Modern tech helping to preserve past

Fort Payne’s extraordinary Boom Days are captured in these 1889 photos by photographer O.W. Chase. Landmarks of DeKalb offers reproductions on its website. 

Landmarks of DeKalb is proceeding with its mission to “save our history for future generations” by increasingly turning to modern technology.

COVID-19 pandemic protocols led to a cancellation of the organization’s annual book sale, but Landmarks is launching two book sales on its website during November and December, according to Executive Director Jessica Harper-Brown.

Beginning Nov. 1, visitors to can receive a 20% discount on the publication “The History of WWII Veterans From DeKalb County, Alabama” in order to honor them for Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

Proceeds from all sales go toward helping Landmarks, founded in 1969 as a nonprofit county historical association dedicated to the history of the people and places in DeKalb County. In addition to creating publications and maintaining interpretive exhibits, Landmarks also conserves historic properties like the Fort Payne Opera House, Fort Payne Cabin historic site, Council Bluff School and other sites.

Between Nov. 15-Dec. 15, a 15% discount is also available on the select publications “Historic Fort Payne-Volumes 1, 2 & 3”, “DeKalb Legend-Volumes 6 & 7”, “Landmarks News Legend 25th Anniversary” and “Vagabond Dreamer” by shopping on the website. The books are also available off-line by calling Harper-Brown at (256) 845-6888.

The publications make for a highly personal holiday gift idea for history buffs or locals who moved away but want to remember their hometown. Another is a 11x14 reproduction of the Fort Payne Boom Era images created by O.W. Chase, whose images filled the pages of the 1889 prospectus “Fort Payne Illustrated” and led to development of the city’s most striking landmarks. Available $25 prints include scenes of New England investors in their finest clothing arriving on an excursion train, men stripping an ore mine and the opulent DeKalb Hotel.

“Unlike most small towns, Chase’s photographs stood the test of time thanks to the Brown and Raymond families,” said Harper-Brown. “With the help of photographer John Dersham, who created the reproductions from Chase’s 6 ½-inch v 8 1/2-inch glass negatives, Landmarks has been able to preserve and display these historic images. A selection of Chase’s photographs are available for purchase from our website, completely unaltered, and sure to please any history buff.”

The prints can be viewed and ordered at Online sales are handled using PayPal’s secure transactions. Buyers can use any major credit card.

Landmarks continues making sure other items from various collections are likewise available for future generations to view. Archivist Caitlyn Bell has catalogued, digitally processed and properly stored more than 300 items from various collections, including newspapers dating as far back as 1898. Harper-Brown said that when the project is completed, visitors and volunteers will be able to view digital versions of the collections to aid in their own research.

The group had reopened the Hosiery Museum in the Richard C. Hunt Reception Hall on Oct. 2, requiring visitors to wear facial coverings and limiting tours to groups of six or less people. But rising levels of COVID-19 led to the difficult choice on Tuesday to close until further notice, announcing the venues would reopen once risk levels return to normal.

Harper-Brown encouraged anyone wanting to follow Landmarks to Like their page on Facebook at @Landmarks of DeKalb County, AL or @landmarksofdekalb on Instagram.

“We appreciate all of our members for their contributions that have helped to sustain our organization through this pandemic,” she said. “All accomplishments are made possible through the volunteer efforts of our Trustees and financial support of those interested in the preservation of local history.”

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