McNamee-Torbert House, 410 Geneva Street, Opelika, Lee County, AL
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1989 Charles E. Peterson Prize, Honorable Mention
Significance: The McNamee-Torbert House, located at 410 Geneva Street in Opelika, Alabama, appears on the National Register as part of the Geneva Street Historic District. It is one of less than a dozen remaining examples of the Second Empire style of domestic architecture in Alabama. Not only is the house one of the oldest in Opelika, but it has been associated with two prominent and influential families of the area. The original wooden frame structure was built about 1873. At this time, James. M. McNamee, a prominent Opelika banker, purchased the property from William H. McNamee. Structural evidence suggests that, in the beginning, the house had a truncated hipped roof with a single asymmetrical gable projecting from the east (front) and west (rear) elevations. A portion of this bracketed gable still survives on the west elevation. Possibly between 1885-1900, the structure was repeatedly altered in order to serve as a boarding house. The present upper story with its encasing mansard or "French" roof and tower date from this period. An exterior staircase, which no longer exists, was located at the rear of the house and provided access to the second floor. The mansard roof, covered by a pressed metal cap and wooden shingles that alternate from a fish scale to a hexagonal pattern, two second story porches and a decorative tower reflect the fascination this period held for variety in materials, pattern and texture. The house remained under the ownership of the McNamees until 1900, when the house and surrounding land was purchased by Hattie J. Torbert. Again, extensive alterations were made to the house, to return it to use as a private residence. These changes included the addition of a Queen Anne-style east (front) porch with a rounded corner bay capped by a turretted roof, an interior stair in the main hall, and elaborate Victorian detailing on the interior. Replacement mantels for the first floor rooms and a spool frieze in the stair hall were also part of the alterations. The house has since been occupied by three generations of Tolberts, and is now owned by two sisters; Jean Torbert Dean and Anita Torbert Cogdell. The house became vacant in 1975 and is currently in poor repair. The owners are hopeful that a complete restoration will be possible in the future.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: FN-82
Survey number: HABS AL-892
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 87000981