Elba building’s renovation turns into discovery of accidental time capsule


ELBA, Ala. (WDHN) — What started as a building restoration project has turned into an accidental time capsule discovery.

In school, history was never Laurie Chapman’s favorite subject.

“I never could find the value in history,” Chapman said.

But after living in Elba for 20 years and buying an abandoned downtown building, that sentiment changed.

While Chapman fully expected to find water damage, sinking floors, and caving roofs, what she didn’t expect to find was a doorway to the past.

“It’s turned into just more of an obsession I guess or just a weird personality trait that I’ve acquired,” Chapman joked.

While cleaning, Chapman has found numerous items including correspondence, antique coins, and old clothes. Aged letters shows conversations between a mother and her deployed son from 1953. Others include holiday-themed cards between friends.

Chapman has also discovered business signs from previous owners, books from years ago, and videos documenting some of Elba’s most historic moments—including the infamous flood of 1990.

“I don’t know if it’s (the video tape) salvageable or not because it looks like it actually had some water damage of all things,” Chapman said.

While the renovation has a long way to go, the mementos inside show just how far “The City of Flowing Wells” has come.

“I think it’s just really important for our generation and the younger generation to ask the older people these stories and to record them because once they’re gone, the stories are gone too,” Chapman said.

Currently, the building’s future plans are unclear. However, Chapman and her crew plan to continue documenting their finds.

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