Montevallo Businessman and Entrepreneur, George Kroell
We have encountered George Kroell (most often pronounced "kuh-rell") in previous installments of Throwback Thursday as the prominent Montevallo citizen and businessman who built the elaborate Victorian “Owl’s Cove” house on Main Street around 1900. He was a native Austrian who immigrated to the United States in 1866 at the age of 23. By 1867 he had made his way from more northern states to Alabama with nothing more than a sack on his back. He settled in Aldrich where he met and married Miss Mary Jennett who came with her family to Alabama from Ireland as a small child. Shortly after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Kroell moved to Montevallo, where they lived and worked together until Mrs. Kroell’s death in 1916. They raised a family of three sons and two daughters.
Mr. Kroell proceeded to establish himself with interests in mining, as well as a general mercantile and livery stable business, and later a hotel. Much that happened to the Main Street block between Vine and North Boundary streets in the 20th century was a result of the impact of George Kroell and his various enterprises, so this week we take a look at the primary business and structures that enabled Mr. Kroell to ultimately build what was later described as “the leading business for many miles throughout the neighboring country.”
George Kroell built an imposing brick store building on the land where the Subway sandwich shop is currently located. The adjacent property where McDonalds is today was home to the livery stable, “for hire” wagons and carriages, and a full-service blacksmith shop. His sons Frank and John handled the livery and transportation portions of the business while son, P. J. “Pat” Kroell was a key assistant to his father in the dry goods and grocery business.
In 1897, George Kroell built and opened the “St. George Hotel” directly across Main Street from his base of operations in the brick store building. We’ll focus on the hotel in an upcoming installment.
At the time of his death in 1925, the following is how George Kroell was described by a correspondent for the Birmingham News:
“His was a loyal nature, true to his God (he was Catholic, a rarity in Montevallo at the time) and true to his friends. His daily life was filled with acts of thoughtful kindness, charities of which the outside world knew little.” Although 83 years old at the time of his death, Mr. Kroell was seen daily in his store and on the streets of Montevallo, with a cheery word for everybody, and eager to take an active part in any civic movement. He was the oldest member of the Montevallo Exchange Club.” Another account stated that at the time of his death, “he was probably Montevallo’s most highly esteemed citizen.”
Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!