Officials from Lauderdale County and Florence are discussing the possibility of establishing a home for an archives.
Immediately following the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812, a period of western expansion began that led to the settlement of what is now Lauderdale County.
In 1818, Ferdinand Sannomer surveyed the future site of Florence for the Cypress Land Co. The trustees of the company organized the town on 5,500 acres acquired along the banks of the Tennessee River.
In the almost 200 years since, the people of Lauderdale County have been making their own contributions to the rich local history. Unfortunately, when families try to search their genealogy, or people with an interest in history investigate the past, they run into obstacles. There is no one-stop source to research the history of Florence and Lauderdale County.
A group of local officials and history enthusiasts hope to rectify that weakness by establishing an archives for records. They recently met with Tom Turley, of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, to discuss the lack of space for records.
The group has identified the Court Street law office of Robert Gonce as the best location for an archives. It is near the courthouse, was once a bank and is in good condition with a dry basement, officials said.
Florence City Council President Dick Jordan said the building is listed at $475,000 and would require little additional expense for renovations. The main costs, he said, would be for shelves and bookcases.
For further ideas and inspiration, officials might visit the Morgan County Archives in Decatur, which was established in a bank and features everything from historic county documents to individual family histories and exhibits.
Carrie Barske, professor of the new public history program at the University of North Alabama, said students could assist the public at the archives. This would give the students valuable experience.
Officials said a one-stop archives would draw more visitors to the area to research their genealogy. Often, these visitors remain multiple days to conduct their research, staying in our hotels and eating in local restaurants. A convenient location to conduct this research would add another attraction to the city and county.
The documents and photos that portray the history of Florence and Lauderdale County are too valuable to put at risk. Regretfully, some of the records already have sustained water damage.
The City Council and County Commission should get behind this effort to establish an archives that is large enough to protect our expanding wealth of history into the future.