History: Bass-Perry House is centerpiece of Russell County near Seale

History: Bass-Perry House is centerpiece of Russell County near Seale
Photo: The Bass-Perry House, now known as Magnolia Green, was constructed for Hartwell Bass just after the removal of the Creek Indians from the area. Construction began in 1840 and was completed in 1844. It was later owned by Hillary Mott, the President of the Nehi Corporation. In 1968, Roy M. Greene purchased the house. It was recorded on the National Registry of Historic Places on Jan. 19, 1976.

Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County. 

The man who had the house constructed along the Old Federal Road northeast of Seale was never able to occupy it as he died before the work was completed. Today’s occupants represent only the third family to call the stately structure their home. It sits upon a hill overlooking U.S. 431 today on land once owned by a famous Creek Indian.

As you have traveled the highway, you have noticed the home and wondered why someone would build such a stately manor in this location. Perhaps today’s article will give you some answers about what is known now as Magnolia Greene.

The following is the narrative from the application to have the house included on the National Register of Historic Places which was done Dec. 16, 1975:

“The Bass-Perry House, the work of an unknown craftsman, is one of the two finest plantation houses in Russell County and has served as the home of three of the county’s most prominent families. Constructed immediately after the end of Indian hostilities in the area, the house was the nucleus of a vast cotton plantation and its styling and craftsmanship reflect the taste and prosperity of its builder – Hartwell Bass.

The area from which Russell County was carved was the last major area of the state to be ceded from the Indians and consequently was relatively late in developing. Even prior to its creation as a county in 1832, settlers had long been acquiring and cultivating the land illegally. When later in the same year, the Creeks signed the treaty of Cussetta relinquishing as a tribe their claims to the land, the influx of white settlers increased.

Bass who had immigrated first from Virginia into North Carolina and later to Georgia, acquired his land from Paddy Carr, an Indian aide on the staff of the Creek Agency at Fort Mitchell. During the 1830s, friction between the Creeks and settlers, who in violation of the terms of the 1832 treaty were occupying and farming the land, cumulated in an outbreak of hostilities in 1836.

Removal of the Creeks to the west began in that year and in 1837 Bass was named as a trustee of the Good Hope Male and Female Academy. Three years later he began work on his house. Although the builder of the house is unknown, it has been speculated that both the Bass-Perry House, and the Mitchell Plantation at Glenville, were the work of a builder named Octunually.

Bass died prior to the completion of the house and work was taken over by his wife Elizabeth, known throughout the county as “the rich widow Bass.” Mrs. Bass, along with her son-in-law, Patrick Henry Perry, owned controlling interest in a large saw mill located near the site of present day Seale, and Perry was instrumental in the founding of that town, which eventually became the county seat. At the death of Mrs. Bass, her daughter and Perry occupied the house, which remained in the family until 1939 when it was acquired by Hillary Mott.

Mott, who owned the mansion until 1968, was President of the Nehi Corporation and eventually became Chairman of the Board of Directors. He also served as the Director of the Southern Industrial Council of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968 the house was purchased by Mr. Roy M. Greene.”

The Bass-Perry House is one of very few in the county constructed before the Civil War. The construction of the house began in 1840 and was completed in 1844 as the plantation home of Hartwell Bass. The house is similar to the Mitchell Home in Glenville, one of the state’s most notable Greek revival houses. According to the late county historian, Anne Kendrick Walker, and family traditions, the Bass-Perry House and Mitchell Home were designed by the same unknown craftsman. The Bass-Perry House was completed a year before the Mitchell Home.

The application for the National Registry of Historic Places includes the following description of the Bass-Perry House:

“The two-story central block and the full length colonnaded portico are covered by the hipped roof which rises gently. The flush siding of the three bay facade is terminated by slender pilasters. Four fluted Tuscan columns, a crisp entablature, and fine window treatment further distinguish the facade.

Windows of the first floor are 12 over 12 sash windows while those of the second floor are 9 over 9. Windows of both floors have paned glass side panels and molding identical to that of the two central double doors. Both doors have side lights and a transom. The fluted molding rises from corner blocks on the upper edge to meet a slightly larger central block. The central wrought iron balcony replaces an earlier full-length balcony with square wooden balusters.

The remaining elevations are weatherboard, and have corner pilasters and 9 over 9 windows with simple trim. The two interior chimneys are double and are flanked with fireside closets. Sufficient space exists between the chimneys to serve as a small passageway or storage space. The floor plan is the standard four up, four down with central hall and side stairway with landing. Trim throughout the interior is simple and the doors have six raised panels.

The house was renovated in the 1940s; several windows were added to the rear and side elevations, upstairs closets were converted to baths, and two additions were made. A Porte cochere was added to the eastern elevation and a sisal sun parlor and screen porch to the western elevation. Both of these additions are in keeping with the style of the house.”

The Bass-Perry House was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on Jan. 19, 1976.