Huntsville’s historic districts feature several homes with roots predating the Civil War, but few are as unique as the Lowry House.
The house has connections to Huntsville’s earliest settlers. Its namesake, John Taylor Lowry, was a landowner and slaveholder who became an abolitionist.
After falling into disrepair, the home underwent a substantial renovation more than 20 years ago and is now considered one of the City’s top tourist attractions and event spaces.
A historic marker outside the home at 1205 Kildare St. presents an accurate, albeit brief, story. But deeper insights about the house, its artifacts and those who inhabited its halls can only be uncovered by paying a visit.
“People’s initial impressions are very positive,” said Jane Tippett, who owns the Lowry House with her husband, Louie Tippett. “We hear that the home is a ‘beautiful hidden gem.’ They’re impressed with the information about the home’s history and thankful that it was not torn down as have other historic homes and buildings in Huntsville have been.”
About the home
To say the Lowry House is a mesh of styles would be an understatement. When it was built in 1850, the home included wood beams from the two-bedroom cabin Lowry’s grandfather built in 1809. It’s important to note his grandfather, John Lowry, was the contractor on the county’s first courthouse, completed in 1818.
The large, Italianate-style home people see today is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tippetts’ daughter, Cynthia Tippett Masucci, said visitors are impressed the home is considered a rarity due to its architectural style that includes Federal-Empire, French Colonial and Italianate-style fireplaces. When asked, she was unable to pick a favorite feature.
“If I had to choose, I think it would be the three chimneys that connect the seven fireplaces in the home,” she said. “When we conduct field trips about architecture, ‘How many chimneys can you find?’ is one of our scavenger hunt questions. The children love trying to find them all. And again, this is a rare design element of the home.”
Restoration and upkeep
Through the years, and over the course of several different residents, the home fell into disrepair. It was purchased in 1998 by the Tippetts, who spent $1 million on its renovation. It was during the renovation that Harvey Jones, the late Huntsville architect overseeing the project, discovered the beams under the house were from John Lowry’s log cabin.
People’s initial impressions are very positive. We hear that the home is a ‘beautiful hidden gem.’
Masucci explained that even though the house was restored, there are tremendous costs associated with maintaining a historic home. Also, only two people – she and Tippett – run the day-to-day operations of the house on a voluntary basis.
The Lowry House is also a popular haunt for paranormal investigators who believe otherworldly spirits live within its walls. Tippett said many people have claimed to have seen ghosts in the home, and there are recordings of words and sounds.
“Personally, I’ve heard footsteps, things crashing to the floor with no plausible explanation, and items disappearing and then showing back up,” she said. “We were shown a photo that was taken in which a ghostly face was captured. There have been so many incidents, I cannot possibly relate them all, but I will stress that all were positive experiences.”
Visiting the home
Like many museums and attractions around Huntsville, the Lowry House was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The house closed its doors to the public in 2020, but it’s ready to welcome visitors again.
“During the last six to eight months, we have hosted approximately eight public events, but social distancing has severely impacted the number of people we can accommodate,” said Masucci. “There has been a slow trickle of people booking private events, but we are optimistic about the future.”
The Lowry House is open noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call 256-489-9200 for more information or visit historiclowryhouse.com.
Celebrate Historic Preservation Month by checking out previous blog posts on the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (HMCPL) Special Collections Department and EarlyWorks Family of Museums. Also, view Facebook live tours of H.C. Black Art & History Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.