The Carlen House and Murphy High School's history go hand in hand. The Carlen House was originally home to the Carlen family who owned and operated a farm that occupied the land where Murphy High School currently stands. The house, built in 1843, is the prime example of a classic gulf coast creole style. In past years the house has served as a city museum, art studio for Murphy High School students, and has been vacant for several years.
Beginning in October 2007, the Murphy Alumni Association began negotiating with Mobile County Public Schools for a long-term lease of the Carlen House. It took until March of 2015 to come to an agreement with the Mobile County Public School System for a long term lease. The Alumni Association currently holds a 20-year lease on the house with an option for another 20-year renewal.
Just days after the lease was finalized, the alumni association began a $25,000 restoration project on the exterior of the building. Both front and rear galleries (porches) were completely re-decked and some minor structural problems were repaired. For a house that is 172 years old, it is in remarkably good shape, structurally speaking. Multiple window panes were replaced and re-glazed; siding replaced; and the entire house was given several coats of fresh paint. Unfortunately during the tornado, we lost the (not quite) original gas lamp that stood guard in front of the Carlen House. However, James Dennis of Charleston Lighting in Mobile was happy to donate a new, handmade lamp with the purchase of new lamps for the front and rear porches.
The next phase of restoration will begin soon on the interior of the building. Luckily the electrical system is in good shape, but the restroom needs to be completely replaced. The first step will be to install new HVAC for the first and second floors. For a structure that has never had central heat or air, this will be an expensive endeavor. The next step will be to repair the many holes in the interior drywall and complete a light refinishing of the original pines floors.
Once renovations and restoration of the house are completed, the Murphy Alumni Association plans to locate its offices and board meeting room upstairs while maintaining the first floor as a museum, reception area, and archives for Murphy High School.
We will keep you updated both online and in our upcoming newsletters as to the Carlen House progress.