Historic Structures

Kildare Mansion - McCormick House, Huntsville Alabama

Date added: August 16, 2019 Categories: Alabama House Mansion

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.

Dorothea Snow, who grew up in Huntsville in the early days of the twentieth century, reminisced in 1980 about her childhood and wrote: "Another of our diversions was walking out into the country, now the corner of Oakwood and Meridian, and gazing in awe through the iron fence that surrounded the fabled and fabulous McCormick mansion and the deer that cavorted on its lush green grounds. To us, it was like gazing upon a real life fairyland castle and we never tired of it. We never, however, laid our eyes on its princess, Miss Virginia McCormick, descendant of the agricultural implement magnate Cyrus McCormick."