We have been humbled and quite frankly surprised by the vast number of phone calls, texts and e-mails we have received from people in multiple cities and several states, and, of course, so many Mobilians concerned about a possible loss of COTTON HALL by fire.
There are a large number of citizens and friends of Mobile history that feel some personal connection to this “Grand Ole Lady” that has reigned supreme on Dauphin Street for 175 years. Cotton Hall was built in 1845 and dedicated on July 4 of that year in order to accommodate orphans resulting from the Yellow Fever Pandemic of the 1830s and ’40s. It was built as the Protestant Children’s Orphan Asylum and is now owned and has been under restoration by the Historical Restoration Society for several years. Cotton Hall has survived the Yellow Fever Pandemic of the 1840s, the Civil War in the 1860s, the 1916 Hurricane, Hurricane Frederick in 1979, and a few smaller fires set by vagrants while the building was unoccupied before being rescued by the Historic Restoration Society.
The building served for a while as a Business College and later as a dormitory for the hospitality staff of the Battle House during its renovation. The Historic Restoration Society purchased Cotton Hall in 2014 and began its long renovation process under the capable direction of talented and noted architect, Kim Kearley. Cotton Hall is now leased to a mystic society founded in 1868 with its first parade in 1869 and is used for meetings, weddings and funerals of its members and major benefactors.
When the recent fire broke out the attentive Mobile Fire Department immediately jumped into action and worked tirelessly to get the fire under control, sparing no effort and at considerable risk. It was amazing to watch such professionalism and skill in accomplishing their goal of saving this historic treasure for our city. They are truly heroes and a credit to our great city. Cotton Hall still stands stately on Dauphin Street as it has for 175 years under a beautiful century-old massive oak tree. One bystander said: “She is a Grand Ole Lady and it will take more than a three-alarm fire to bring her down.”
Cotton Hall remains standing bruised and proud even though she has been burned throughout the inside … Her future will surely be as glorious as her past. She will be rescued again and restored again by a grateful group of Mobile history lovers in our midst.
Originally built as an orphanage, it is only appropriate to quote Broadway’s Little Orphan Annie when she sang at the top of her lungs: “The sun will come out tomorrow.” And, indeed the Sun will come out again for COTTON HALL.
Mrs. Joan Gardner
Historical Restoration Society
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