The Buena Vista is now open to the public!
The Buena Vista is now open to the public!
Sponsored by the Autauga County Heritage Association, the museum is dedicated to historical preservation of Autauga County and serves as the Welcome Center for Prattville. Exhibits feature Daniel Pratt memorabilia, local family history, Civil War room and county artifacts. There is also genealogy information access available. Thanks to the generosity of our members, we are able to continue our work in preservation while producing new exhibits in the Prattaugan Museum to inspire visitors with Autauga Alabama's history, arts and culture.
We are currently in need of volunteers to come to the museum one day a month to be available to greet and give tours to visitors or to assist travelers with questions and to answer phone calls. Volunteers enable us to keep the museum doors open.
Depending on individual interest, there are various organizational projects that can be worked on to include museum inventory, labeling of folders and photographs, re-shelving books in the library, properly storing artifacts, transcribing hand-written diaries, researching information for new museum exhibits and research requests that come in by email or phone calls.
Call 334-361-0961 if you would like to serve as a monthly or weekly volunteer.
Premier Event Venue in the River Region!
A beautiful antebellum house built circa 1840's.
Available for tours Tuesday 10 - 2, or by appointment.
Available by appointment for Weddings, Receptions, Dinners, Luncheons, Parties, Bridal and Baby Showers, Anniversaries, Corporate Events, Business Seminars and Luncheons. Perfect setting for Prom, Cotillion and Graduation Photo Shoots.
For information on renting the Mansion:
If you are one of the many that love our local history and would like to have a hand in preserving it for future generations, we have a place for you! The work continues weekly at Hancock Whitney Bank which has generously allowed ACHA the use of the third floor as a work space. Currently, volunteers are preserving and cataloguing approximately 300 leather bound ledgers. We are excited to find ledgers that date to as early as 1835 with historical data that continues to expand our knowledge of early Autauga County. It is important that all of this significant history is being saved. ACHA invites you to be a part of this effort!
Call 334-361-0961 or 334-312-6122 to volunteer!
Alabama Bicentennial Cotton Ginning
Pratt Cotton Gin c. 1900
Alabama Bicentennial Cotton Ginning
Pratt Cotton Gin c. 1900
After four years of persistent pursuit by several Autauga County Historical Association (ACHA) members, the ACHA has obtained engineering drawings, photos, patterns, ledgers, contracts, patents, manuals, advertisement and artifacts related to cotton gin manufacturing in Prattville. The material pertains to entities from the Danial Pratt Gin Manufacturing Company to the Continental Eagle Corporation, including entities acquired along the way. Material potentially dates as far back as 1833 and as recent as 2012, when the facility closed. Engineering drawings are as recent as 1960 as the foreign company, that acquired Continental Eagle Corporation, retained engineering drawings for gins in use at the time of the acquisition.
Thanks to a grant from the Alabama Department of Archives and History, a group of local volunteers, generous contributions by local supporters, and the leadership of the ACHA, Daniel Pratt Gin Company (Continental Eagle Corporation) historical documents are becoming publicly available for retrieval and review at the ACHA. A limited number of primarily cotton gin engineering drawings, many dating from the 1800's, have already been restored, archived and ready for study. The inventory of technical engineering drawings include gins, buildings, Autauga Creek dams, World War I and II war effort support products, etc. Below one can see an example of the listing of the cataloged drawings. This information is available on the PastPerfect software at the Prattaugan Museum. In the near future, drawings will be accessible for research and viewing.
Information about the Project, access to archived documents, volunteering to work on restoring and archiving additional documents, donating financial or in-kind resources to the Project, and joining the ACHA is available at 102 E Main St, Prattville, AL 36067, 334-361-0961, email@example.com. With readable documentation potentially dating as far back as 1833, the Project will continue well into the foreseeable future. Individual, small groups and organizations looking for a community involvement project are all welcome as volunteers to assist on this important historical project of interest on the local, State, federal and international levels.
Check out this great video
The Autauga County Heritage Association (ACHA) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership organization. Founded in 1976 in response to the destruction of the historic Daniel Pratt house years earlier, the ACHA seeks to preserve and interpret our local history through a broad range of resources. Over the last ten years efforts have continued to discover and collect any material which may help establish or illustrate Autauga County’s history and ancestry. The organization seeks to save, preserve, protect, and share the local history by holding quarterly meetings, publishing a quarterly newsletter, giving lectures, holding special events and in preserving historic sites. The Association continues the operation of the Prattaugan Museum, opened in 1995, in the historic 1848 Greek Revival-style McWilliams-Smith-Rice House in the Daniel Pratt Historic District. The museum contains permanent and rotating exhibits and maintains regular operating hours. It is currently staffed by volunteers. Each April Walking Tours of Historic Downtown Prattville are conducted by volunteers. A website (autaugahistory.org) and a genealogy library is also maintained by the association.
ACHA continues the maintenance and restoration of the 1840s Greek Revival-style Buena Vista mansion, given to the organization in 2006 by International Paper. Buena Vista was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The beautiful home is open for tours and leased for special events. In 2019, on receiving a grant from the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC), the association was able to complete the repair and painting of the exterior and interior of the historic home. In 2019 ACHA received another grant from ACH which will go toward the construction of ground-level restrooms. ACHA holds an annual Low Country Boil at Buena Vista each year as its big fundraiser each year.
ACHA also owns the c1850 Robinson-Smith House, a former Stage Coach stop on twelve acres on Highway 14 in Prattville. After extensive renovations, the home is now leased to a commercial entity, providing income for later ventures.
When Continental Eagle Corporation, the successor company of the original Daniel Pratt Gin Company, ceased operations in 2012, ACHA led the way to save the historic content from the 180 year old company. In 2015, the organization mounted a volunteer effort to preserve the Daniel Pratt/Continental Gin Company (DP/CGC) Archival Collection, dating from 1833 – 2012. A local bank has provided a 5,000 sq. ft. work space for this effort. Over twenty-five volunteers have been working two days a week for over four years, to clean, preserve, and catalog the extensive collection. To date, over 39,000 engineering drawings, 300 leather bound ledgers, 400 patents, 500 machinery manuals, thousands of documents, have been preserved, as well as 2350 photos have been digitized. The volunteers, all local retired citizens, have laughed and said they will have to take the collection and finish it at the nursing home!
With the closure of this historic company, ACHA led the efforts to save and preserve these historic structures. After long and arduous years, the original Daniel Pratt Gin Company complex is under contract and the repurposing into loft apartments is slated to begin in spring 2020.
ACHA received grants from the Alabama Department of Archives and History and the Bicentennial Commission awarded the only Legacy Grant to the DP/CGC Preservation Project. These grants have allowed the purchase of needed archival materials and provided the means to temporarily display the collection. The funds enabled ACHA to create display panels, brochures and do a reprint of a booklet on Daniel Pratt’s history. The organization is currently applying for a National Endowment for the Humanities planning grant which will allow a feasibility study and operations plan as ACHA seeks to develop an interpretive center and interpretive trails for The Pratt Museum of Southern Industry.
In 2016, the DP/CGC volunteer group held a “Photo Identification Day” where former Gin Shop employees and old-time local citizens were invited to come and help identify individuals in the photos. The event was a resounding success, with many photos identified, but more importantly, a tremendous feeling of community and reunion resulting in the day. Video interviews were also made of willing participants sharing their history with the company.
In 2017 a c1895 Pratt Cotton Gin was sent to South Carolina for restoration. In 2018, this restorer brought his 1876 Pratt 40 saw gin to Prattville for the “Come See How We Do Gin!”, a Bicentennial event. Attendees were treated to a day of seeing a Pratt Gin ginning cotton 142 years after its production at the Prattville gin factory, along with displays of items from the DP/CGC Collection. On Founder’s Day in July 2018, ACHA demonstrated our own c1895 Pratt Gin following the annual wreath-laying at the Pratt Cemetery. ACHA demonstrated the gin again at the Autauga County History Fair in November 2018. Over 800 students witnessed the ginning of cotton for the first time as well as many adult attendees. The Pratt Gin was on display and in operation at the 2019 Bicentennial Finale in front of the State Capitol.
In 2018, Fred Hunter with “Absolutely Alabama” filmed a segment entitled “The Old Cotton Gin” which featured the 1876 cotton gin and Daniel Pratt history. Dr. Doug Phillips with “Discovering Alabama” created a film on Prattville/Autauga County as a Bicentennial film in 2019. A Premier was held in Prattville in May 2019 and aired on Alabama Public TV in June 2019. Also in May 2019, a film crew from London came to film the original Daniel Pratt Gin Company. In October 2019 the Gin Shop complex and Pratt’s history were featured on the television series “Mysteries of the Abandoned” to a world-wide audience.
Through the past ten years the significant history of Daniel Pratt, the Gin Shop and Alabama’s New England Village of the South has been shared many times to local civic groups as well as to groups visiting Prattville. ACHA, one of the state’s most active historical organizations, is always ready to create awareness and put our history on display!