1910 schoolhouse anchors Orange Beach history

July 12, 2018
Orange Beach 1910 schoolhouse

The first schoolhouse built by the Baldwin County school system in Orange Beach opened in 1910 and still stands today.

The building was constructed by James C. Callaway, one of the first settlers in Orange Beach. Callaway petitioned the State of Alabama to build the schoolhouse, but they could not afford it. Callaway took matters into his own hands; he built the facility himself using trees cut down at his property, which was located at the present-day Orange Beach Baptist Church. He would then take the logs by oxen-pulled cart to Peteet Sawmill, which was located on the south shore of Bay La Launch. His great-granddaughter, former museum director Gail Walker Graham, explained that the state did help with the project in one way. "The state did not furnish the lumber, but they did furnish some of the nails that he used," Graham said.

The first teacher at the schoolhouse was Mrs. Tillman. At the time school was held in three-month increments, and in the summer, class would end at noon due to the heat. The hours missed in the summer months were made up in the winter months. The families of children who attended the school pitched in to buy a wood stove, which sat in the center of the schoolhouse.

The school operated until 1923, when children began to attend a larger school in Foley.

After the move to Foley, the schoolhouse was used as a community center and as a Baptist Church.

The historic building was later donated to the city and refurbished before becoming the Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum, opening its doors on May 10, 1995. The grand opening of the museum was noted by Governor Fob James Jr., who proclaimed the date as “Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum Day.”

The building arrived at its current location at the Marjorie Snook Park within the Orange Beach Municipal Complex in 1999.

The schoolhouse celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2010.

Today it houses hundreds of artifacts detailing Orange Beach’s expansive history. From a 500-year-old Seminole Canoe to an original invitation to the unveiling of the first Perdido Pass Bridge, the old schoolhouse now offers a substantial hands-on learning experience.