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Donate NowThe mission of the Cahaba Foundation is to secure private financial support from individuals, corporations and foundations for the state historic park at Old Cahawba, site of Alabama’s first state capital.

The Campaign for Old Cahawba
Cahawba – even the name vibrates with echoes of the past. 

Reclaim …
Old Cahawba suffers from unintended neglect.  Over 30 years ago, the Alabama Historical Commission established the park as a state historic site, but it then owned only the rights of way over the former streets. In the 1980’s, the Commission began purchasing land, but state funding has never been sufficient to acquire all the land in the site and develop it fully for public use.  Today, the Commission owns only 65 percent of the property, and Old Cahawba remains under-maintained and the archaeological sites unprotected.

"Old Cahawba was the birthplace of the state government and a flourishing antebellum center. Today it is deserted and ghostly, but rich in archaeological remains. Surrounded by two rivers, it is also rich in flora and fauna and unique biodiversity … This site should be preserved for posterity, and we invite everyone to join us in this effort."

Daniel J. Meador, Founder and First President
The Cahaba Foundation, Inc.

In 2008 a group of civic-minded citizens established The Cahaba Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, to generate funding from private sources primarily for land acquisition and archaeological exploration.  The property remaining in private hands, including the site of the Perine Mansion and its world famous artesian well, is owned by 32 different individuals.  There is a compelling need to acquire the 35 percent of land under private ownership, and the need is urgent.

  • Until the land is entirely owned by the State, the history buried in Cahaba’s landscape may be destroyed by undesirable residential or commercial development.  Irreplaceable archaeological remains could be lost.
  • Currently, the Commission cannot adequately protect, control, and manage the park.  The entrance gate cannot be locked at night to prevent trespassing or vandalism, explanatory signage cannot be erected at all the historical sites, and park staff cannot conduct complete archaeological explorations.  Staff cannot make improvements that would enhance the visitor experience.  Significant revenue is being lost because the park is under-utilized, and there is limited access to archaeological “finds” that could be revealed with proper access.
  • Land prices in the area are steadily escalating, largely due to rapid riverfront development, and they are likely to continue to rise. 

"The Alabama Historical Commission applauds The Cahaba Foundation’s efforts to make Alabama’s first capital an exceptional experience for visitors."

Frank White, Executive Director &
State Historic Preservation Officer
Alabama Historical Commission

Restore …
Old Cahawba should be developed as a well-organized and accessible historic park for Alabama residents as well as those that visit our state.

  • Historical and Educational Benefits:  Old Cahawba is invaluable as a snap-shot of Alabama’s roots and, in fact, southern history.  It has a wealth of archaeological features which are site-specific that cannot be understood fully except in the midst of the town’s relics.  Visitors, especially school children, see the actual locations where significant events took place, and will be immersed in the culture and environment of the time.  When the park is fully developed, learning experiences could include “living history” docents clad in period costumes, and hands-on activities using historical replicas of toys, tools, eating utensils and school chapbooks.  The educational aspect will be reinforced by a new Visitor Center, with exhibits and rooms where educational programs can be conducted.  Future enhancements could include a reference/resource library, access to the rivers and boat rides, a simulated meeting of the inaugural legislature, and dozens of replicated historically accurate activities that have already proven to be successful in other historic attractions.
  • Archaeological Explorations:   Much can be learned from the rise and fall of Cahaba, and the rich archaeological possibilities in Old Cahawba have scarcely been tapped.  Traces of the thousands of people who lived there from ancient Indian times through the era of the Antebellum South and the Civil War remain to be unearthed.  Alabama’s history as a state began there, and historians have a keen interest in finding artifacts from that period.  Research at Old Cahawba will provide opportunities for college students studying archaeology, and for field interns.  Mock “digs” will provide hands-on inspiration to young students to consider careers in archaeology.  Federal grant funding may be available for advance research, including the securing, restoring, and displaying of artifacts.
  • Economic Benefits:  For Dallas and surrounding counties, the salaries and operating expenses for the park are obviously a benefit.  Improvements to the park will also generate temporary spikes in employment.  But the economic benefit is far greater than these typical contributors.  Although estimates have not yet been made for Old Cahawba, it is well-documented that attractions draw large numbers of visitors who spend money even if admission is free.  When visitors come to Old Cahawba, they will need meals and gas, may purchase souvenirs not only from the park but from nearby attractions, and may stay overnight in the vicinity.  Cross promotion with other activities in the area would enhance the hours spent, and will increase the money spent, by guests. 
  • Environment and Biodiversity:  Old Cahawba is a gateway to the natural wonders of the Black Belt, including the Cahaba River (one of Alabama’s last free-flowing rivers and a home to more fish species than any other river of its size) and the Old Cahawba Prairie (a remnant of the once vast home to many rare and declining species of plants and birds).  A park embracing the entire site will ensure the preservation of the special flora and fauna, and provide a living laboratory for botanists, biologists, and zoologists.
  • Southern Pride:  Alabama has a wealth of natural resources, unique geographic features, and navigable waterways.   People speak of their southern heritage and trace their family histories for generations.  Residents boast of the state’s achievements, and forgive its flaws.  The story of Cahaba deserves to be included in Alabama’s laudable achievements, as well as a warning to future generations about the mutability of life as we know it. 

The Cahaba Foundation will raise $2 million to enable the Alabama Historical Commission to acquire the land in Old Cahawba that remains in private hands.

Because modern development has thus far bypassed Cahaba, the entire footprint of this town, and consequently the stories of all the lives that were lived there, still exists frozen in time, undisturbed beneath the sod, waiting to be uncovered.  This unique situation has made the park at Old Cahawba a significant archaeological site, important to the study of early Alabama history through the era of the Civil War.  

Preservation of Cahaba is important … for our state, for ourselves, and for the generations to come.


©2017 The Cahaba Foundation | PO Box 465, Selma, Alabama 36702 | 334-874-8000