Ahhhh. I would always take a deep breath and relax just a little when I would drive past this perfect Fairhope cottage. Its inviting porch, green shuttered windows and big live oak in the front yard just called out, “Come sit a while” to me.
And then, as it always seems to happen in Fairhope, I got around to meeting the wonderful person who lives here. I actually knew her for a few years before realizing this was her charming cottage. She’s done a great job of keeping the historic aspect of the house intact while making it accommodate her family’s needs.
The family who originally built the house in 1917 would travel across Mobile Bay by boat, to join other Mobilians and vacation on the Eastern Shore, where the breeze was cooler and the days more relaxed.
Mr. Forrester was the builder, and also built many other homes in our area. Even before modern tools were available, Mr. Forrester used such precise measurements, that his homes were perfectly squared and have withstood decades of humid summers and brutal hurricanes. You can find out more about this popular builder at the Fairhope Museum of History.
The front porch was built to accommodate several swinging beds where the family slept every night. The current owner, who grew up in Fairhope, has one hanging bed, and uses the extra space for picnic tables and rocking chairs. No matter what your favorite way to relax may be, she’s got it covered.
The porch railing was added by the current owner who had two young boys when she first moved in 27 years ago, and realized that all the jumping off the four- foot high porch wasn’t going to end well. I sent these photos to my porch-connoisseur friend Rachel, who along with her husband Douglas, specialize in historic home renovations, and she said this porch is beautiful and very well built with the boards correctly running perpendicular to the house and interlocked in a tongue and groove pattern.
This is the first room you enter from the front door. It is a former bedroom and was opened up to create a front parlor. The original fireplace was on the opposite wall in the foyer, but because of not being maintained, it was a fire hazard. The new owner created this new, safer fireplace, because even though we are in the Coastal South, we can have some mighty chilly winter nights.
Other recent changes made were the removal of acoustical tiles from the beautiful pine ceilings and scraping off glued-on, foam-backed carpet from the amazing wood floors. And finally, after a lifetime of South Alabama summers, central air-conditioning was added. (Praise God from whom all blessings flow – we love our central air-conditioning around here!).
Straight ahead, from the front door, is the heart of the home, the large octagonal shaped dining room. The other rooms radiate off this point, and provide the angled walls that allow for closets and also a feature found in many coastal homes, angled exterior walls that allow breezes to enter the home, no matter which direction they may be blowing. If you go back and look at the front porch photos, next to the front door, you will see one of those exterior slanted walls.
The entire house is built of native Alabama Longleaf Pine – our state tree. It has lasted 97 years and only looks more beautiful now with some patina on it. The 12 feet tall ceilings allowed the hot air to rise to the top of the room, and large windows, which most in the house are original, would allow the cool bay breezes to enter.
The owner’s two boys are grown now with families of their own. School photos from years gone by are lined up year by year to record their growth, and now the grandchildren’s photos are starting to line up. Such a fun tradition! You can see another angled window-wall above.
The kitchen was originally separated from the house by the back porch to control a potential fire hazard and also reduce the heat in the house. Recent owners modernized by enclosing the back porch, thereby connecting the spaces. Two of the windows had to be replaced because the originals were too low to the floor to allow for cabinets.
This is an original hutch that was built into the dining room. Even though the cottage is probably somewhere around 2,000 square feet, the openness and the high ceilings along with the great floor plan make it seem huge and along with the large porch, is a comfortable place for the extended family to gather.
The comforts of home include crocheting scarves for family Christmas gifts while sipping tea on the front porch. The Baldwin County historic marker is displayed on the corner of the house, and a beautiful set of rattan furniture is in the front parlor. The owner explained her affinity for the tropical-coastal style by saying, “When I was a teenager, I babysat for tourists at the Grand Hotel, and at that time, the lobby and cottages were filled with rattan pieces that I always thought were wonderful.” I agree, and think they are the perfect fit for this coastal cottage.
Looking back at the front door from the centrally located dining room, you can see a glimpse of the water and boats sailing by. Such a wonderful piece of local history, carefully maintained and loved by a charming Southern lady who loves the history and heritage of our dear Fairhope.