The story of the Condé-Charlotte Museum, sometimes known as the Kirkbride house, reflects the history of Mobile, Alabama, and its past of foreign occupation, civil war, commerce, prisoners and ordinary families.
In 1850, Jonathan Kirkbride built a brick house that is now the stucco-over-brick Condé-Charlotte Museum. Jail doors and the foundation including outlines of jail cells give evidence that the grand home was erected with parts of a jail that was built on the property between 1822 and 1824. Earlier, the parcel of land was part of a Colonial fort that changed hands—and names—as occupying troops from France, Britain, and Spain took over the area.
The Museum acknowledges the changing history of the area by flying five flags over the front portico. Included are the U.S., French, British, Spanish and Confederate banners. Inside visitors will learn that the house served different purposes at different times, including a boarding house, an officers’ club, and storage for Mobile historical records.
Today, the rooms are filled to reflect the different eras in Mobile and ever-changing America. There is a British Commandant’s room, and an American Federal dining room representing the early 1800s. There are also two Confederate parlors representing the antebellum period in Mobile. An opening in one room’s wooden floor offers visitors a glimpse of a two-foot-thick brick floor dating from the 1820s, when the structure was Mobile’s first jail.
The second floor presents a French sitting room and bedroom representing the early 1700s, and two American bedrooms from the mid-1800s when Jonathan Kirkbride’s family first made it their home. A walled Spanish courtyard of late 18th century design and a kitchen filled with late 19th and early 20th century equipment both complement the house now known as The Condé-Charlotte Museum.