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Contents of Famous Alabama Antebellum Home Will Be Auctioned

by WorthPoint Staff (08/17/09).

This rosewood and bird's-eye maple tall secretary desk by Thomas Brooks, circa 1860 (estimated to sell for between $20,000 and $40,000), is part of the contents of the historic Kirkwood mansion in Eutaw, Ala., that will be auctioned off on Sept. 5.

This rosewood and bird's-eye maple tall secretary desk by Thomas Brooks, circa 1860 (estimated to sell for between $20,000 and $40,000), is part of the contents of the historic Kirkwood mansion in Eutaw, Ala., that will be auctioned off on Sept. 5.

EUTAW, Ala. – The contents of the Kirkwood mansion – one of the most famous and stately privately-owned antebellum homes in the South – including some 400 pieces of mint 19th-century furniture, original works of art, outstanding decorative accessories and more, will be auctioned in Early September.

The mansion was built in 1860 by cotton magnate Foster Mark Kirksey, who operated the property as a plantation. Kirksey’s wife, in fact, was a relative of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. The auction will be held on the Kirkwood mansion grounds under a 6,000-square-foot circus tent.

“This is a sale about as steeped in history and Southern tradition as you can get,” said Hal Hunt, of Hal Hunt Auctions, which will facilitate the Sept. 5 event. “The caliber of the pieces, which are museum-quality, the size of the collection—the whole package is there. We expect a sizeable crowd from the immediate area because of the local interest this will generate, but we expect the truly serious buyers to pour in from around the country.”

Pieces that were literally part of the original décor of the house when it was occupied by the Kirkseys include a rosewood and bird’s-eye maple tall secretary desk by Thomas Brooks, shipped from New York to Mobile and then put on a riverboat to Eutaw (est. $20,000-$40,000), an 1860s biscuit stand, a rosewood armoire, a huge rosewood cylinder desk, a period hall light and portrait oil paintings.

Belter furniture, coveted by collectors, will abound in the sale. Examples include a pair of laminated rosewood sided chairs in the Henry Clay pattern, a laminated rosewood side chair in the Fountain Elms pattern, a large laminated rosewood sofa in the Rosalie with Grapes pattern, and a nice parlor group, also in the Rosalie with Grapes pattern (two arm chairs, two side chairs).

A monumental, oversize half tester bed, signed by C. Lee, which stands 10 feet tall, will go on the block.

A monumental, oversize half tester bed, signed by C. Lee, which stands 10 feet tall, will go on the block.

Other Belter pieces include a pair of laminated rosewood settees, both in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern, a laminated rosewood meridianne in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern, a rosewood work table, and a rosewood arm chair. Also offered will be a handsome Herter Brothers half commode with Greek and key design.

Another outstanding 19th-century furniture maker—J. & J.W. Meeks—will also be represented. Examples include a rosewood laminated slipper sofa, an important labeled Empire work table and a pair of laminated rosewood side chairs in the Henry Ford pattern. And from Alexander Roux: a rosewood two-drawer library desk, a great rosewood center table with figural carvings and a rosewood half commode.

Paddles will be wagging for the fine selection of beds to be sold. These include an original oversized half tester bed signed by C. Lee (10 feet tall), a queen-size rosewood half tester bed (10 feet, 3 inches tall), an Empire sleigh bed from the 1840s, and an early 1850s Victorian bed. Also sold will be a piece by Mitchells & Rammelsberg—not a bed, but a high-style rosewood Victorian étagère with birds.

This original 1863 oil portrait, signed by the artist Nicola Marschall, who designed the first Confederate flag and uniform, will be up for auciton.

This original 1863 oil portrait, signed by the artist Nicola Marschall, who designed the first Confederate flag and uniform, will be up for auciton.

Some 30 original oil paintings will be offered, many of them portrait pieces. Included will be an 1863 signed portrait by Nicola Marschall (who designed the first Confederate flag and Confederate uniform), plus works by Louisiana artist John Genin, a signed and dated (1857) work by German artist B. Fischer, folk art by Alabama artist Earnest Williams, and a work attributed to painter Sevrin Rosen.

Other works of art include a portrait signed by V. Montgomery, a portrait attributed to Kentucky painter William Edward West, and a landscape rendering signed and dated (1952) by Essie Hardcastle Ackerman of Jasper, Ala. Decorative accessories include a Limoges punch bowl, a pair of Mossier powder dishes, a Wavecrest jewelry box, and an International sterling service in the Wildrose pattern.

Returning to period furniture, featured lots will include a rare mint original Classical stenciled armoire, a fine mahogany Empire sideboard, a primitive kitchen cupboard with Franciscan ware dinner set, a gorgeous stenciled acanthus carved game table, a pair of similar matched Empire mint julep cabinets and a Sheraton desk and mahogany desk.

Other furniture pieces include a rare Classical mahogany dresser, a nice Victorian slipper chair with needlepoint, an elaborate carved Victorian walnut center table, a rosewood dresser signed by Baudouine, a hard-to-find dining table with eight dining chairs, an enormous walnut library bookcase, and a mint Federal claw-footed sofa.

Decorative accessories, such as this Limoges punch bowl, will be among the 40o lots at the Kirkwood mansion auction.

Decorative accessories, such as this Limoges punch bowl, will be among the 400 lots at the Kirkwood mansion auction.

Rounding out the expected top lots: a gold gilt over-the-mantel mirror, two gold gilt Pier mirrors, a Wurlitzer grand piano, a cast iron cannon, a framed antique map of Alabama, a five-volume set of books by Marie Bankhead Owen titled “”, rugs, chandeliers and other items. Winning bidders will be pleased to know that nationwide delivery for all items will be available.

Until recently, the Kirkwood mansion was owned by Al and Danky Blanton. The couple had lived in the building since 2001, acquiring many of the antiques that will be sold next month. They even gave tours of the house while they lived there, to about 3,000-5,000 visitors a year, for a small fee. Their decision to downsize and move to a condominium in Tuscaloosa led to the decision to hold this auction.

The new owners of Kirkwood—a couple from Atlanta—also own another antebellum home in Eutaw called Freemount. They have said they plan to move most of their collection of antiques from Freemount to Kirkwood after the auction is over. They also plan to give tours of Kirkwood, like the Blantons did before them, but have not decided on a time frame for that—possibly after Thanksgiving.

A preview will be held the day before the sale, and while there will be no online bidding component, nor will phone bids be accepted, absentee bids will be taken. For more information about the Kirkwood auction, you can contact Hal Hunt Auctions at (205) 333-2517 or via e-mail at halhunt@bellsouth.net.

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