The Ordeman-Shaw House, on its original site, opened to the public in 1971 after three years of restoration. A guided tour of the site features the townhouse, kitchen/enslaved quarters, laundry, storage rooms, necessaries, barn, and carriage house.
This house was built in the early 1850s under the direction of Charles Ordeman, a German-born architect. Ordeman came south with his wife Sarah, and in November 1850, they set up housekeeping in the cottage at 220 North Hull Street while Charles began designing and building the structures around town as well as this townhouse for himself.
The house itself is of an unusual design representing the Italianate school of design. The interior features fourteen-foot ceilings on the top two floors with large windows for air circulation; together these equal 19th century air conditioning and the house would be relatively comfortable in the summer.
The outside walls of the house are constructed of brick eighteen inches thick. Red clay bricks were much more abundant in central Alabama than stone blocks. These bricks were covered with rough plaster, and the plaster was scored to give the appearance of tooled stone.
Although a well-designed and attractive house, the Ordemans ran out of money because of unwise investments and lost the house before they could occupy it.
After going through several investors, on August 24th of 1854 the house was sold for $3,200.00 to the Mitchell family, cotton planters from Mount Meigs ten miles east of Montgomery. The Mitchells arrived as a family of four—Julius Caesar Bonaparte Mitchell, his wife Rebecca Ellen Murdock Mitchell, a son Murdock, and a daughter Posey. The Mitchells lived in the Ordeman House shuttling back and forth to the plantation for four years. They then returned to the country full-time, selling the house to Erastus Jones, a wealthy physician and pharmacist from Tuskegee, for $4000. Several other families owned the house until it was sold to the Shaw family in 1905. Landmarks Foundation acquired the property in 1968 from Miss Maude Shaw.
The Ordeman House is furnished much as it would have been during the Mitchells’ tenure in the late 1850s with furnishings and other artifacts that depict how life was in central Alabama in the mid-19th century. Little documentation exists on the enslaved at the OMS Complex. However, the size of the structures insinuates a fairly large household. Current information refers to an unspecified number of enslaved peoples owned by Julius Mitchell on his two plantations Bright Spot and Idolwilde, located in eastern Montgomery County. Eleven individuals are documented in the Mitchell-Murdock Prenuptial Agreement (1846) as enslaved by Sarah Murdock.