Henry Bell House
Joseph Bennett Bell, the son of Jonathan Ezekial Bell and Georgiana Bennett, was born in Greenville, Alabama in 1859. In 1889, he married Mary Pratt, a grand-niece of Pratt town founder, Daniel Pratt. She was an heir to half of Pratt’s considerable fortune upon his death in 1873. In 1890, Bell moved to Prattville and became manager of the order department of the Daniel Pratt Gin Company. In addition, he was a stockholder and director of the company. In 1893, the Bells built their palatial home on the outskirts of Plattville, Alabama.
The home, which is sometimes known as the Biggs House, is considered an outstanding example of Queen Anne architecture and was designed by Frank Lockwood.
By 1905, Bell was secretary for the Plattville Mercantile Company and from 1911 to 1915 he was a member of the state legislature representing Autauga County. He was then appointed as a Probate Judge in April of 1919 and served until October of 1919.
Joseph and Mary Bell raised eight children in this home. Joseph Bell died in 1937 and Mary continued to reside there until she passed away in 1945. At that time, the couple’s daughter, Katherine, returned from her service in World War II and lived there until 1949 when the home was purchased by Thomas H. Walker.
Subsequently, the home was sold to Ernest and Martha Biggs in 1970 and they began a detailed restoration of the home. Also, the home was used as the setting for the motion picture, The Grass Harp.
The house sits on a large, one-acre lot with mature but well-maintained landscaping. It is a 2-1/2 story building with a partially screened wraparound porch. From the southwest corner of the porch there is a porte cochere that extends over the driveway.
There is a beautiful oak double door entrance to the home that opens into a small, tiled vestibule and then through glass double doors into a wide entrance hall. All the main rooms on the first floor have lovely oak floors bordered with parquet with the walls finished in plaster. The house has 14′ ceilings on the first floor and 12′ ceilings on the second floor.
To the left as one enters the center hallway is the formal parlor with cove ceiling molding and pedimented lintels over the windows. A door to the right of the fireplace contains a small bathroom installed for Mary Bell in the 1930s when she became an invalid.
To the right of the interior hallway is the informal parlor which was paneled in the 1970s and is now used as an office. This room has a semi-circular window formed by the corner tower and a simple Victorian mantle in the southeast corner.
As one walks through the formal parlor, there are sliding oak double doors that lead into the dining room. There is a coffered Renaissance-Revival ceiling which is made of mahogany. It also still features its original brass chancelier. On the left side of the mantle there is a door leading into the updated kitchen wing which has linoleum floors. From the kitchen there is a door to the back porch where the well was once located and where there is a landing for an exterior set of servants’ stairs.
Going back to the central hall, there is a beautiful full-return stairway and an archway with paired ionic capital columns.
Across the stair hallway from the dining room is a room that was used as a bedroom by Mr. and Mrs. Bell and is now being used as a den. There is a door that leads into the office and another that leads to the wraparound front porch. There is also a door that opens into a small hall that leads to the master bedroom and to a bathroom that was created by partially enclosing the rear porch. From this hall there is another door to the laundry room which then has a door to the rear porch.
Again returning to the central hall and going up the stairs, there is a door on the landing that leads outside and opens onto the landing of the rear outside stairway. Turning left on the landing, there is a door that leads to a long, narrow room with bead board walls and ceiling. It was originally used by the maid for the Bell family.
Continuing up the central stairs, one comes to the central hall which has curved walls designed to accommodate the stairwell and provide access to the two east side bedrooms. The second floor has not been as extravagantly finished as the first floor, which is common in many large homes.
As one steps off the stairway and turns left, there is a small bathroom and a large cedar closet that has curved walls from the hallway. Then there is the entrance to the southeast bedroom which was used by one of the Bell sons. There is a closet in this room that contains a small staircase which gives access to the attic. To the right of the fireplace in this room, there is a door to the southwest bedroom which contains the tower bay. This was used as a guest room.
Walking back across the central hall, one enters the northwest bedroom which has a bay window with a central oval windowpane and a fireplace with a rectangular mirror inset into the overmantle. There is a door on one wall that leads into another bedroom with a fireplace and an adjacent bathroom. When the Bell family lived in this home, these rooms were reserved for the family’s daughters.
Outside the house, there is a beautiful cast iron fence with a grapevine motif that runs along the boundary on Old Kingston Road. Also, two original outbuildings are still standing on the property, the smokehouse located directly behind the house and the carriage house/garage.