Historical Society In Alabama Finds A New Location

This Feb. 10, 2022 photo shows The Elliott Community Center, formerly Elliott Elementary School. The Etowah Historical Society will move to a new location in Rainbow City as plans are in place to tear down its most recent home, the Elliott Community Center in Gadsden, Ala.  Started in 1954, the group is the oldest historical society in the state. It will move to the Rainbow City Recreation Center. The Etowah Historical Society has been housed at Elliott Community Center since the 1990s, Gary Garrett, 1st vice president of the group, said. It’s a place he said he will miss.(Greg Bailey/The Gadsden Times via AP)
This Feb. 10, 2022 photo shows The Elliott Community Center, formerly Elliott Elementary School. The Etowah Historical Society will move to a new location in Rainbow City as plans are in place to tear down its most recent home, the Elliott Community Center in Gadsden, Ala. Started in 1954, the group is the oldest historical society in the state. It will move to the Rainbow City Recreation Center. The Etowah Historical Society has been housed at Elliott Community Center since the 1990s, Gary Garrett, 1st vice president of the group, said. It’s a place he said he will miss.(Greg Bailey/The Gadsden Times via AP)

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — The Etowah Historical Society will move to a new location in Rainbow City as plans are in place to tear down its most recent home, the Elliott Community Center in Gadsden.

Started in 1954, the group is the oldest historical society in the state. It will move to the Rainbow City Recreation Center. The Etowah Historical Society has been housed at Elliott Community Center since the 1990s, Gary Garrett, 1st vice president of the group, said. It’s a place he said he will miss.

“It’s a historic building, a 100-year-old school,” Garrett said. “I went to Emma Sansom High School, and many of my classmates went to elementary school there. They still tell stories about it when we get together.

“We always anticipated it would happen someday,” Garrett said of plans to tear it down. “We are thankful that the City of Gadsden let us use that place.”

A senior wellness center is planned for the site after the community center is demolished.

It took a lot of work, Garrett said, to get everything out of Elliott in time. It helped that he and another board member are retired.

“The people on the board, like me, we worked our tails off the get out of there on the deadline, and we did make it, on the last day,” he said. “I’m 73, and my buddy (and the Historical Society’s 2nd Vice President) Charles Hawkins is 75, and the two of us packed up and hauled stuff for something like 15 days or more without a break.”

The move to Rainbow City is a bit of a homecoming for Garrett. The city’s former name, Morgan’s Crossroads, was named for his great-great-grandfather.

“I live in Rainbow City; I grew up in Gadsden, but (my family) all came from Rainbow City, originally,” he said. “I feel like being in Rainbow City is like being at home.”

The collection of artifacts the Historical Society possesses is always growing, Garrett said, so folks can see new items with every visit.

“We make new discoveries every day,” Garrett said. “I go to historic places and walk around, and sometimes I discover things. I’ve been out at the Highway 11 yard sale and ran into some people and one lady who owns the last building from Camp Sibert (in Attalla) that is left. They found some bandages from World War II and they’re going to come and donate them to us.”

There are plans in the works for something Garrett believes will be of great interest to local people.

“We’re going to have a really good (Native American) artifact museum,” he said. “That’s going to be the draw for everything else. And I will teach a coffee club on Tuesdays on local history. We get together casually, drink coffee, talk, sometimes somebody will bring in something old and we’ll pass it around, see if we can figure out what it is.”

Work remains before the Historical Society’s new location opens to the public.

“We’ve got to put back together our display cases and put the artifacts in the display cases,” Garrett said. “We’ve also got to put together the bookshelves for the library and get them anchored to the walls and get the books back on the bookshelves.”

Though Garrett said he doesn’t yet know when everything will be ready to go at the new site in Rainbow City, he said the plan is to have a blue ribbon ceremony and grand opening when it is.

He also said the city is building a sign for the Historical Society that will go out front.

Garrett said the new location will give the group room to expand: Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor has said the society can use the gym at the center if it outgrows its space.

For more information, visit the Etowah Historical Society’s website at https://etowahhistory.org/, its Facebook pageat https://www.facebook.com/groups/EtowahHistory/ or contact them via email at info@etowahhistory.org