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Living Block

Shotgun House circa 1880s

Historical Significance

This Shotgun originally stood just two blocks east of Old Alabama Town on Bainbridge Street near the Capitol. It was built in the 1880s, purchased by Willis Willingham and rented very soon afterward by Grant and Vinie Fitzpatrick. Grant worked for the railroad, a cotton seed oil mill, and an ice plant and Vinie was a washwoman, a very common occupation of the day. Other than their occupations we know very little about the Fitzpatricks except that Vinie is buried at nearby Oakwood Cemetery.

The artifacts represent the time when the Fitzpatricks lived in the house, including the newspaper on the wall, which kept the cold air out during the winter.

Architectural Significance

Anthropologists believed that this style of house originated in Nigeria and was brought to Haiti by slaves. Haitian immigrants introduced the shotgun house style to the U.S. around the end of the 18th century and many were built in the South in the mid to late 1800s.  After the Civil War, many freed slaves moved to cities to find jobs and this created a housing shortage. Because these shotgun houses offered a sensible, economic solution, many were built in Montgomery. This style of house fit nicely on long, narrow city lots, whose price was determined by their lot frontage. Rooms could easily be added to the back of the house as the family grew so these long, narrow houses had rooms one behind the other. The most popular version of how it came to be called a shotgun is that if someone fired a shotgun through the front door, the bullet would pass through every room in the house and out the back without hitting a wall.

Landmarks Foundation, with the help of the Black Culture Preservation Committee, moved, restored, and furnished this piece of Montgomery history in 1977.