Orange Beach Wharf, 1928

Turn back time and peek into Orange Beach history with this photo of swimmers from 1928.

Black and white photo of people swimming by a wharf in Orange Beach
Photo courtesy Doris Rich Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

At the time this photograph was taken, Orange Beach was little more than an outpost for the timber and turpentine industries. Shown here is the old Orange Beach Wharf on Bay La Launch, near the present-day Coastal Arts Center. This property was purchased in 1908 by a man named D. R. Peteet, who would go on to build a shingle mill. Pictured above are some buildings Peteet constructed to support his operation, including an office, a commissary store and camphouse for his workers (who are likely the ones pictured swimming with their families). The rails along the wharf were used to cart supplies into the store from schooners making deliveries. The young boy on the wharf is Clifford Callaway, whose grandfather James C. Callaway was one of the community’s earliest settlers.

“Early in the 1900s, there were many farmers along the shores of Wolf Bay, Bay St. John, Bay La Launch and Terry’s Cove. Strawberries and oranges were the most commonly grown fruits. It is told that one 12-year-old tree bore 2,000 sweet oranges in one season.”

Excerpt from the book “The Best Place to Be: The Story of Orange Beach, Alabama” by Margaret Childress Long with Michael D. Shipler

Orange Beach Timeline

1901: The area’s first post office opens in the home of Lemuel Walker Sr., who also planted the area’s first orange groves (hence the town name). 

1910: The Intracoastal Waterway expands into the area, cutting off most of Orange Beach from the mainland.

1926: The last of a series of hard freezes effectively ends the local citrus industry. 

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1947: First paved road to the town is completed.

1948: Electrical service established.

1979: Hurricane Frederic wreaks havoc on the area, but redevelopment sparks tremendous growth.

1984: Town of Orange Beach incorporates.

By the Numbers

30 Top speed, in miles per hour, of the school bus that, in 1930, began shuttling many of the above children to school in Foley.

3,254 Acres of Orange Beach land purchased by D. R. Peteet in 1908. Peteet’s shingle mill, and the settlement that blossomed around it, would evolve into the city of Orange Beach.  

15.9 The total area, in square miles, that comprises present-day Orange Beach. Water makes up 1.2 square miles of that total.

101 Orange Beach’s statewide rank in population. At the height of the summer, however, the beach community becomes Alabama’s fifth largest city.  

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