10 August 2008

The Southern Belle

Ok, this is Orange Hall, a major tourist stop in the town and often referred to as the "southern belle" of St Marys. The following is from the hall brochure. "In 1829, Horace Southworth Pratt, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and his father-in-law, John Wood, purchased four acres of land. It is said that John Wood built Orange Hall as a wedding present for her daughter, Jane. What we do know is that Jane passed away in late 1829 after being married to Horace for six years and having four children, John Wood and his daughter, Jane are both buried at the First Presbyterian Church located across the street from Orange hall. After the death of Jane, Rev Horace Pratt remarried and moved to Alabama where he became a professor at the University of Alabama. Orange Hall remained in the Pratt family until 1846, when the house was sold to James Mongin Smith, a wealthy rice plantation owner from South Carolina. Some believe that it was Smith who built Orange Hall. One reason for this is that in the 1970's research done by the Department of the Interior concluded that the house might have been built between 1846 and 1850. Over a period of 100 years, roughly 12 owners have called Orange Hall home. In 1951, St Marys Kraft Corporation, due to lack of housing options in the area, purchased Orange Hall and converted it into apartments for the Kraft workers. Two families lived on each floor, and every family had their own bathroom, but shared a common kitchen. In 1960, the Kraft Corporation donated Orange Hall to the city of St Marys. It has been used as a school, library, civic center, chamber of commerce, welcome center, and is currently a house museum. In the 1970s a group of local women decided to return Orange Hall to its original glory. In 1973 Orange Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places."

The house is built in Greek revival style, popular in the antebellum South. The area under the front porch was once open and used as the carriage area, so people were picked up and dropped off by the front stairs.
Picture of Horace Pratt
Most of the furnishings throughout the home are period pieces donated by local citizens, and were not original to the house itself. Seen here is the music room, one of the two front rooms, which were both used as parlors to entertain guests.
This Austrian crystal chandolier hangs in the study, and was added by Mr. and Mrs. Becker between 1919 and 1925.
Captain Lemuel Johnson, CSA, was born in Appling County, GA on May 4 1844 and died in St Marys on April 3 1918. He was a Civil War soldier in Company F 26th Georgia Regiment and was present at the Appomatox Courthouse surrender. Following the war he moved to Waycross (west of Kingsland) and in 1906 to St Marys. He was a very succesful man who envisioned great projects such as a railroad to connect St Marys to the west and a canal between St Marys and St Marks, Florida, which he was working on at the time of his death. He also represented the local people mant times in the state House and Senate.
These views are of the bedrooms, located upstairs. The open design allowed for better ventilatio, and the floors were less quality wood painted to save money.

One of the tea rooms, located in the basement. Originally used as servants quarters and a wine cellar, they are now furnished to host private events.
The home's kitchen, unique because at the time most kitchens were located separate from the home for fear of fire. The floor was originally dirt, but was later covered in brick.

The First Presbyterian Church, across the street from Orange Hall. It was originally built in 1808 as a Union church where all denominations could worship, But in 1821 it became the Presbyterian Church with Horace Pratt as the first minister. It is the second oldest standing church in Georgia. The church has become famous for a legend from when Florida still belonged to Spain. At that time, St Marys was a major smuggling point and one night a vessel came in with a load of contraband. The customs officer, however, was keeping a sharp lookout and the vessel could not unload. So one night the vessel's crew stole the church minister's horse and hoisted it into the church belfry. The next day, the townspeople were so drawn to the mysterious sight that the vessel's crew snuck their contraband ashore and were gone before anyone noticed.

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