By June Mathews
Celebrate Christmas in 19th century style as the grand old lady of Birmingham’s West End neighborhood kicks off the season with her usual festive flair.
“Our halls are decked and we’re ready to welcome our holiday guests,” said Stephen Moode, director of Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens. “Christmas at Arlington is one of our favorite events, and we look forward to it every year. It’s our gift to the city.”
Christmas at Arlington begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, with the annual hanging of the green by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, followed by a candlelight tour and reception. Guests also will meet the “spirits” of some of Arlington’s former residents.
The cost of this opening event is $20 per person. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 2, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., admission to Arlington will be free, with donations accepted. Refreshments and entertainment will be available along with tours of the house, the gardens, and the separate old kitchen behind the main house.
In addition to several children’s activities, Santa will be available for photos with the kids, and warm cookies will be served.
Specially decorated for the season by local floral designers, the home will have a “traditional Christmas feel,” said Moode. Created to enhance the period furnishings, the decorations make use of greenery and other natural touches to reflect how Arlington’s residents might have decorated a century or more ago.
“The gardens have also been renovated, so they’re even more beautiful than ever,” said Moode, “and visitors, whether they’ve been here before or not, will also want to see a recently installed set of early 1800s wrought iron gates from a house in New Orleans. They’re a lovely addition to the estate.”
A House With a History
A former plantation house surrounded by six acres of landscaped gardens, Arlington has long served as a venue for civic and cultural events, as well as for special and seasonal occasions such as Christmas at Arlington.
Many a wedding has taken place there, a fitting use for the property since the original homeowner, William S. Mudd, built the house as a gift for his bride around the mid-1840s. The couple remained at Arlington for 40 years.
About midway through the Mudds’ residency, the estate briefly came under Union occupation when it was discovered the local furnaces were producing munitions for the Confederacy. So, for the last month or so of the war, Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson commandeered the Greek Revival mansion for his headquarters. Fortunately, though, Wilson chose not to raze the property when he and his men moved on, as Union troops had done with other Southern buildings.
Arlington was acquired by the City of Birmingham in 1953 to preserve it as a historical site, and it remains under the city’s ownership today. Located at 331 Cotton Ave., SW., Arlington is in the heart of Old Elyton, a town that played a significant role in the founding of Birmingham and served as the first county seat of Jefferson County.
For more information on Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens or Christmas at Arlington, call 780-5656, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit arlingtonantebellumhomeandgardens.com.