Magnolia Hall (Greensboro, Alabama)

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Magnolia Hall
Southern facade of Magnolia Hall (Greensboro, Alabama).jpg
Southern facade of Magnolia Hall, as viewed from Tutwiler Street. The service wing is visible on the eastern side (right) of the house.
Magnolia Hall (Greensboro, Alabama) is located in Alabama
Magnolia Hall (Greensboro, Alabama)
Location Corner of Otts and Tutwiler streets, Greensboro, Alabama
Coordinates 32°42′8″N 87°35′25″W / 32.70222°N 87.59028°W / 32.70222; -87.59028Coordinates: 32°42′8″N 87°35′25″W / 32.70222°N 87.59028°W / 32.70222; -87.59028
Architectural style Greek Revival
Part of Greensboro Historic District (Greensboro, Alabama) (#76000328[1])

Magnolia Hall, also known as the McCrary-Otts House, is a historic Greek Revival mansion in Greensboro, Alabama. It is a contributing property to the Greensboro Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1] It was recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey in late March 1936.[2]


Greensboro became increasingly prosperous as part of the cotton boom of the mid-19th century. In 1850, William Murphy, a lawyer and legislator, sold a prime lot to David F. McCrary, a prominent cotton broker and planter who had originally come from North Carolina and married Elizabeth Cowan Lowry, daughter of a prominent Alabama family. McCrary had Murphy’s house removed and hired the well known architect B.F. Parsons, originally from Massachusetts, to design a new mansion, which was completed in 1858. The Alabama Beacon reported that the house cost $10,000, a very large sum at the time.[3]

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mr. McCrary’s finances survived the War; he opened the Greensboro Bank and Exchange in 1871. On his death in 1888, the McCrary’s only living child, Lelia Jane, and her husband, the noted Presbyterian divine Dr. John M.P. Otts inherited the property. Otts had given the first sermon to Confederate troops at Fort Sumter. Their son James and his wife Sadie bought the house from siblings in the 1920s and it thereafter remained in the family until 1970 when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. M.D. Baines. The house was again sold in 2011.[4]


A detailed, twelve page building contract for Magnolia Hall was discovered by David Nelson, a McCrary descendant.[5][6][7] Few such contracts describing the building of antebellum mansions have survived. This one calls for porticoes, north and south, each with six fluted columns, of the “Grecian Ionic Order...the Entablature and Mouldings all to harmonize with it...and proportioned after the order.”[5] In addition there are double balconies of delicate iron grill work, and colored glass transoms around the doors. Inside are large four over four rooms, 14 foot ceilings, chandelier medallions, and a grand mahogany railed staircase in the spacious hallway. W. E. Yerby, in his History of Greensboro, concluded that Magnolia Hall “is indisputably one of the finest antebellum mansions in Alabama...[and] a perfect example of late Greek Revival architecture.”[4]

View of the northern facade of the house. Considered to be the "front" side of the house, it is almost a mirror image of the southern facade. 
Detailed view of portico on northern facade. 
Historic American Buildings Survey photo of the first floor hallway with staircase, taken in 1936. 


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Library of Congress (1940). "Historic American Building Survey (HABS), ALA-265". Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Alabama Beacon, Greensboro, Alabama, April 24, 1857. Archived at the Alabama Historical Commission.
  4. ^ a b Yerby, William Edward Wadsworth (1963). History of Greensboro. Northport, AL: Colonial Press. 
  5. ^ a b Lane, Mills (1997). Architecture of the Old South: Green Revival and Romantic. Savannah, GA: Beehive Press. p. 119. 
  6. ^ Letter from Dr. David Nelson to M.D. and Elizabeth Baines, July 23, 1982.
  7. ^ Copy of contract in possession of Dr. Nelson and also at Magnolia Hall.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gamble, Robert (1990). Historic Architecture in Alabama. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. p. 60. 

External links[edit]

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