The Kirkwood Plantation Home is a four-story Greek revival style that was built between 1857 and 1860.
Located in Eutaw Alabama, it is one of the 10 Alabama Surviving Plantations, and as such, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1976.
The main reason for the listing was because of its architectural beauty and significance.
Eutaw Alabama is in Green County and is about 79 miles west of Selma on old US highway 14.
It also sets just 30 minutes south of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
Because of its location, it makes it one of the Alabama backroads best day trips.
The building was commissioned by Foster Mark Kirksey in the year 1857, and was officially finished in the year 1860.
At the time that it was finished, it was one of some fifty antebellum (pre-civil war) homes that belonged to only the very wealthy planters or farmers.
Kirksey was a cotton merchant who also owned a lot of land located on the Black Warrior River.
Throughout the years this magnificent 8,000 square foot home has passed through the hands of several families, some who maintained it and some who did not.
However, that is not its only distinction, as it has also served several purposes as well.
It has severed as a housing structure for Union soldiers during the war, a Bed and Breakfast for Southern Belles, as well as the major setting for a movie.
While the main town square of Eutaw today is virtually a ghost town, back in the 1850’s and 1860’s it was thriving.
The town back then served as a social scene for several parties as well as the perfect place to take long, quiet, and safe walks.
In December of the year 1852, Mr. Kirksey purchased forty acres from Henry Thornton, for a staggering $ 1,000.00 at the time.
His long-time wife, Jane, however, would never be able to call it home, as she tragically died just as the construction was beginning.
Because of this, Mr. Kirksey put all of his spare time and everything he had into building the Kirkwood Plantation Home.
He had made the decision not to spare any expense and he went as far as to have one of his mantels actually carved in Italy.
However, sadly, he was never able to see his prize possession finished the way that he wanted.
While Eutaw and Green County overall was spared from any real action during the Civil War, the finishing of the home was not.
Just as it was about to have the finishing touches put on it, Union troops stopped the last few deliveries of all goods into the town.
Included in the delivers that never made it were crystal chandeliers as well as cast iron balcony railing.
These missing railing would prove to be tragic several years later.
About 20 years after the death of his wife he remarried to Margaretta Liston, and their youngest daughter, who was confined to a wheelchair, rolled off the balcony.
The fall killed her instantly.
In one of the biggest mistakes he would ever make, Mr. Kirksey never finished putting railing on the balcony.
However, this was not the only affect the war had on the Kirkwood Plantation Home, as Union troops took command of it during the last few years of the war.
The magnificent mansion remarkably stayed in the Kirksey family until 1953 when Doctor Harold Ashby Kirksey passed away.
He was the foster son of Mr. Kirksey, and he was given the house when he died in 1906 at the age of 89.
In the year 1972, the home was left unoccupied for a long period of time, until Roy Swayze and his wife from Virginia decided it needed some immediate care.
Together they spent the next fifteen years on a huge restoration and preservation project.
In today’s money, it is estimated that what they did at the time, would have cost well over 8 million dollars.
Doing most of the work themselves, they did have a helper, the neoclassical architect Edward Jones.
Mr. Jones was well known nationally for what he did in restorations at the White house for three different Presidents.
As mentioned above, the home was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1976.
The Kirkwood Plantation Home, once finished, was over 8,000 square feet and was done in the Greek revival style with Italianate influences.
While several key features of the home were left incomplete because of the Union Armies occupation of it, when it was restored by the Swayze’s, it was 100% compete.
The home is wood framed with two primary floors as well as a large cupola crowning over the low pitched and hipped roof.
The eaves of the roof have wooden brackets as ornaments, and a Carolina-type monumental column wraps around two sides of the home.
The balcony railings and the several small features that were never completed were finally finished by Roy and Mary Swayze in the 1970’s.
In the year 1982 the couple was awarded the National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award, for all of their efforts.
Today, the Kirkwood Plantation Home sets as one of the 10 Alabama Surviving Plantations.
"National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
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