ACWORTH — A collection of nearly two centuries of Acworth history has a home on the site of the city’s first railroad depot, which was built before the Civil War.
Visitors will discover both a physical and a digital collection within the new Acworth History Center at the intersection of Main and Lemon streets, close to the original Acworth Depot, which was built in the 1840s. The center, which opened last month, was built at a cost of about $900,000 through a collaboration with the city and the Save Acworth History Foundation. The building is a replica depot and is located where the city’s not one, not two, but three previous depots once stood.
Union forces burned the city’s original depot down in November 1864. The railroad built a replacement in the aftermath of the Civil War, which was then replaced by a larger depot in 1893, according to city historical resources. That depot stood until the 1970s when the building was sold and removed from its original spot.
If the Acworth History Center has a “holy grail” or a main piece of history, foundation vice president Mack Turner says it’s the railroad freight scale that was used for nearly 80 years in the previous depot and salvaged by Leman “Moose” McCray and his family, who donated it to the organization and the city.
“Those scales, they got circa 1870 stamped on them, and they were put into the previous depot in 1893,” Turner said Friday. So they’re definitely our oldest (item) — well, we don’t know how old that steam whistle is, but they are the oldest that we know about.”
Alderman Tim Richardson says that steam whistle originally came from a ship in Savannah. It was brought to the Acworth area in the 1800s and used in a cotton gin at Mars Hill. After the cotton gin was destroyed by a tornado in the early 1900s, a knitting mill that operated under the name Unique Knitting Company was opened in the late 1920s on the north side of town by a Fred Kienel. He bought the steam whistle, which was used at the mill to signal shift changes and worker breaks.
Acworth resident Becca Kienel has a connection to the whistle: Fred Kienel was the grandfather of her husband, Rick.
Becca Kienel has a connection to other exhibits in the history center as well — she had scanned and compiled many of the historical photos used in the museum.
“A lot of these pictures are pictures he (Fred Kienel) took, because he was a photographer and had his own darkroom in the basement,” she said, adding that she and her husband live next door to the home that had once belonged to her grandfather-in-law. One such picture, she said, was that of Unique Knitting Company being constructed in 1927.
“So the people that live there now brought us a box of stuff over one day and there were pictures in it, and that was one of the pictures,” Becca Kienel added. “It had been in his basement for apparently 70, 80, 90 years.”
Other features of the history center include a large touchscreen kiosk that can display one of over 50 video interviews with longtime Acworth residents, some of whom have since passed, and three television monitors that display nearly 20 short videos on various portions of the city’s history.
“I’d like to personally thank the city — I think this is a monumental thing that they’ve done here,” Turner said.
The Acworth History Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with outdoor public restrooms accessible from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for visitors to the center and any of the city’s other downtown areas.
More information about the Save Acworth History Foundation can be found at saveacworthhistory.org.