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Alabama Victorian Lady

165 Academy Street, Orrville, , 36767 Property Website Dated Posted: August 21, 2014


Circa 1895

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About This Old House

SOLDThis Victorian one-and-a-half story home was designed by George F. Barber & built by John E. Dunaway. Mr. Dunaway owned J.E. Mercantile Company in Orrville which handled Dry Goods, Groceries, 5000 bales of cotton annually, 1000 tons of fertilizer, 600 plows & plantation furnishings. This home of 4674 sq ft with 7 bedrooms & 3 baths has beautiful pine floors, original mantels, wainscoting, spool work detail, bay windows & porches on 3 sides! The 1.7 acre lot is level & tree shaded with a brick carriage house in back.
History of Orrville:
In 1850, the town of Orrville did not yet exist. It was simply a stoop on the road near the town of Cahawaba, known primarily for an Artesian well that freshened travelers crossing through Alabama. One early map shows it being called “Orr’s Mill” in 1853, and by 1860, the town was officially named Orrville.
Orrville’s beginnings can be credited to the vision of its entrepreneurial founder, James Franklin Orr, from North Carolina. Orr was a young man when he and his wife Mary settled on their farm in nearby Bogue Chitto, but his real ambition was to build a manufacturing town of agricultural mills. The high ground and deep well along the “spot on the road” seemed the ideal location to fashion his enterprise so Orr started buying up land in the early 1840s.
By 1855, Orr owned all the adjacent lots in town and he designed a public square based around the boundless Artesian well. He set up his gin, grist and saw mills. Over time, his enterprise included a planning mill, flour mill and two blacksmith shops – all clustered under one very large roof.
Orr had also acquired over 10,000 acres of farmland and grew cotton, corn, wheat and even experimented with raising rice. He raised cattle, horses, and made scuppernong wine from his backyard vineyard. A natural tinkerer, Orr invented an air rifle and earned $5000 for designing off-set screw driver, but he is most recognized for his prized cotton gin, which was patented in 1857.
The story of his invention is printed in the American Cotton Planter magazine which reads: “the third and best patent goes to James F. Orr of Orrville, AL.” The gin is “simple, durable and will produce a whiter and better sample of cotton than the other inventions.”
Orr and Mary had four young children, and since growing towns need good churches and schools, the founder contributed a place for churches to worship on a rotational basis. In October 1850, Orr donated acreage to build the town’s first school, the Orrville Male Academy, a Greek Revival mansion on Academy street that is a private residence to day. A female academy was also built, which later burned down.
Other families started moving here in the late 1800s and Orrville was incorporated in 1907. For much of the 21st century, Orrville prospered as banks, schools, cotton gins, druggists and mercantile stores all served the population in and around the one-square mile town.
The community of Orrville is decorate with a variety of nineteenth-century homes, many which are listed on state and national registers. Pictures of these home are archived in the U.S. Library of Congress and can be seen online. More recently, it has been discovered that four homes in Orrville proper were designed by noted architect from Knoxville, TN, George F. Barber.

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