City Directories and History: The sketch was made from a photo taken of the house circa 1959 shortly before it was torn down to make way for the U.S. Army Reserve Center on East Whitner Street. The palatial old house had been neglected for some time and through friends of historic preservation grieved, no way was found to keep it from going. Of magnificent proportions, it was built in the 1850’s by the distinguished James Lawrence Orr, with stately columns and classical pediment. In the cupola was a bell which was rung to alert Andersonians in times of emergency.
Having built his fine house which the Orrs called “Forest House,” James Orr found little time to enjoy it, spending most of his adult live in the service of his state and country. It was said of him that “loyal, generous and patriotic, he died a poor man, after having filled every office in the gift of his people.” A grandson of Jehu Orr, a Revolutionary soldier who had migrated to Pendleton District, and a son of Christopher Orr, he was born at Craytonville in 1822. After a fine education and admission to the S.C. Bar, he was soon elected to the state legislature and in 1849, only 26 years of age, to the U.S. Congress where he served until 1858, the last two years as Speaker of the House. He was strongly opposed to secession for sixteen years, as he feared it would ruin the South, yet when war came he stood by his own people, organizing Orr’s Rifles and was colonel of his regiment until persuaded to serve in the Confederate Congress. After the war, he was South Carolina’s first elected governor until military rule did away with the office. He was elected a judge and served until 1872 when he went to Russia as envoy extraordinary but died in St. Petersburg the next year, leaving a widow, the former Mary Jane Marshall of Abbeville, and a number of children.
In the years following, Arlington was successively the house of Oliver Hazard Perry Fant, Mr. Will Brown, his son-in-law, and Mr. M.C. Dicken, who, coming to Anderson to take charge of Chiquola Hotel, fell in love with the beautiful old place, bought it, and gave it the name “Arlington.” After painting and freshening it up, installing modern conveniences and furnishing it throughout, he continued to live at the hotel, keeping the place shut up except when he chose to entertain parties of his friends there. After a few years, Mr. Dicken returned to Virginia, his home state, and about 1900 sold Arlington to William R. Osborne. Mr. Osborne was a member of the firm of Brown, Osborne, and Co. whose establishment was on the corner where Fleishman Company had been located many years. After his death his two sisters, the Misses Irene St. Clair and Clara Osborne continued to live there until their deaths in the 1950’s. (Source: Anderson Historic Sketches by the Anderson County Tricentennial Committee, 1969)
Today, the site is the home of the main branch of the Anderson County Library System. The library was constructed to recall the grace and elegance of Arlington.
- Christopher Orr House, residence of Christopher Orr, James Orr’s father
- Little Arlington (Dr. Samuel Orr House), residence of Dr. Orr, a son of James Orr, and current home of the Anderson Women’s Club
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