I've always known it to be there for as long as I can remember, but I have no idea when it was constructed, who the builder was, or when it shut down. I have a faint recollection of a time when the roadside market, flea market, or tourist trap was in business, but my memories are vague. Over the years, it appeared to be deteriorating more and more, eventually becoming a dilapidated roadside ruin. It was a point of interest, perhaps only deserving a brief glance from motorists zooming along US 231 in Pike County.
Unfortunately, a significant portion of Pike Pioneer Village has now been destroyed, and it's gone forever.
On Friday, April 7th, 2023, a massive fire ravaged Pioneer Village, located along US 231 just north of Troy, Alabama. The fire destroyed a substantial portion of the abandoned complex, which consisted of cabins and storefronts designed to resemble a 19th-century pioneer settlement. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
Several years prior to beginning work on my book, "Abandoned Wiregrass," I happened to pass by Pioneer Village on my way home from another location. On a whim, I decided to stop and take some photographs. I snapped a few pictures of the main gate and a firetruck located along the right-of-way. The produce stand situated at the front of the property still had goods on the shelves, giving the impression that it had been in business recently. The grass inside the main gate appeared to have been mowed in the past few weeks (it was a rainy July, and grass in the southern states grows quickly). As the property wasn't marked with any signs or fenced off, I naturally assumed that some of the buildings within the complex may have reopened for business. So, I wandered into the main courtyard, hoping to find somebody around or some of the storefronts renovated with hours of operation displayed. Regrettably, after surveying the area and taking some photos, it became clear that the complex hadn't reopened. With this realization, I climbed back into my truck and continued on my way.
Over the years, the Pioneer Village complex deteriorated further and further due to neglect. Despite my intention to return to the site and my attempts to identify the property owner, I was unable to do so. Each time I drove by, I wondered if someone would eventually take on the task of restoring and reopening the place. Pioneer Village was just one of many abandoned locations along the US 231 highway between Troy and Montgomery, reflecting the economic stagnation of this corridor
Whenever I drive along the US 231 between Troy and Montgomery, I can't help but notice numerous places that I wish someone would restore and reopen. Despite being a busy four-lane highway, economic development along the Troy-Montgomery corridor appears to have stagnated since 1985, or perhaps even worsened. Several years ago, the State of Alabama made the decision to close down the only rest areas along this 40-mile stretch of highway, and things have only gone downhill from there. Finding a gas station in this area has become increasingly difficult since the turn of the century. Unless you venture closer to either Troy or Montgomery, it's rare to come across any modern development. The Sikes and Kohns outlet store located in Pine Level, roughly halfway between the two cities, seems to be the only exception to the economic stagnation that plagues this corridor.
Despite its decline, I believe that Pioneer Village had become a landmark in Pike County. When driving southbound from Montgomery, the ruin signaled the end of the long journey to Troy and the start of the availability of gas stations, restaurants, and restrooms.
Sadly, like many abandoned structures I've photographed over the years, Pioneer Village is now gone forever. Another landmark and piece of local heritage have vanished. While it may have been considered an eyesore by some, I can't help feeling a little sad. Pioneer Village once paid homage to Alabama's pioneer history and, as time passed, it became a part of that history. Any potential it once had for restoration will now never be realized, and it is simply another ruin on the long, tedious drive from one place to another. A lost opportunity.
On that summer day, I found Pioneer Village hauntingly beautiful, a place with potential that deserved my time and attention. The soft light, sultry air, and humid conditions made for a perfect Alabama summer evening. I'm glad I listened to my gut and took those photos. In the years since, I've published four of the roadside images in my book, "Abandoned Wiregrass," while keeping the rest private until now.
Now that much of Pioneer Village has been destroyed, I've decided to share the previously unpublished images as a historical record with the public. If you have memories of when it was open, knowledge of its history, interesting photos to share, or personal experiences about the place, please feel free to share them in the comments.
(All images and material Copyright © 2023 Brian L. Braden Photography and Creative Arts. All rights reserved.)
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