EUTAW, Ala. – The contents of the Kirkwood mansion – one of the most famous and stately privately-owned antebellum homes in the South – will be auctioned on Sept. 5 by Hal Hunt Auctions, which is based in Northport, Ala. The sale will be held at the mansion itself, located at 111 Kirkwood Drive in Eutaw, under a 6,000-square-foot circus tent. The mansion will not be sold – just the contents.
But what contents they are: about 400 pieces of mint 19th-century furniture, original works of art, outstanding decorative accessories and more. Some of the pieces have been in the 8,000-square-foot mansion since it was first built in 1860 by cotton magnate Foster Mark Kirksey, who operated the property as a plantation. Mr. Kirksey’s wife, in fact, was a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln.
“This is a sale about as steeped in history and Southern tradition as you can get,” said Hal Hunt of Hal Hunt Auctions. “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 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 (estimate $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 (82 inches wide) in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern, and a nice parlor group, also in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern (two arm chairs, two side chairs).
Other Belter pieces include a pair of laminated rosewood settees, both in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern (one 62 inches wide, one 72 inches wide), a laminated rosewood meridianne in the Rosalie With Grapes pattern, a rosewood worktable (22 inches wide by 33 inches tall), and a rosewood armchair. Also offered will be a handsome Herter Brothers half commode with Greek 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 worktable and a pair of laminated rosewood side chairs in the Henry Ford pattern. And from Alexander Roux: a rosewood 2-drawer library desk, a 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 to be sold is a piece by Mitchells & Rammelsberg – not a bed, but a high-style rosewood Victorian étagère with birds.
About 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 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 (7 feet 8 inches tall), a fine mahogany Empire sideboard (60 inches wide by 44 inches tall), a primitive kitchen cupboard with Franciscan ware dinner set, a 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 Classical mahogany dresser, a Victorian slipper chair with needlepoint, an elaborate carved Victorian walnut center table, a rosewood dresser signed by Baudouine, a hard-to-find dining table (11 feet long by 5 feet wide) with 8 dining chairs, an enormous walnut library bookcase (10 feet 2 inches tall by 55 inches wide), and a mint Federal claw-footed sofa.
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 The Story of Alabama, porcelains, 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 Sept. 5. Their decision to downsize and move to a condominium in Tuscaloosa led to the decision to hold this auction.
A preview will be held the day before the sale, Sept. 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be no online bidding component, nor will phone bids be accepted. Absentee bids will be taken, however; call Hal Hunt Auctions for details, at 205-333-2517.