Monday, April 2, 2012

The St John house 1857, Mobile, Alabama

The St. John house is a excellent example of Mobile, Alabama 1850's Italianate style 



This 15 room Italianate town home was built in 1857 by Thomas St. John for his bride. St. John owned a dock on Mobile's waterfront and had extensive interests in banking and insurance in the city. The house is a excellent example of a Mobile, Alabama Italianate town house on the exterior with classical Greek Revival detail in the interior.  The house is notable for it's ornate cast iron verandah with heart shapes incorporated in the design, refined detailing of sculptural wreaths in the cornice frieze, brackets, and tall windows and Greek Revival eared doors. The interior of the structure features sophisticated plaster work and marble mantels.
For some people today. The 1850's when this house was built seems like a long time ago. A far away removed time in history. Although there is no one today living that was around in the 1850's there are people stilling living today that have talked to and meet people that were living in the mid 19th century. I personal know over 5 people in there 90's living today that talked to people that were around in the mid 19th century. Kinda like a Six degrees of separation but going back in time to connect you to people back in history.
The best story I have of this is a church member grandmother immigrated to America in 1865 from Ireland. She remembers the buildings in New York city being draped in black, mourning Abraham Lincoln assassination. She told my friend, her grandson this story when he was little and he told the story to me. So I'm one degree of separation from 1860's New York city. Do you have a story of the 19th century that someone told you that is a firsthand or second account ? If so share it with us. 


The St. John house is a excellent example of Mobile, Alabama 1850's Italianate style 


Henri de Tonti (1649/50 - 1704) was an Italian-born soldier, explorer, and fur trader in the service of France

The St. John house is located in The De Tonti Square Historic District. A historic district in the city of Mobile, Alabama. The district is placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 7, 1972.  It is a nine-block area, roughly bounded by Adams, St. Anthony, Claiborne, and Conception Streets. The district covers 280 acres and contains 66 contributing Historic buildings. It was named in honor of Henri de Tonti and consists mainly of townhouses and creole cottages built between 1830 and 1860. It includes numerous examples of the Creole, Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate architectural styles.



The house is notable for it's ornate cast iron verandah with heart shapes incorporated in the design


The original 1857 front door 


The porch has it's original slate and marble tile. 




The front entry hall is nice and wide with a original ornate plaster arch and spiral staircase


Detail of plaster arch 

A ornate Classical ceiling medallion in the hall 


To the left of the front hall is a double parlor with original bronze gasoliers, marble mantels and Greek Revival trim doorways and windows 



A carved white marble mantel in the parlor 



The 1850's gasoliers hang from ornate Classical ceiling medallions  



The ornate Rococo Revival gasoliers have a mythology theme with a statue of Mercury in the center 



The ornate Rococo Revival gasoliers have a mythology theme with a statue of Mercury in the center 


The original plaster cornice molding is both classical with egg and dart motif as well is early Victorian with pierced naturalistic foliage 

All of the door and window trim is the house is Greek Revival with eared architrave



In between the double parlors are the original sliding doors





From the front parlor the double hung windows slide up into the wall so that you may walk out on to the front verandah 





The double sliding doors in between the double parlors have Greek Revival trim with eared architrave


The upstairs hall, The second door to the right leads to the attic. I toured this home from it's basement to the attic. 

a upstairs bedroom 



windows in front upstairs bedroom.  

marble mantel in upstairs bedroom 

View of house across the street


I live see the century's old live oak trees looks from the upstairs bedroom windows




The attic with some original elements from the house stored.  


The attic with some original elements from the house stored.  


The dinning room 

This is the original kitchen fireplace. Originally some type of iron cooking range might have been placed into the fireplace 

Original wood mantel in upstairs slave quarter bedroom.


Dinning room marble mantel 

Original Classical plaster ceiling medallion in Dinning room

The exterior window lintels on the front and side of the house are white marble. The ones on the back are brownstone 

The Service wing to the back of the house has a original kitchen and pantry on the bottom level and two bedrooms for slaves on the upper level. 

A rare luxury item for the Antebellum period. Built to the side of the service wing is a original two story water closet. The year the house was built 1857: The first American patent for a toilet, the 'plunger closet', was granted.


Perhaps the St. John's Water Closet had a mahogany flushing toilet like this rare Antebellum example. Pipes would have pumped water from the first-floor laundry to the attic, where the water stayed stored in large cisterns. Opening the faucets or yanking the toilet handle (on left) would allow the water to flow down into the bathroom fixtures. Waste would have been carried out of the pipes into a primitive septic system.


A side view of the St. John Water Closet 


This is one of several flushing toilets with English Romantic blue and white transfer-printed ceramic bowls from the CSS Alabama. Made in England circa 1860-1862



Most flushing toilets in Antebellum America were imported like this one. One of several flushing toilets with English Romantic blue and white transfer-printed ceramic bowls from the CSS Alabama. Made in England circa 1860-1862



2 comments:

  1. This house is like a dream house. It is everything I love and want in a house. The entrance hall made me wet my pants. I love the original light fixtures and the mantles, when can I move it. I would be there over night. You show such wonderful things on your blog. I am so glad I found you and can see all the beauty you give us. If this house needs a caretaker, with the right furniture and accessories, let me know. Love it all. Happy Easter my friend. Richard from My Old Historic House.

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  2. Hi Richard, this is also my dream house. The last time it was restored was in the 1960's. It was recently bought and well be restored soon. Thanks for your wonderful comments. If you are I got this house it would be furnish to it's 1850's period. But I have a feeling the new owners will furnish it in modern mixed with antiques that's so popular now a days.

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