The Eufaula Athenaeum, opened in 2005 in a historic building in Eufaula, Barbour County, houses a collection of historical materials pertaining to Eufaula and Barbour County collected by A. S. Williams III (1936– ), a successful insurance executive in Birmingham with a long family history in Eufaula and Barbour County, over a period of 40 years. Originally, the facility also housed Williams's extensive collections in the areas of the U.S. presidency, the Civil War, Alabama and southern history, and the literature of the South. The bulk of that collection was donated to the University of Alabama Library in 2010.
The building in which the Athenaeum is housed likely was constructed in the 1850s by Eufaula physician William Cowan and served first as a drug store. Purchased by A. S. Williams in 2000, the 6,500-square-foot facility was completely renovated with the aid of a local architect and local craftsmen. Much of the original flooring was preserved, as well as original plaster walls, and salvaged floor timbers were used to rebuild the stairwell to the second floor.
Initially the Athenaeum housed Williams's entire collection; it featured several areas of concentration, the most significant of which is a book and pamphlet collection that includes about 30,000 volumes and more than 3,000 pamphlets focusing on the U.S. presidency, the Civil War, southern history, and southern literature. Also significant is a photographic collection of more than 12,000 images falling into three categories: the southern photographer, 1860-1910; the Civil War; and general southern photography, with an emphasis on Alabama, as well as collections of maps, lithographs, prints, paintings, and manuscripts. In June of 2010, most of this original collection was donated and moved to the Gorgas Library at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, where it will be made available to scholars and other researchers.
Remaining in the Athenaeum's collection are materials pertaining to the history and people of Eufaula and Barbour County. Plans are underway to expand this collection.
Stephen M. Rowe
Published October 31, 2008
Last updated October 8, 2014