Historic Structures

Robinson House - Quietdale, Huntsville Alabama

The house was erected for Mrs. Caroline Moore Robinson, widow of Madison County sheriff William (Black Bill) Robinson. A Virginia-born planter and speculator, Robinson had accumulated vast landholdings in Alabama and Mississippi by the time of his death in 1852, at the premature age of forty-four. Documentary evidence hints that the noted Huntsville architect George Steele or his son, Matthew W. Steele, may be responsible for the design and construction of Quietdale. The younger Steele, though never to achieve a reputation comparable to that of his father, intermittently practiced as an architect in Huntsville during the 1850s. George Steele himself died in the fall of 1854. But a note among his estate papers refers to a debt of $1131.66 due from the Estate of Wm Robinson for the bal[ance] of work furnished by M.W.S. Executor, payable on January 1, 1856. Certainly the original plan of the house followed George Steele's predilection for separating the formal interior spaces from the more intimate family living area Thus a forty-two foot long drawingroom suite lay to the right of an entrance vertibule; to the left was a series of smaller and more informally disposed rooms extending into a rear ell. Directly behind the foyer, two stairhalls with parallel stairways led to completely separate bedroom suites on the upper floor. Why the upper floor was partitioned is not entirely clear: whether to isolate the guest chambers, or in deference to the custom observed in far more primitive Alabama houses of the period, of carefully separating the boys' and girls' sleeping quarters.


Kildare Mansion - McCormick House, Huntsville Alabama

Kildare's builder Michael O'Shaughnessy was a northern capitalist who, with his brother James, was looking for investment and development situations in the South during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. They settled on Huntsville, a town of 5,000 persons that had never revived following the Civil War, where they built and purchased homes and began buying large tracts of land and buildings. It was through the O'Shaughnessy's influence that additional wealthy outsiders were attracted to Huntsville as a town with great development potential. It was this group of northern investors and self-styled town builders, associated with prominent local businessmen, that provided the money, the connections, and the know-how to package and sell Huntsville as an industrial and resort site. Before the O'Shaughnessys moved on, they were chiefly responsible for the creation of Dallas Manufacturing Company and of East Huntsville Addition (a major suburb), the construction of the resort facility called Monte Sano Hotel, the refurbishing of the Huntsville Hotel, and the establishment of a large cotton seed oil plant. However, many of their colleagues remained in Huntsville and continued to establish or attract additional cotton textile mills and various other smaller industries, which created the economic basis for the town's postbellum recovery. The second owner of Kildare, Mary Virginia McCormick, was the daughter of Cyrus Hall McCormick of reaper fame. Although she spent only a few months in Huntsville each year, if at all, she was responsible for much philanthropic work in the town. She took a particular interest in the living conditions of the several mill villages that had grown up around the town (as a result of the O'Shaughnessy's initial efforts) and coerced the mill directors into providing better health care and recreation facilities for the operatives by offering matching funds for settlement houses and YMCA's.


Angels Flight Cable Railway, Los Angeles California

The property was first constructed in 1901 to provide efficient transportation between the city's commercial core and the top of Bunker Hill. New cars were constructed in 1905. A new station house, designed by noted Los Angeles architects Train & Williams, and an entrance arch were added in 1910. The period of significance begins in 1905 and ends circa 1945. The Flight operated continuously until 1969 when it was dismantled and stored as part of an urban renewal program. Twenty-five years later, the original elements of Angels Flight was removed from storage, rehabilitated, and reinstalled within the same city block slightly south of and parallel to its original location on the hill. Angels Flight operates in its historic function, carrying passengers up and down Bunker Hill's steep eastern slope in downtown Los Angeles. One of only six incline railways still extant and operating in the United States, Angels Flight represents a now extremely rare property type. The incline railway was originally developed to serve two different needs: industrial and passenger. According to incline railway historian Donald Duke, The first known incline railway in the United States was constructed in 1762, at Lewiston, New York. It was used to haul merchandise up and down the Niagara escarpment, near what is now the border between the United States and Canada. The application of cable rail technology to incline rails spurred their greatest period of construction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with most constructed between 1880 and 1910.


Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills California

As the first major hotel to be constructed in the rapidly growing community of Beverly Hills since 1912, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel is representative of the quality of commercial architecture built in the city during its prime period of development. Associated with one of the city's most influential citizens, the hotel was constructed in 1927 for Walter G. McCarty, a real estate developer who once owned a quarter of the city, and was designed by the eminent Southern California architectural firm of Walker and Eisen in the Second Renaissance Revival style. The structure is the most prominent example of this noted firm's work in Beverly Hills. It was one of the first major buildings to be constructed on Wilshire Boulevard, and acted as an anchor for that street's commercial development. From its inception, the hotel has catered to many notables, including film stars, wealLthy business and social luminaries, and visiting royalty. Walter G. McCarty, the founder of the establishment, was instrumental in the development of the southern half of Beverly Hills. To draw attention to the tracts of residential homesites he controlled and to demonstrate his faith in the community's potential for growth and as a desirable destination, he commissioned the firm of Walker and Eisen to create a nine story hostelry on Wilshire Boulevard in the center of the city. Percy Eisen and Albert Walker were among the premier architectural firms in the area. Particularly renowned for their traditional Second Renaissance Revival designs, the pair had been in partnership for eight years when the hotel was commissioned, and would continue until 1941, during that time providing to Los Angeles and its environs buildings of exceptional merit. The Beverly Wilshire is the most famous of their work in hotel design; others in the area are the Hollywood Plaza, the Gaylord Apartment Hotel, and the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego. Significant examples of their commercial work include the California Lutheran Hospital; the Taft Building in Hollywood; Security Title Insurance, Fine Arts/Signal Oil, and California Fruit Growers Exchange in Los Angeles; Bay Cities Guaranty in Santa Monica; and the City Hall, Civic Auditorium, Public Library, and Police Station in Torrance, California. Both Walker and Eisen were natives of California. Percy Eisen gained his training in the office of his father, Theodore; Albert Walker trained at Brown University in Rhode Island before working in the offices of prominent Southern California architects Parkinson and Bergstrum, A.F. Rosenheim, and Hunt and Grey. By 1924, the firm of Walker and Eisen were obtaining a large percentage of the contracts for height-limit buildings in the Los Angeles area, employing over fifty draftsmen. The Beverly Wilshire is a prime example of their work in the area of housing for the tourist trade, an apartment-hotel which provided for all the amenities wealthy travellers had come to expect from a resort facility, yet also contained provisions for extended stays and the privacy of a residence. The conservative design represented a combination of traditional styles, yet a continuity was achieved through the architects' use of well-proportioned spaces and the judicious use of decorative elements. The Beaux Arts tradition appealed to owner McCarty, who imported the finest materials from Europe, including Carrara marble, for use in the execution of Walker and Eisen's design. The design of the hotel exhibits a number of the characteristics associated with the style, including the tripartite composition of the facade, its street level arcade, classical embellishment, and use of terra cotta. The construction was supervised by the William Simpson Company. Interior decoration was done by noted muralist and designer Anthony B. Heinsbergen. Furnishings were from Barker Brothers, a Southern California furniture dealer who dominated the market in the 1920s.


New Albany Hotel, Albany Georgia

The New Albany Hotel was one of two major hotels built in Albany during the 1920's. By this time Albany had become the hub of railroad transportation in southwest Georgia, serviced by seven rail lines and over thirty-five trains daily. It was a regional trade center, and these first-class hotels were built to accommodate the tourists, business people and traveling salespeople whose presence in town was stimulated by the railroads. The hotel was a major downtown commercial venture. It was completed in 1925 shortly after the elegant Hotel Gordon opened nearby on Pine Avenue, next to the county courthouse. A hotel had been located on the New Albany Hotel site since before 1886. The owners of the then wood frame New Albany Hotel, spurred on by the competition, determined to build an equally modern and elegant facility. The westerm portion of the old hotel was torn down (the eastern portion remained standing, adjacent to the present building, for many years) and was replaced with the new structure. It featured tubs and shower baths, telephones in every room, hot and cold water and the finest furnishings and other modern conveniences. The hotel also housed several local businesses including offices, shops and restaurants. The cost of the building, $425,000, was the largest amount issued in an Albany building permit during 1925. The hotel was an instant success. With its large restaurant and ballroom it bacame an important center of social life in Albany during the 1920's and 1930's. Sunday dinner in its dining room was an Albany tradition for many years while it remained an elegant hostelry.

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