Aldrich Coal Mine Museum The Aldrich Coal Mine Museum is a historical complex in Montevallo, Shelby County. It consists of two historic structures related to the Montevallo Coal Mining Company and its owners, brothers Truman and William Farrington Aldrich. The museum aims to interpret the role of coal mining in the area. Located on the grounds of the museum is the only monument to coal miners in Alabama, installed in 1997. Both of the buildings in the museum complex are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Now an unincorporated community within the city limits of Montevallo, Aldrich was connected with coal mining as far back as 1839. It did not come to be known as Aldrich until 1875, when industrialist Truman H. Aldrich purchased both the town and the surrounding mines, naming it after himself. He later leased the mining operations to his brother, William. Convicts were leased from state and county prison to provide labor in the mines, and a prison built on the site to house them and was in use from 1913 to 1928. A cemetery for the convicts is located nearby. Almost everyone who lived in Aldrich worked in the mines, and the company owned most of the structures in the town. The Montevallo Coal Mining Company officially closed on July 5, 1942, but the owner at the time D. A. Thomas, maintained the village.
After a career in the Air Force, local history enthusiast Henry Emfinger purchased the white frame structure company store as well as a structure known as Farrington Hall, located across the street from the store. Emfinger had moved to Aldrich as a child in 1942 with his father, a coal miner, shortly before the mine ceased operations. After a career in the Air Force, Emfinger returned to live in the Aldrich community and immerse himself in its coal-mining history. The former Montevallo Coal Mining Company store, built around 1928, now houses Emfinger’s collections of artifacts related to coal mining, historical photos from the area, as well as displays about the coal mines, churches, school, stores, post office, and prison. The building retains the original sales counter and cash register from the company store and features a simulated coal mine. The museum aims to provide visitors with information about every aspect of living in a mining town, including African American families who lived in Aldrich. Many community members have also contributed photos and artifacts to the museum over the years.
Farrington Hall was constructed in 1908 for William Aldrich to serve as his private office and library and recreational space for his family. The exterior features a gabled entrance and decorative scrolled iron brackets that support the overhanging roof. The interior has walnut board ceilings and a mosaic floor. The building is named after Aldrich’s son Farrington, who died of typhoid fever after cleaning one of the coal mines reservoirs and is said by locals to haunt the structure. Exhibits in Farrington Hall include more historic photos and artifacts. Visits and appointments must be prearranged.