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Remember When: Where is the Museum?

I am the Three Notch Museum, the local history museum where the past helps to direct our citizens to the future.

I am recognized as the oldest wooden building still standing in downtown Andalusia, the county seat of Covington. I was built in the spring of 1900 right after the train line was extended from Searight into downtown Andalusia in 1899.

The Former Manufacturing District

I used to be a railroad depot, the Central of Georgia, where trains shipped cotton bales and pine products. People were finally able to travel to other destinations easier by train than long horseback or wagon rides across dirt roads or trails. I used to watch the trains bring building materials in along with mules for hauling. Before long in the early 1900s, homes, churches, and buildings were being built on our main streets and in the vicinity.

I used to be the busiest place especially during times of war when families waved goodbye to the soldiers. Girls kissed their sweethearts, and mothers hugged their sons“Until we meet again, my darling,” were tearful words I often heard.

I remember when the train whistles blew upon arrival and newcomers stepped out of the train cars to check out the town. One newcomer in the 1920s stated, “There are no street lights at night, only the stars!” Traveling salesmen often brought their wares to town in hopes of placing orders to sell merchandise to the store ownerspots and pans, brooms and mops, overalls, boots and ladies’ stockings, material by the yard and thread by the spool, men’s and ladies’ hats and bonnets, bridles and saddles, ice boxes and wood stoves, pie safes and parlor chairs, hammers and axes, whiskey jugs and medicine bottles, belts and buckles, wagons and carts, buggies and bicycles, and everything in between.

I remember the saddest of times when young men who had been killed in wars were shipped home by the trains and the fathers were there at the station to deal with the situation because they had received a telegram notifying them to expect the safe deliveries.

I remember tickets being sold in my ticket windows. It seems that there was always a schedule. Someone was always in my waiting rooms. Mothers were reminding their children to remember not to hold their hands and faces out of the train windows on the way to Columbus, Georgia, because they might be covered in ashes and soot from the exciting locomotive ride.

I remember the interesting conversations I heard in the early mornings as the elderly gentlemen would regularly gather around the pot-bellied wood stove in the winter time and gossip about the happenings over at the courthouse or at the calaboose or the barber shop or on the street corner. What fun to hear what was going on around the square (or rather what they assumed was going on)!

I know I am an old building, but I hear people saying as they walk through my rooms that the craftsmanship of over 100 years cannot be duplicated by today’s builders. I am sturdy. I am unique. I am proud of my age. I am proud of my history. I am a landmark. I have enjoyed several generations of Andalusians and Covington Countians walking across my pine floors.

I love the street where I am located – on the corner of Historic Central Street and Tisdale Street, just a block south off Three Notch. I have always been in the center of the manufacturing district and across from where electrical power was first generated. Right out my front door is the iron pin where the 40-acre parcels originally surveyed converge that can be considered the “center of town.”

Now that transportation has changed and big trucks bring most of the supplies to South Alabama, the trains no longer come to this depot. My historical friends who have a passion for preserving history have restored my structure and have converted me into a museum. Many generous citizens, the city, the county, and civic clubs have supported those efforts over the past years since the mid 1980s. Artifacts have been brought to the “old depot” and been displayed so that we can all remember how far we have progressed. It enables us to appreciate the old times and the old ways but helps us to see how many people have worked to make our new inventions possible. My facility and the collections housed here tell a lot of stories about the old ways of life.

I love the new purpose I have been given and look forward to welcoming more and more visitors in the days and years to come. From the train depot to a museum, our town is fortunate since many towns and communities have torn down their depots, or they have just been neglected and disappeared through the erosion of time.

Our geographical spot here in the “heart of South Alabama” is a special place. People help each other around these parts that they love whether they were born here and grew up here or they moved here and became a part of life in this small town. If you get right down to it, we all definitely value the downtown treasures of properties that still remain and stand ready for further restoration. As one national organization declares, “These Places Matter.”

Visit me soon especially if you’ve never come. You will be surprised at what all there is to see and learn about. I love for the school groups, family and class reunion groups, and out-of-towners to visit. It keeps me young or maybe I should say “young at heart!” Feel free to take a photograph or two. I look pretty good! After you depart, tell someone else about your experience and maybe they will make plans to visit, too. I will love seeing you and them!

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at suebwilson47@gmail.com.