A wrought iron balcony and a front porch that reflects the four seasons greet guests at the Richards DAR House in Mobile. Surrounding the front yard and townhouse is a white wrought iron fence set against a backdrop of camellias and azaleas, as magnolia trees and giant oaks dripping with Spanish moss provide a canopy of shade. Southern charm abounds in the architectural marvel of Italiante style built in 1860 by a riverboat captain from Maine, Charles G. Richards, and his bride, Caroline Steel of Mobile. This was their dream home and where they cared for their eight surviving children out of twelve that were born.
Furnishings in the home predate 1870 and are reflective of that period. Outstanding features of the home include Bohemian ruby glass panels at the front entrance, Carrara marble fireplaces, and beautifully-etched glass light globes. The curved staircase gracing the foyer has no visible means of support as it appears to float toward the second floor of the home. In the dining room that will seat 22 is the largest crystal chandelier in Mobile, its beauty reflected in a large French mirror hanging over the marble mantel. Only two pieces of original furniture belonging to the Richards family are in the home today, a Box Grand piano and a portrait of the brother of Caroline Steel Richards.
While many homes were damaged or destroyed during the Civil War, the Richards home and others in the city of Mobile were left unscathed. Union troops didn’t occupy the port city of Mobile until three days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 12, 1865. Until that time, as a vital link for goods being brought in to help with the war effort, it had been totally occupied by the Confederacy.
The Richards Family owned the home until 1946, when it was purchased by the Ideal Cement Company, and could be considered one of the first Bed and Breakfasts of that era. The company offices were on the ground floor, and the upstairs bedrooms were used by visiting company officials and guests. According to Margaret Odom, 2nd Vice President of one the five DAR Chapters in Mobile, the company likely saved the home from complete ruin and destruction. In addition to preserving the main house, the carriage house was renovated, and brick pavers were added to the driveway.
The home was formally turned over to the city of Mobile in 1973, and the DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution, began their tenure as caretakers. Today, the Museum House is used for weddings, receptions, Flag Day Ceremonies, and is a favorite meeting place. Guests visiting the Museum House are treated with a special spice tea and cookies, a favorite drawing card.
Taking a virtual tour of the Richards DAR House is to revisit a time from the past and participate in history. Welcome to the Richards DAR House Museum. Can we get you a cup of spice tea served with cookies?
Interviewed by Angela Broyles on November 3, 2010.
Contact The Richards DAR House at 256 N. Joachim St. Mobile, AL 36603 (251) 208-7320 www.richardsdarhouse.com/