Thankfully I had my trusty historical homes guides or I would not have known about this place. I didn’t see it listed in any visitor’s guides. It is a shame as this place is certainly not to be missed.
Arlington was the home of Judge William S. Mudd. Mudd went on to become one of the founding fathers of Birmingham. The exact date when the house was built remains unclear. But it is believed that the judge had the house built around 1822 but later expanded it to what you see today around 1842. When it was first built the design was strictly Greek Revival but later additions added Colonial Revival touches to the home.
The home originally sat on 80 acres of land and was then in a city known as Elyton. The judge, his wife, and nine children enjoyed life here at "The Grove" (the original name of Arlington). In 1871 a new city was started 3 miles east of Elyton and the founders named it Birmingham after yes, Birmingham England. It was hoped that like its name sake it would also become a steel producing entity. Birmingham lived up to its name sake and due to an explosion of growth in the 1880s it was known as "The Magic City". In 1886 Franklin H. Whitney of Iowa purchased the home. He divided the property into several lots and named it "Arlington Survey" and the Arlington stayed.
During the Civil War the home was used by Yankee (i.e. Union to be P.C. to our northern neighbors) General James Wilson as his headquarters. It was here that Wilson ordered the burning of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and to destroy the local iron furnaces.
Like many southern homes, Arlington went through a secession of owners. The last owner was Texan Robert S. Munger. It was Munger who restored the house and added the Colonial Revival touches to the home. This was used as the family’s summer home until 1924 when they moved in permanently.
In 1953 a local group of citizens started acquiring the funds to purchase the house and restore it to its antebellum splendor. The city matched their funds and the home was purchased to be used for a house museum.
Today visitors will be enchanted with this spectacular home. The home is noted for its collection southern made pieces as its decorative arts collection. They also have an impressive collection of silver, textiles, and art. Most of the pieces are not original to the family but are of the time period.
After touring the home you can enjoy several out buildings on the property, the gardens, and the lawn. They do have a gift shop on the premises and restrooms. Due to the nature of the home it is not handicapped accessible. They host a number of events during the year including holiday celebrations and summer lunches on Thursday in the historic garden room. The home does offer rentals for your next big affair and you can get married on the lawn here. How Scarlet O’Hara is that?
Normally you are given a guided tour of the home. When I arrived at 10am on the dot this Friday morning, they seemed shocked to see me. I am assuming people don’t start arriving until later in the off season (I was here the first of March). I paid for my ticket and was given instructions to go to the front of the house and knock and the security guard would let me in. When I arrived the security guard, who looked an awful lot like actor Thom Barry (Will Jeffries on CSB’S Cold Case ) let me in. The home is just delightful. The rooms are beautifully decorated to give you an idea of how the richer half lived in the pre-civil war South. Normally it takes you about 45 minutes to see the home. But I only spent a total of about 45 minutes total. I hate I didn’t get a guided tour, but maybe some other time. I was just happy to visit this amazing beauty.
Tuesday-Saturday 10am to 4pm
Sunday 1pm until 4pm
As always these are the best guide for southern mansion hunting:
Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Homes of the South by of course Bob Vila . It is an older book so you need to get it from a used book shop or Amazon.
Marvelous Old Mansions by Sylvia Higginbotham. You can purchase the book from your favorite store or directly at www.blairpub.com.
Now I must warn you, if you are driving in from downtown Birmingham, you will not be driving through the best neighborhood around. But don’t let that scare you off. Once you pull into the street and see this glorious mansion sitting ever so gracefully on the hill, you know all is right with the world. This is a must stop when in Birmingham.
Very highly recommended