Kildare Mansion
Major Michael O’Shaughnessy moved his wife, Anna, and their five children to Huntsville in about 1882. They moved from a lovely home in Nashville, Vauxhall Gardens, that had originally belonged to Colonel Nicholas Hobson, Mrs. O’Shaughnessy’s grandfather.

Kildare, one of the finest new homes built in Huntsville was begun in 1882 and completed in 1886. The building techniques of the New York crew were extremely innovative and admired by many of the local workmen who often came to watch the construction. The Queen Anne architecture is one of the most popular styles of the Victorian era. The hallmark of the Queen Anne style is an irregular roofline and turrets. The Queen Anne style of home utilized contrasts in shapes, textures, and colors. It may utilize brick, shingles, and stone on the same house. They also used carved and relief decorations and large porches and verandahs. In 1889 the graceful hostess and gallant husband entertained at a brilliant reception, and the house was lighted by gas from basement to garret. As an article in the local newspaper the Independent stated in 1890 (misspelling and all);

“Perhaps as fine a home as a gentleman of culture and artistic taste could desire is the home of Major M. J. O’Shaughnessy in the suburbs of Huntsville. The floors, casements, stairways, moldings and wood finishings of the house are of native wood that the major has picked during the past eight years and the sawings, dressings and mouldings are of his own designs and under his personal supervision. In the forty rooms, each is furnished in exquisite taste, and the native hardwood Alabama timber of different grains and kind. It is impossible to enter into elaborate detail, but all of the modern improvements, with many original ideas of the proprietor unite in making it a unique, comfortable and magnificent home. In the basement are the breakfast rooms, pantry, kitchen, boiler room, smoking room, etc.; solid oak and walnut doors, floors, ceilings, etc. On the first floor are parlors finished in ebony and gold and also with white and gold; another room is a symphony in brown. The ceiling decorations of hand painting, the stained glass of special shades and harmony, all unite in the arrangement in the arrangements to add pleasure to all the senses. The upper floor is conveniently arranged in bedrooms, billiard rooms and observatories."

Major O’Shaughnessy is a gentleman of culture and an artist. He has gathered some rare gems of ancients pottery and bric-a-brac. Around through the house are rare Japanese screens, plaques of enamel and gold, immense Chinese bowls, Hungarian vases, rare rugs, candelabra, and incense burner of the Fifteenth century and all that a refined taste could revel in abounds throughout the house.
The massiveness of the house represents an ancient castle, and from its windows at any point is presented a pleasing landscape view. The major has a pack of English greyhounds, and as foxes and deer are in the neighboring mountains, it is grand sport over brush and brier, heath and cope in the wake of the hounds.

The three story house called Kildare was built at a cost of $65,000 in the Queen Ann revival style that was extremely popular in Victorian times and sat on 75 acres. The house has about 40 rooms and encompassed approximately 17,000 square feet (including the English Basement). The drive-thru entrance porte-cochere arches at the front of the house are in the style of Richardson Romanesque after the work of the famous Chicago architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The home was originally called Kildare after the birth county of Michael O’Shaughnessy’s mother in Ireland.

In 1900 Mr. O’Shaughnessy had lost his sight, and his wife Anna sold Kildare to the trust fund established for Mary Virginia McCormick who inherited a multi million dollar fortune from her father Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the Reaper. Mary Virginia because of her unstable mental state was supported by a large staff under the guidance of Grace Walker. Although Mary Virginia only resided at Kildare for the spring and early summer, the acts of benevolence that flowed outwards to local people, churches and to Alabama A & M University were the greatest ever known in Madison County. In 1932, as Mary Virginia no longer used the mansion, it was sold by the trust fund.

Between 1932 and 1975 the mansion entered a period of decline during which the gardens were sold off and several businesses of lesser and lesser quality that included a hotel and a beauty parlor were situated there. In total nine different people or institutions owned the property for various periods, some very short. By 1975 the house was in a terrible decline and during a period when the house was unoccupied many of the furnishings, mantels, stained glass windows and such were stolen by those who thought the house would be torn down. After it’s purchase in 1975 the house was lovingly restored by the tireless work of Mr. and Mrs. James Reeves. The house again fell into foreclosure and the state of the future of this house in unknown.

The daylight basement and first floor exterior walls of Kildare are of ashlar limestone; the second and third stories -- except for the circular tower and rectangular bay are of concrete surfaced with river pebbles and divided into panels by stickwork. The steep roof of irregular outline is covered with patterned slate and broken by dormers. The deep eaves are supported on decorative wooden T-shaped brackets. The massive brick chimneys are paneled on each face and taper to the top. The windows exhibit a great variety in size, shape and placement. Those on the first floor display stained and/or leaded transoms, while the upper sashes on the second story are edged with small square panes and those on the third story have upper sashes composed entirely of small panes. 1st Floor Layout Brickwork is used as quoins and to surround the first story windows, while decorative terra cotta appears on the front porch, in the gable of the rectangular front bay, and above the rear basement service entrance. On the first floor interior, the Great Stairhall with fireplace runs from the front entry to the Dining Room on the back of the house, which is entered through a door flanked by leaded glass side and toplights On the south of the entry hall is a ballroom that extends the full depth of the house and has a circular bay on the west et and a rectangular bay on the east end. Double parlors lie on the other side of the Hal. The wing on the northwest contains a library, breakfast room, pantry, and service stairs. Most of the wood in the Great Stairhall Foyer is walnut. The walnut double front doors are raised panel and have leaded and beveled glass in and above the door. There is wainscoting with raised panels below all around the room and up the Grand Staircase. Many of the electrical switches are the old push button style. There is a fireplace located at the west end of the Foyer. The fireplace surround has a ceramic tile surround with decorative tiles and figured brass surrounding the firebox. The paneled mantle has a beveled mirror above the fireplace and a carved lions head in the center of the mantel. The only major addition to the house was made by Virginia McCormick when she added the Conservatory for plants just off the Ball Room.
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