No. 3094, Dallas County, AL

Photos of Dallas County, AL, which is ranked by the New York Times among the fifty hardest places to live in America.

In McDowell County, WV, a few months back, I talked for a few minutes with a local. He had a habit of starting starting every sentence with “In the department of…” One ‘department’ he paid particular attention to was “used to be.” For example, “In the department of ‘used to be,’ the old War Hotel over there used to be a high-end place.” Ever since then, I have been sort of mentally cataloging my counties as ‘used to be’ and ‘never was’ (developed).

Dallas County, in particular, draws the eye to what Used to Be. There Used to be a Voting Rights Museum. There used to be a Selma Hotel. There used to be a bustling river front right now. The reasons that Selma used to be something are the source of all kinds of contemporary debates now, which I will not get into.

Even more profoundly in the department of “used to be,” however, is the old ghost town of Cahaba, abandoned slowly during the latter half of the 19th century. Cahaba still has street signs, a smattering of structures, and an old burial ground. It is now a nature preserve and recreation center. Slowly, nature is reclaiming the ruins that used to be Cahaba, returning them to their source materials.

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