Following the Jackson House Foundation BBQ Sale, which was held in conjunction with Moulton’s first Art Expo on a rainy Saturday last week, JHF board member Loretta Gillespie hopes to see an old cotton gin on Court Street turned into additional venue space for the city.
“Moulton has a great need for a large enclosed space so that we can put vendors or events in that place to keep them out of the weather—whether it be heat or rain,” Gillespie said. “We have such a place, and that’s the old gin, which could easily hold 400, maybe 500, people.”
Gillespie, who assisted in planning the Art Expo, said JHF received permission from Moulton Mayor Roger Weatherwax and the City Council to use the gin for a special concert with the Sacred Harp singers on Saturday.
The gin, which was built and managed by Walker McCullough sometime in the 1930s, was donated to the city by McCullough’s daughter, Ann Johnson, and his grandson, John Johnson.
“It had not been used for anything until this Saturday,” Gillespie said.
Apart from some minor roof leaks, she argues that the building does not require much renovation. She said Street Department Supervisor Jeff Brewington and his crew assisted in a painting project and grating the floors so the space was ready in time for the Sacred Harp singers performance.
Lawrence County History and Preservation Society President Ann Britnell said grants were available to historic buildings like the gin as long as owners are willing to renovate the space for public use.
“I think it’s a great idea, to get the gin on the state register or the national register because it is a historic building,” Britnell said. “I’m not sure what year it was built, I’ll have to do some research on that gin. We have files on all those gins at the archives.”
The Preservation Society can assist other organizations and owners of historic landmarks in applying for such grants, she added. She said several other places throughout the county are at risk of falling into disrepair if they continue to be neglected.
Gillespie said the gin would not only be a great space for weddings, receptions or family reunions, but also for organizations like LCHPS to host tractor and car shows, festivals and other community celebrations.
“The ambiance in that gin is almost like a church, but it’s not,” she said. “It’s an industrial place, but the tall vaulted ceilings, those skylights and the architectural features of the gin are part of our history.”
Gillespie remembers tales of her family visiting the gin every week during cotton season when she was growing up.
“My grandfather, William Young, had 11 children, and they picked all week and ginned all Saturday,” she said. “When those farmers came to town with all those wagonloads of kids, they took them to the theatre, they ate—probably two meals, if not three. They spent money on clothes. They went to the only soda fountain in town and bought candy, and I can remember my mother saying that at 11 or 12 at night, Moulton was still booming on gin day.”
“The future of that gin depends on this community,” she said. “It depends on us getting grants, and it depends on us letting the city know that there’s a need for a community-gathering place like this.”