Why Prattville, AL Feels Like a New England Town
Daniel Pratt was a native of New Hampshire and grew up familiar with the industrial villages of New England.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brian McCord
Daniel Pratt was a native of New Hampshire and grew up familiar with the industrial villages of New England. The architect builder eventually settled in Autauga County in the 1830s and wanted to build an industrial village, so Prattville was incorporated in 1839 and modeled after villages in New England.
“I have taken a lot of people on tours of Prattville and had one woman from Boston specifically say, 'My gosh, I could be in Massachusetts right now' as we drove through downtown Prattville,” says Ann Boutwell, volunteer and historian with the local Autauga County Heritage Association. “Most larger communities in the South are constructed around a railroad depot or a courthouse square, but Daniel Pratt built this city with industries at the center. Industries provided income and employment for the residents, so he believed industries should be the center of a community.”
Boutwell says another reason why Prattville is nicknamed the New England Village of the South is that many of the early residents came to Alabama from New England to follow Pratt in his endeavors.
“He was an industrial genius and a lot of the citizens who followed him were from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont,” she says. “Pratt believed that if the South stayed a purely agricultural economy, it would never progress and create wealth it needed, because it would always remain dependent on the North. He built industries that utilized the products that were grown and manufactured in the South.”
Those Roofs are Steep
Boutwell adds that the people who settled in Prattville also built several New England-style homes that had steep roofs. Those types of roofs are common in New England so that snow will easily slide off them.
“Many homes in downtown Prattville have the steep roofs and then were also adapted by adding large porches and verandas to shade against the Southern sun,” she says. “Several of these small details set Prattville apart from other Southern towns even today.”
David Melling, president of Prattville Downtown Unlimited and owner of Smyth-Byrd House Bed & Breakfast, says the historic district continues to remain preserved and is still a vibrant and vital part of the city.
“The district has a half dozen churches, a half dozen restaurants, interesting shops that you won't see anywhere else, attractions like Creekwalk Garden and the Artesian Wells, and even nice lodging options like my bed and breakfast,” Melling says.
In recent times, the downtown area has seen additions such as attractive banners attached to lamp posts, garden urns in several high-traffic spots, and the placement of a bench and fountain in Creekwalk Garden.
“Prattville is a member of the Main Street Program, and Prattville Downtown Unlimited is always looking for more ways to make our district even more attractive,” Melling says. “In fact, we have a breakfast meeting on the first Wednesday of each month to discuss that very subject.”
Read about more neighborhoods in Prattville, AL.