Old Cahawba was named one of the "coolest ghost towns" in America by Travel and Leisure Magazine. -- Chris Wasson

Cahawba receives national nod

Published 11:13pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

Whoever thought a ghost town would be “cool?”

Well in Travel and Leisure Magazine it is. In its online February edition, Old Cahawba was named one of America’s “coolest ghost towns.”

Coming in at No. 9 on the list, Cahawba was once Alabama’s capital from 1820-1826. Eventually the town flooded out and all that remains are historical cemeteries, landmarks, houses and a park.

Linda Derry, site director and archeologist for Old Cahawba Archeological Park, feels the honor is overdue.

“Cahawba is an absolute magical ghost town so this is a big deal,” Derry said. “We love Cahawba and we hope this recognition will bring more visitors and be an economic engine for Selma and the Black Belt.”

The historic town, which was once a meeting place for freed slaves and housed a prison for Union soldiers during the Civil War, has received honorable mentions in America’s Civil War, Alabama Heritage, Smithsonian and Preservation Trust magazines among others this month. In addition, author and former University of Alabama professor, David Rothstein, will come to the area to promote his book “Casualties” that chronicles the devastating effects of the Civil War in Cahawba.

Candace Johnson, Selma tourism director, said Cahawba is a special place that offers so much to the public.

“Cahawba is a true gem for our area,” Johnson said. “I was excited to learn that it was named one of America’s ‘coolest ghost towns,’ and I know this will encourage people to visit our area and inspire locals to revisit it.”

Derry said Cahawba’s massive appeal is the result of its “uniqueness and mysteriousness.”

“So many people come to Cahawba and are touched by it,” Derry said. “Over and over again we’ve seen the town become a muse for many poets and writers and we don’t want to destroy the authenticity here.”

Johnathan Matthews, assistant site director for Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, said he thinks the honor is great.

“It makes me feel like people appreciate us for who we are,” Matthews said. “Cahawba is like a family heirloom for the state of Alabama and it represents a lot of Alabama’s history.”

Some speculate that excessive flooding is what drove the population away from the town, but Matthews said that’s not the case.

“Floods actually came later in Cahawba’s history instead of the earlier years as first thought,” Matthews said. “The capitol moved due to political reasons.”

To see the list of “coolest ghost towns,” check out February’s edition of Travel and Leisure magazine.

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