One of Alabama’s coolest small towns might be the state’s best hidden gem.
It’s pretty hard to stumble upon Abbeville. There’s no interstate exit for the small, southeast Alabama town. Most people won’t pass through it going to their Gulf vacation. Most won’t go through it going to cities like Birmingham and Atlanta.
But that’s a shame because Abbeville has so much to offer. From the sweet, retro downtown (more about that in a minute) to the lush nature surrounding it (Abbeville is named after dogwoods, after all), you’re in for a treat if you visit the Henry County town.
There are plenty of reasons to take a trip to Abbeville, but we narrowed it down to three.
Let’s get to traveling.
- It has one of the coolest downtowns anywhere.
Jimmy Rane, founder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, has lived in Abbeville for a long time.
“I’ve lived here all my life and my mother’s family has been here more than 200 years,” he told AL.com in 2017. “It’s a very important place.”
It’s so important to him, in fact, that he’s majorly invested his money in the town. The headquarters of his business is in Abbeville, and he fixed up a Standard Oil gas station as another office space for the company. But he’s also invested throughout downtown, as well.
Rane has had vintage neon signs for Ford Motor Co., Rexall Drugs and Buster Brown Shoes, among others, placed around the downtown area. It makes it look like a 1950s movie – and photos don’t begin to do it justice. It looks nostalgic, and cool, and definitely unlike any other downtown you may have seen. It’s worth a visit just to see what Rane has done with the downtown.
- You’ll want to listen to ghost stories at Huggin’ Molly’s
Generations of Abbeville children have heard the ghost tale of Huggin’ Molly.
The story goes as follows: A tall woman in a hat appears to children out at night, hugs them tightly and then screams in their ears. (She doesn’t harm them, just hollers.) There are many theories about the origin of the tale. Some say Molly was a grieving ghost who had lost a child and just wanted to hug a kid. Others say that Molly was a former professor who was just trying to keep the town’s youngest citizens safe. Regardless, it’s the ultimate story for parents to tell their kids to ensure they won’t wander outside in the dark.
And Rane, who grew up hearing the tale, has honored Molly by opening a restaurant in her name downtown. When you walk into Huggin’ Molly’s (129 Kirkland St.), you get the same retro vibe you get from walking downtown.
Huggin’ Molly’s has an old-fashioned soda fountain where you can order sweet treats like malts and ice cream floats. It has a menu filled with burgers, sandwiches, daily plate specials and tasty desserts. It’s Molly’s Fingers chicken finger dish is on the list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.
Molly’s Fingers at Huggin’ Molly’s one of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama from Alabama Power Foundation on Vimeo.
And there’s more. The restaurant is filled with vintage antiques and 1950s music plays on a loop, truly giving you a retro throwback.
- The town is full of history
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Abbeville. The town was settled in 1822 and is full of history.
One place you’ll want to check out while in town is the Bethune-Kennedy House (300 Kirkland St.). It’s the county’s oldest building and has a dual front-door design, which isn’t common after you leave the Gulf Coast.
The house was threatened to be demolished in the 1970s, but some people in town rallied to save it, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. In 1976, it was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Two years later, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, the house is owned by the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce and is sometimes used for events.
Abbeville was briefly the home of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Although she was born in Tuskegee, her family lived in Abbeville for a few years. There is a historical marker in front of the home, located at Alabama Highway 10, about a mile away from the U.S. Highway 431 intersection, according to Encyclopedia of Alabama.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)