By Donna Cornelius
After a two-year hiatus, the Decorators’ ShowHouse is back, and the house chosen for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra fundraiser is a real showstopper.
If you’ve ever traveled the interstate from Birmingham to Huntsville, you’ve likely wondered about Hallmark Farm, with its stately mansion, picturesque barn, rolling green fields and, at Christmastime, a lighted tree on the lake. This year, it’s the setting for the ShowHouse, which will be open April 23 to May 8.
Since 1976, the Decorators’ ShowHouse has been one of the Birmingham area’s most popular and anticipated spring happenings. Sponsored by the Symphony Volunteer Council, the event features the work of talented designers who create inspirational and imaginative rooms for the many people who visit the ShowHouse to see.
The house that’s the centerpiece of Hallmark Farm was built over a two-year period, 1975-76, by Fred, known as “Ted”, and Mary Hallmark. Since 2019, the property has been owned by the Hallmark Farm Cooperative, a collaborative organization created by the Jefferson County Commission and the city of Warrior.
Representatives of the cooperative contacted ShowHouse officials two years ago” said Pam Wood, ShowHouse chairman. “We were thrilled. It was just too good to pass up.”
Hallmark Farm was supposed to be the 2020 ShowHouse, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the event had to be put on hold that year and the next. Wood and Nan Teninbaum, publicity chairman, are excited that symphony supporters finally will have the chance to experience the property’s wow factor for themselves.
“I first came to see the house in May 2019 with Pam,” Teninbaum said. “There’s so much detail – beautiful crown molding, arched doorways and columns.”
Warrior Mayor Johnny Ragland said having Hallmark Farm as the Decorators’ ShowHouse is “a dream coming true.”
“It will put the city of Warrior and northern Jefferson County on the map,” he said. “We’ve been working for this a long time.”
Ragland is a native of Warrior, which was a thinly populated farming community until mining began to boom in the area in the 1870s. Given Hallmark Farm’s prominence in the community, the mayor said he’d like to see it thrive for years to come. He’s proud that last year’s Christmas tree lighting at the farm drew thousands of people, and his niece even got married in the barn.
“The whole place is for sale,” he said. “We’re hoping it could be turned into an event venue. Since the news got out about it being the ShowHouse, we’ve already had three or four people inquire or express interest.”
Andy McCurry, who owns McCurry Furniture in Warrior, also has a history with the house. His grandfather, Andrew Jackson McCurry, and a partner started the furniture business in downtown Birmingham in 1917.
“My grandfather later rented a building in Warrior to eventually put furniture in,” McCurry said. “He would ride the train from Birmingham to Warrior and go around to the mining camps, which provided rough housing for the miners, and get them a bed, a table, a coal cookstove – the basics of life, whatever they needed. He had a big heart. He made a way to give them the things they needed to live.”
In 1919, McCurry’s grandfather bought a building in Warrior on Main Street, which was then a dirt road with a well in the middle of it. The building has undergone improvements and renovations over the years, but it remains the company’s home today.
Original Furniture Store Is Back for the ShowHouse
Andy McCurry, his grandfather’s namesake, remembered his first association with the Hallmark house.
“Many years ago, as the house was getting completed, I thought in my youthful exuberance, why not call Mrs. Hallmark to see if I could help?” he said. “They wanted to get nice things and ended up getting some of the finest available.”
They traveled to the furniture market at High Point, North Carolina.
“It was a big deal for us.” McCurry said. “Warrior wasn’t accustomed to this kind of house.”
He said Mary Hallmark had definite ideas about what she wanted for the house. McCurry’s mother also went along on the trip to help with selections, even though she wasn’t an official part of the family furniture business.
“She was busy raising five kids,” McCurry said. “But she said, ‘Don’t you want me to go with you?’ I didn’t argue. My mother had a great interest in design and a desire for beauty.”
McCurry Furniture plays a large role in this year’s ShowHouse. Brandy Spears, the store’s in-house designer along with Libby McCurry, Andy McCurry’s wife, took the lead in designing the dining room, library, solarium and a bedroom.
“We jumped at the chance to participate,” McCurry said.
Other designers and their ShowHouse spaces include:
Nancy Gowens, Issis and Sons, living room and entry; Mandy Majerik, HotHouse/PropHouse, ballroom; Lynne Coker, master bedroom and bath; Ann Marie James, The White House Interiors, family room and an upstairs bedroom; Allyson Kirkpatrick, AllysonK Designs, upstairs bedroom; and Cathy Hannah, Hannah Interiors, with the help of her sister, Julie Hooper, upstairs alcove. Farrow & Ball donated paint and wallpaper for the house.
A few facts about the ShowHouse:
- It’s open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- The house has 20,000 heated square feet; the property encompasses 565 acres and is bounded by the Locust Fork branch of the Warrior River.
- There’s an elevator available for visitors who are unable to negotiate the stairs. If a member of your party needs to use the elevator, just ask one of the volunteers staffing the house for assistance.
- Unlike in previous years, you can park on-site for $5. Take exit 280 from Interstate 65 to reach Hallmark Farm. A shuttle also will run from the Brookwood Village Macy’s parking lot on April 27 and May 4; there’s one on each of those days at 9:30 a.m. and another at 1 p.m. Reservations must be made for this shuttle. The cost is $20. For more information, call Char Bonsack at 205-408-9084 or email her at email@example.com. Only 50 spots are available for each time slot.
- There’s no Symphony Shop this year, but commemorative T-shirts and Christmas ornaments will be sold.
- ShowHouse visitors can eat lunch under a covered pavilion. Food is from the Porky’s Pride food truck. Snacks; water; and wineglasses, which you can buy filled with wine, will be sold in the cabana.
- Parts of a 1987 movie called “Roses Are for the Rich” were filmed at the house; star Lisa Hartman is shown coming down the sweeping staircase.
- The glittering chandelier in the solarium holds 51 lightbulbs and can be raised and lowered.
- The master bathroom has a lighted, heart-shaped tub.
Tickets are available at www.alabamasymphony.org. Also on the website is a list of locations in the Birmingham area where you can buy tickets. Advance tickets are $25, or you can buy them at the door for $30.
Wood said she and other volunteers are anticipating a great deal of interest in Hallmark Farm.
“We’re expecting big crowds every day,” she said.