Why would this tavern in Barbour County need a secret stairway? Do you have any suggestions?
Second-largest historic district in Alabama
The Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District is the second-largest historic district in Alabama. Located in Eufaula, Barbour County, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and has over 700 homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Eufaula was named Irwinton
The town of Eufaula was originally named Irwinton in honor of William Irwin, a state senator who had used his influence to make Barbour county a place for landing steamboats. An ‘old house on the bluff’ built in 1835 by Mark and James Edward Williams from Cuthbert Georgia served the people for many years.
W. N. Manning, the Photographer, took these photographs of the Irwinton Inn on May 15, 1935. Below is the FRONT AND SIDE VIEW, S.W. Irwinton Inn, Ferrell’s Gardens, 105 Riverside Drive, Eufaula, Barbour County, AL
The secret stairway in the tavern
The house above is a two-story English-type structure, was called The Tavern and was located on land deeded to James Edward Williams from Seth Lore and Company. Other members of the Seth Lore company were William Welborn, Alfred Iverson, Benjamin Iverson and John Forsyth.
An interesting feature of the house was a stairway, which has has all the appearance of secrecy. It was shut off by a door and extended up between sturdy walls.
The carved banisters of the stairway led to the second floor and revealed the splendid workmanship of pioneer days. Large porches extended across the front of the house on both floors with views up the river as far a the historic St. Francis Bend.
Once called Pease’s Tavern
The house was occupied by its owners as well as serving as a tavern. At one time, the tavern was called Pease’s Tavern. When a bridge was built in 1841 over the Chattahoochee River at Irwinton, the taverns and inns at Irwinton enjoyed a good business.
Tavern was converted to a home in 1842
In 1842, The Tavern was deeded by James Edward Williams to his daughter Cynthia who later married Webster M. Rains. The Tavern was used as their home.
In the 1860’s, it was used as a Confederate hospital and ransacked by Union forces. Axe cleft marks were left in the wide flooring by the Union soldiers.
Impossible to leave without passing the Tavern
The main road that led to Eufaula curved closely by the north window, thus it was impossible to leave town without passing The Tavern. Planters frequently stopped and visited there while they waited for their cotton to be loaded on the tiers and became the principal meeting place in Eufaula.
Did not have a central hall
It was unchanged until the 1870’s. An outside staircase led to the second floor and unlike other pioneer dwellings of the period, it did not have a central hall. Three large rooms on the first floor ran across the entire width of the structure. Cooking was done in the outside kitchen. Roller towels, gourd dippers and cedar buckets were familiar objects for years.
Rooms were rented to transients
The Rains family deeded The Tavern to Ferdinand J. Hartung in 1871. Mr. Hartung married Josephine Hueur of Charleston and they occupied the property as their home. After his her husband’s death in 1891, Mrs. Hartung was advised to move to a smaller house owned by her husband, but instead her niece Mrs. Lizzie Hartung Ferrell, and her niece’s husband, Captain George Archer Ferrell loaned her money to purchase at public auction all of the property left by her husband who had left no will.
Mrs. Hartung remained in her home and rented rooms to transients until she remarried to Thomas A. Mashburn and The Tavern then was called the Mashburn House. He died in 1930 and she died in 1940. The property was willed to George Archer Ferrell, Jr., son of Captain and Mrs. Ferrell.
- Library of Congress
- Historic Alabama Hotels and Resorts By James Frederick Sulzby University of Alabama Press, 1960
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