Historic Structures

Robinson House - Quietdale, Huntsville Alabama

Date added: August 23, 2019 Categories: Alabama House

The house was erected for Mrs. Caroline Moore Robinson, widow of Madison County sheriff William ("Black Bill") Robinson. A Virginia-born planter and speculator, Robinson had accumulated vast landholdings in Alabama and Mississippi by the time of his death in 1852, at the premature age of forty-four. Documentary evidence hints that the noted Huntsville architect George Steele or his son, Matthew W. Steele, may be responsible for the design and construction of Quietdale. The younger Steele, though never to achieve a reputation comparable to that of his father, intermittently practiced as an architect in Huntsville during the 1850s. George Steele himself died in the fall of 1854. But a note among his estate papers refers to a debt of $1131.66 due from the "Estate of Wm Robinson" for the "bal[ance] of work furnished by M.W.S. Executor," payable on January 1, 1856.

Certainly the original plan of the house followed George Steele's predilection for separating the formal interior spaces from the more intimate family living area Thus a forty-two foot long drawingroom suite lay to the right of an entrance vertibule; to the left was a series of smaller and more informally disposed rooms extending into a rear ell. Directly behind the foyer, two stairhalls with parallel stairways led to completely separate bedroom suites on the upper floor. Why the upper floor was partitioned is not entirely clear: whether to isolate the guest chambers, or in deference to the custom observed in far more primitive Alabama houses of the period, of carefully separating the boys' and girls' sleeping quarters.

A year after Mrs. Robinson's death, on January 30, 1885, the house and 57 surrounding acres were purchased by Erskine Mastin. Subsequent structural alterations included elimination of the separate stairhalls, which were replaced with a more conventional arrangement. In 1931, Quietdale passed to Mastin's five daughters, and in 1942 one of tnem, Sally Mastin Gill, acquired the interests of the others. Five years later she sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Guy S. Bishop.