Crepe Myrtles line the long winding drive that leads to Benulee, which is a derivative of the name, “Benu,” the Egyptian version of the Phoenix, which rose again from the ashes. Benulee in Fairhope didn’t exactly rise from ashes, but it is the revived version of it’s predecessor across the bay in Mobile, Alabama.
Owners Perry and Harriet Outlaw decided to rebuild a replica of the much loved family house where Harriet was born, so in 1993, they pieced together photographs, memories and measurements of the original house and Â furnishings, and with the help of architect Ron Brannon, came up with a duplicate, yet modern version of the original which had been built in 1835.
The large front porch is a traditional Southern feature which takes advantage of cool breezes, even on hot summer days.
The stairway landing has the perfect ledge for displaying some of the many collections the couple has acquired over the years. Perry is a history buff and Harriet is a well known local author who has written several books dealing with the history of Fairhope, Mobile and Baldwin Counties. Her newest book, which I’ll soon review deals with . . . the Ghosts of Baldwin County!
Downstairs, the parlor has unique character and is decorated in a different theme every Christmas. Take note of the window shades . . . the original shades were bought from an old Mobile family in 1838, then eventually passed down to Harriet and Perry. Too fragile to display, Perry’s Uncle, Cornell Outlaw, of Jackson, AL, reproduced 3 of the shades in meticulous fashion. He worked on the shades depicting lush landscapes when he was 95-97 years old.
Here’s a closer look at the beautiful artwork on the window shades. Harriet still has the originals which are not in very good shape. If you know anything about preserving hand-painted window shades, let us know!
The dollhouse was featured in one of Harriet’s many Christmas themes a few years ago and the upright Steinway is over 100 years old. Remember, the chairs were askew because we were getting ready for the ladies to come for the bridal shower!
The thing I love about Benulee is that everything has a story or meaning. Nothing was bought in haste to fill a space. Each item was chosen with love and great thought. The old pull-down maps on the wall of the back room are from Harriet’s days of teaching school. She recycled them when they were being replaced (probably with boring computers).
The story behind the construction of Benulee, the precious memories it provides the owners, and their willingness to open their doors to friends is what makes this such a love-filled, happy home in the heart of Fairhope.
Be on the lookout for my upcoming post about Harriet Outlaw’s latest book.