Society donated the Hunt School building to the city. The society had been founded in 1987 to preserve the history of Arab and the surrounding areas. The two-room school was built in the nearby Strawberry community (located just south of Arab in Blount County) in 1935 and served grades one through six. The structure was relocated to the Arab City Park, and the Historical Society renovated it in time for the Centennial. The school became the catalyst for the creation of the Arab Historic Village. In 1993, the Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church donated the 1911 Rice Church building. Originally known as Liberty Church, it was built to serve as a Primitive Baptist Church in the Rice community just west of Arab. Arab Historical Society members and volunteers restored the church, and it opened to the public in October 1995.
The further development of the Arab Historic Village was primarily the brainchild of retired local carpenter Elvin Light. He tore down old buildings from the surrounding area and used the lumber to construct a blacksmith shop, grist mill, and country store in the city park. In honor of his efforts, in 1998 the city established the Elvin Light Museum in the Historic Village with exhibits of Light's vast collection of local artifacts as well as the tools that he used to construct the village. The museum also hosts separate displays depicting various occupations and household furnishings from businesses and homes in the area.
In 1997, Light constructed Smith's Country Store to represent a typical country store in the area from the 1930s and 1940s. It is stocked with items from the surrounding area and is named for Guy and Mary Smith, who also were heavily involved with the construction and development of the Historic Village. In September 2001, the Ruth Homemakers Clubhouse was opened to the public. The building was originally constructed in the 1930s for local women to hold Home Demonstration Club meetings to learn about the latest agricultural and homemaking practices. Today, the building displays traditional handicrafts from the area such as quilting, knotting, mattress making, and canning.
The Boyd Homestead House was the gift of local school teacher Lola Boyd. The home was constructed by her parents in the 1890s on 160 acres of land that would later become part of the city of Arab. Boyd willed the traditional L-shaped home to the Arab Historical Society, which then moved it to the Historic Village and restored its interior and exterior and decorated it in an early 1940s style. The home now stands as a representation of what homesteads in the area looked like around the end of the nineteenth century. Part of the Boyd Homestead includes a smoke house and well that were donated to the Historic Village by Lelton and Faye Westbrook. Though the original structures had fallen into disrepair by the time of their donation, the salvageable parts were used to construct a period combination well and smokehouse that became the first installment of out-buildings around the Boyd Homestead. Local citizens also donated old lumber and equipment that were used to construct the Grist Mill and a side shed, which currently houses the Cobb family wagon. The wagon is an early John Deere model that was commonly used throughout the area. Additionally, locally reclaimed lumber and equipment were used to construct the Phillips Blacksmith Shop, which is used for local blacksmith demonstrations.
The buildings of the Arab Historical Village are open March through October on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at times during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons The Village and the Arab Historical Society host a variety of public events. On the last Saturday in April, "Back When Day" enables visitors to interact with reenactors who demonstrate local handiwork, including quilting, blacksmithing, grinding cornmeal, making crafts, and playing traditional bluegrass and southern gospel music. On the second Saturday in September, crafters demonstrate their skills and display their wares during the Arab Community Fair. Starting on the fourth Friday in November, the Village opens in the evening by hosting "Santa in the Park" in conjunction with the lighting ceremony of "Christmas in the Park" by the Arab City Parks Department. Over four consecutive weekends, children can visit Santa, make crafts, and participate in the special lighting ceremony.
Published:  July 26, 2018   |   Last updated:  July 26, 2018