Historic Structures

Kenworthy Hall - Carlisle-Martin House, Marion Alabama

Date added: March 30, 2018 Categories: Alabama House Mansion Plantations & Farms

In February of 1858, Edward Kenworthy Carlisle acquired 200 acres, encompassing the gentle rise between two small creeks, with a fresh natural spring at the base of the hill. Many of his relatives owned land and lived in plantation houses in the area, and since 1843 Carlisle had lived in a one-story brick dwelling on land that he purchased, located in the neighboring section of the township. After that date he slowly began to acquire lands around the present site of Kenworthy Hall, eventually amassing approximately 440 acres by the time he deeded the property to his wife in 1867. Carlisle wrote his first letter to Richard Upjohn on May 4th, 1858, inquiring about ideas and terms for designing a country house. Carlisle saw an image of his future house, however, in mid-March of the same year, when his brother-in-law, Leonidas N. Walthall, shared the Richard Upjohn design he chose not to build and suggested it as a possible design for Carlisle. Walthall was so well pleased with Upjohn's services and gentlemanly manner that he apparently tried to encourage many of his neighbors to engage R. Upjohn & Co. as their architect. "I have a friend who is preparing to build a house," Walthall wrote in March, 1858. "I think the design No. 2 which you sent me would suit him exactly."

The correspondence shows that the official planning stages for the house took place from May, 1858 until into early 1859, when letters continued to discuss details about the villa's design even as supplies began to arrive the long route from New York to Carlisle's building site near Marion. On September 1st, 1858, Carlisle expressed his concern at not yet finding a builder for his house so late in the year and estimated when each stage might be completed. "But now late in the season and not more than the foundations can be done before the fall and winter rains commence," he wrote. "So the brick work will be mostly put up next spring and the early part of the summer," he calculated, "but all this depends on the contract when one [is] made." By November 4th he had engaged a builder and wrote to Upjohn that "the foundation now laid off and work to commence," marking the official beginning of Kenworthy Hall's construction. The available Carlisle to Upjohn correspondence ends abruptly in December, 1859, but letters exchanged between Robert Jemison, building an Italianate villa in Tuscaloosa designed by John Stewart, formerly of the Philadelphia architectural firm of Sloan and Stewart, and Philip Bond, a master brick mason who supervised the brickwork for Kenworthy Hall, shows that Bond expected to complete his work in Marion by early June, 1860. The house's design, construction, and convenience characteristics also reflect the era in which it was built, including gas lighting, massive newel posts, and circular sawn exposed timbers in the attic.