The plant, made up of five buildings, sold at auction for $1.75 million to the Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority, which was chartered by the Prattville City Council in 1988 as a major player in projects to preserve the city's historic district.
HPRA stepped in to buy and preserve the old cotton gin factory amid community fears that it could be purchased and torn down for its demolition value.
HPRA Chairman Tom Newton says the purchase includes all five buildings, 40 acres of land and lake.
"It is part of the history of our city, of our state. Those buildings are irreplaceable. They're not only buildings that are important to us but they're important to the state of Alabama and they're actually of national importance, Newton said. "We can't do without them in downtown Prattville. They're part of the core of this city, the heart of this city."
The HPRA discussed immediate and long range plans for the iconic complex.
"Immediately, we will patch the roofs and fix windows and secure the property so that it's not vandalized. And then we will begin working with developers who do this type of work of redevelopment and repurposing buildings hopefully for residential use," Newton said.
The sale of the iconic space is considered a significant development to the city. Some investors have been anxious to buy the buildings, renovate them and turn them into loft apartments and retail.
"I think this is going to open up some wonderful things over there. What a way to save a treasure for our city of Prattville here," said Stephen Brooks, who owns Carol Brooks Home & Holiday Shoppe, a mom and pop gift shop in downtown Prattville.
Brooks believes the sale of the old factory and efforts to revamp the historic structure will help revitalize the area.
"It'll stimulate some more small retailers to come in, offering various products plus we may pick up a couple more restaurants which make it a thriving area. Just think of it, you're over here in this beautiful loft apartment looking out over that great little waterway out there and you can walk downtown, do all of your shopping down here. We have a little grocer around the corner. You can eat down here. It doesn't get any better than that. This is just an absolute fabulous happening for Prattville," Brooks added.
The buildings were constructed between 1843 and 1912. Continental Eagle Corporation, the successor to the Daniel Pratt Gin Company, continued manufacturing cotton gins there until 2011 before closing its doors. Continental Eagle Corp., which has owned the complex since the 1980s, owed its Birmingham lenders, who foreclosed on the property.
"This is sort of one of the largest historical significant buildings that Prattville has," Mayor Bill Gillespie said, recalling the demise of several other structures in the city's past. "I am really proud to see that it's going to a good place to help preserve...the past for future Prattvillians."
New Hampshire native Daniel Pratt, for whom Prattville is named, started his cotton gin empire in the 1830s. By 1860 he was producing 1,500 cotton gins per year. Pratt is considered Alabama's first major industrialist.
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