McKleroy Wilson Kirby House, Anniston Alabama

Date added: June 11, 2019 Categories: Alabama House Mansion
1984 Front (East elevation)

The McKleroy-Kirby house is the last remaining mansion constructed in the boom times of the late 1880s on Quintard Avenue, Anniston's finest residential street at the time. Lots on the 160 foot wide boulevard, named for a close family friend of the town's founder, Samuel Noble, were originally sold only to purchasers who promised to build houses costing at least $5,000. Moreover, each of the four men who lived in the house during the 95 years it was used as a residence was an outstanding business leader who greatly contributed to the growth of Anniston in his time.

During the 1880s the industrial town of Anniston not only grew more rapidly than any other city in Alabama but achieved prominence second only to Birmingham as a manufacturing center of the New South. During the midst of these flush times in 1887, the owners of Anniston's parent industry, the Woodstock Iron Company, reorganized their business interests with the introduction of new capital into two separate companies. One of these was the Anniston City Land Company, headed by John Martin McKleroy, a new business partner from Eufaula. He selected the highest hill on Quintard Avenue and built his house in 1888.

McKleroy, born in 1843, had already gained prominence before moving to Anniston. A Confederate veteran, he was an attorney, elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1874, member of the state legislature in 1876-1878, twice a gubernatorial candidate, and chairman of the powerful State Democratic Executive Committee in 1886. In Anniston he was not only president of the new three-million-dollar corporation, but a director in the Woodstock Iron Company and the Anniston and Cincinnati Railway Company. He also led the legal fight for the railroad in a famous court battle with the town of Jacksonville over a proposed right-of-way. He helped organize the town's first gas company and the Anniston Bureau of Information, and was one of the directors of the town's first pipe shop. After his death on August 30, 1894, his son, William Henry McKleroy, occupied the house until he died on July 7, 1919.

The younger McKleroy served as mayor of Anniston in 1899 and was president of both the Anniston National Bank and the Oxford National Bank. Other business activities included heading the Anniston Cooperage Company and Stuckey Valve Company.

McKleroy's widow, Susan, sold the property in 1920, and it was bought at public auction by William Coleman Wilson, a leader in Anniston's foremost industry at that time, castiron pipe. He was manager, then president of the Emory Foundry Company until his retirement in the mid-1940s.

After Wilson's death on February 10, 1949, Frank and Robbie Kirby purchased the McKleroy home place. Kirby was founder, president, and chairman of the board of the Anniston Electric Company. He also served on the boards of directors of the Anniston Federal Savings and Loan and the Methodist Children's Home. He was an active leader in the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, and the First Methodist Church. His wife, Robbie, was a leading musician in the community and active in women's civic affairs, Kirby died on January 20, 1981, and Mrs. Kirby's death occurred in 1983. The house was purchased in 1984 by a developing firm planning to use the property as an inn and restaurant.

The architectural detailing of the Kirby house has long been a symbol of Anniston's opulence during its primary growth period of the 1880s. It is a highly visible landmark, not only because of its physical location on the hill on Quintard Avenue and its position as the last surviving 19th century Victorian mansion on the street, but because each of its occupants has been a highly visible and contributing leader of the community.