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Board of Directors


Tenne Johnson,


John Holmes Smith, IV,


Mary L. Cousar,

First vice-president

Jason Embry,

Second vice-president

Cecelia Murphy,

Third vice-president

Robert Peck, III,


Thomas M. Roberts,



David Calametti

W.G. Coffeen

Audrey Cunningham

Allan Gustin

Raymond Hester

Darrel Randle

Johnna Rogers

Monica Sahawneh



Marilyn Culpepper,

Executive Director


Ashley Grantham,




Kimberly Hendricks,

Museum Manager


Christine Cramer,

Archives Manager


Willie Lynch,

Maintenance Superintendent


Ernestine Lee,

Housekeeping Director

Preserving the tangible links to the past

for the benefit of present and future generations. 

Oakleigh Historic House

The Official Period House of the City of Mobile, AL


Site Last Updated: 03/02/2006 10:47:39 AM


    At Oakleigh Historic Complex, costumed guides lead you through an intimate experience of 19th century Gulf Coast living in an authentic setting. Oakleigh's three house museums interpret three aspects of daily living in mid-19th century:  society, servant and working class.  The complex is open to general admission year-round, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Groups, families and individuals  are welcome; various discounts available. (Special Sunday, Monday and evening tours/events scheduled for groups of 15 or more by contacting the Executive Director, hmps@bellsouth.net.)

Located minutes from the USS ALABAMA battleship, Gulf Coast Exploreum and other visitor favorites, Oakleigh offers a pleasant experience for all ages. The complex consists of Mobile's Official Period House Museum, Oakleigh, circa 1833, listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Cox-Deasy Cottage, circa. 1850, and the Cook's House, circa 1850.

Oakleigh museum is a T-shaped Greek revival mansion featuring unique architectural features including a distinct cantilevered front staircase, grand double parlors and classic six-over-six windows and galleries accessed through jib windows. The house was built by a cotton factor from Virginia and later inhabited for three generations by one of the leading society families of Mobile.

Complementing the Oakleigh mansion is the Cook's House on the southwest portion of the property.  The Cook's House was built in 1850 as quarters for slaves who were the backbone of the Oakleigh property.  Master craftsmen including brickmasons and carpenters lived and worked on the property from prior to the time of the main house's construction.  This three-room building tells the story of every day life for craftsmen, laborers and domestic servants.  The interaction between the owners and servants explains how urban slavery affected the lives in this commercial city and how interdependent these two cultural communities were in stark contrast to the elaborate plantations to the north.

Cox-Deasy, also built in 1850, tells a story seldom told about the period through museum interpretation.  The house was built by a brick mason with a wife and 11 children.  Because he could not afford to spare the brick from his inventory, Cox-Deasy was built as a simple four-room wooden raised cottage with a broad central hallway.  Its furnishings are simple but the story of the house covers a distance from the early urbanization of the city through World War II.

Visitors are also invited to visit the Minnie Mitchell Archives at the Oakleigh complex and view a massive framed 1857 flag and the Confederate sword that was surrendered in 1864 at the Battle of Mobile Bay, then returned by its Union captor.

The story of Oakleigh is as rich and intricate as that of the old city in which it is found.  Come, hear the stories and take a little bit of Old Mobile and Oakleigh with you when you leave.

About Us

 Historic Mobile Preservation Society was founded in 1935 as a grassroots membership group dedicated to preserving the tangible links to the past for the benefit of present and future generations.  HMPS's mission includes curating the Oakleigh Historic Complex, a 19th century museum and archives campus in the heart of one of Mobile's most beautiful historic districts.

HMPS is a Forum member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a member of the Alabama Preservation Alliance, the NTHP Statewide Partner.

Year-round activities include field trips to historic locations, guest speakers, workshops, parties, concerts and social gatherings.  Ongoing research and document and material preservation are part of the organization's ongoing work.

HMPS members receive free admission to general tours of Oakleigh complex as well as free and reduced admission to selected activities throughout the year.  Members also receive a subscription to Landmark Letter and qualify for discounted registration to the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference.

HMPS holdings of historic materials include an impressive collection of 19th century art, including the magnificent Thomas K. Sully portrait of "Miss Walton of Florida," the formal debut portrait of Octavia Walton LeVert, once known as "the belle of the South."  The Mitchell Archives serves as a research facility for historians, scholars, students, researchers, history buffs and the lovers of Southern literature and historic photography.  The centerpiece of this collection is a 2,000-plus print of circa 1900 dry-plate glass negatives in the William E. Wilson Collection.  At the top of this column is one of Wilson's Mardi Gras parade photographs circa 1902.


Historic Mobile Preservation Society is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation.  It receives principal funding through memberships and fundraising.  HMPS received funding for operations and/or special programs for the 2006 fiscal year from the following entities:

The City of Mobile

The Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel

Mobile Arts Council

The J.L. Bedsole Foundation

The Sybil H. Smith Charitable Trust

The Hearin-Chandler Foundation

The Crampton Trust

The Community Foundation of South Alabama ("Friends of Oakleigh" fund)


HMPS Activities

(Additional activities may be added or events may be cancelled due to weather or lack of participation.)
For info call (251) 432-6161 or Email


Sunday Reading Series

Each month, a regional author or authors present readings from his or her own work in the multi-purpose room of Oakleigh  Museum at 2 p.m.

Sunday, March 5 reader: Helen Scully, author of In the Hope of Rising Again.

Sunday, April 2 reader: Sue Walker, poet laurete of the State of Alabama

Sunday, May 7 readers: Terry Cline & Judith Richards, authors of several novels

March 17-18, 2006: Mobile Historic Homes Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit magnificent private homes in four historic neighborhoods as well as sacred spaces and house museums. Tickets, $15 per day; $25 for two-day tickets.  Tickets purchased in advance are discounted to $12 and $22, respectively.

May 4, 2006:  Preservationist of Distinction

Since 2001, HMPS has honored an outstanding Mobile preservationist with this annual award for lifetime achievement.  Join HMPS at an elegant reception at the city's historic Athelstan Club, 6:30 to 8 p.m., to pay tribute to this year's recipient.  Individual tickets, $150; couple tickets, $250.

Past Preservationists of Distinction

2001 Emily Staples Hearin

2002 Ann Delchamps

2003 Nell Schley Rutherford

2004 Helen Coffin Wilson

2005 Ann Bedsole


May 15, 2006: Annual Meeting

Business meeting at 5:15 p.m. on South Lawn. Program to follow immediately. Cocktail reception, 6:15 p.m. Admission, HMPS members, $10, non-members, $15. Only HMPS members can vote in business session.

June 8, 2006: Bravery & Beauty Julep Party, 5-8 p.m.

A celebration in honor of the June 1877 visit to Oakleigh by James A. Garfield (later a president of the U.S.) when Col. T.K. Irwin served him his first mint julep. Garfield's diary entry of that occasion states: "The bravery and beauty of Mobile were there." HMPS members, $20; general admission, $25 per person and $45 per couple. Refreshments to include heavy hors d'oeuvres, mint juleps and non-alcoholic juleps. (Cash bar for non-julep beverages.) Silent auction.


2006 Historic Homes Tour

The museums are open

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,

Tuesday through Saturday

 Groups are welcome and special rates apply. Reservations should be made in advance for groups of more than 10. School groups are invited to picnic on the grounds after their tours.
$7 Adult
$6.50 Senior, AAA, Retired Military, Student
$3 Children
Free Active Military and Children Under 6
School Tours $3 per student, Free for teachers.

Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Mardi Gras Day, and Independence Day


355 Oakleigh Place

Oakleigh House Museum


When Virginia cotton factor James W. Roper made his fortune in Mobile, his goal was to build a small Greek temple in an oak grove. That dream was realized with Oakleigh, Mobile�s Official Period House Museum since 1955.

Roper loved the majestic oak trees he found in the countryside outside early 19th century Mobile. He also loved the rolling meadow that stretched from the peak of a small hill where he planned to build his house. The name �Oakleigh� is derived from the combination of �oak� and �lea.� Lea is another name for meadow. While the reason for Roper�s spelling in unknown, his intent is clear.

Oakleigh is a T-shaped Greek revival mansion featuring unique architectural features including a distinct cantilevered front staircase, grand double parlors and classic six-over-six windows and galleries accessed through jib windows. Roper was his own architect and builder. Using slave and free labor, the house is composed of bricks made from clay dug on the grounds and timber harvested from the property. Tool marks can be seen on the siding, doors and window frames.

Roper placed his front doorway off-center for a reason. He and his wife planned to entertain lavishly at Oakleigh so he created a north hallway to accommodate large double parlors to the south.

Due to an economic downturn in the cotton trade, Roper lost his house in the Bank Panic of 1837 but, through the benevolence of a wealthy brother-in-law, continued to reside in Oakleigh until it was transferred in 1848 to the family that would put an indelible imprint on the house.

Alfred Irwin came to Mobile as secretary of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in the late 1840s. He first rented, and then purchased Oakleigh in 1852. He and his wife, Margaret Kilshaw Irwin, a British citizen of the Irish peerage, were prominent in Mobile�s social scene. Their three children, Thomas Kilshaw Irwin � known as T.K., Lee Fearn and Corrine, lived with them in Oakleigh. Corrine died as a young woman. Lee Fearn built a fine home, as an adult on Selma Street and Thomas and his wife, Mary  Anna Ketchum Irwin, were the second-generation Irwin owners of Oakleigh, which, during the three-generation Irwin tenure was known as �Irwin Place.�

During the Union occupation of Mobile, Margaret Irwin saved the house from occupation or damage by draping a British flag on the front gallery. The Irwins occupied the house through the Golden Era of Mobile. The Irwins were leading lights of Mobile society, entertaining family, friends, neighbors, writers, actors, artists and a future president. In 1877, future-U.S. President James Garfield sipped his first genuine Southern mint julep on Oakleigh�s front gallery as a guest of the T.K. Irwins.

The last Irwin to occupy Oakleigh was Daisy Irwin Clisby, who sold the house in 1916. Poignant letters in the Historic Mobile archival collection between Mrs. Clisby�s sons detail their efforts to cover her debts as she lived in genteel poverty in the family manse.

After many private owners, Oakleigh is now open to the public, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oakleigh is furnished with some of the finest decorative arts on public display in the United States. The collection includes period silver, porcelain, furniture, paintings and personal items.

Other facilities that operate as part of Oakleigh Historic Complex are the Cook�s House, an 1850�s slave cabin located behind the main house, the Cox-Deasy Cottage, an 1850s raised plantation house that interprets the middle-class lifestyle in 19th century Mobile and the Mitchell Archives, a historical research facility. While these properties are not included on the historic homes tour, they can be viewed for additional admission during the tour.

 Oakleigh is managed by Historic Mobile Preservation Society.