The Weeden House Museum, located in the Twickenham Historic District in Huntsville, Madison County, is dedicated to preserving and sharing the work of artist and poet Maria Howard Weeden and also interpreting the lives of the members of the Weeden family during the mid-nineteenth century.
The Weeden House was completed in 1819 by local entrepreneur Henry C. Bradford. Having lost his mercantile business in the Panic of 1819, Bradford sold the house after just one year of ownership. The home was later owned by John Read, U.S. Supreme Court justice John McKinley, Bartley M. Lowe, and Mrs. Martha Chambers Betts. William Weeden, a doctor and successful planter, purchased the house and moved there with his second wife Jane and their five children in November 1845. Their last child, daughter Maria Howard Weeden, was born at the house on July 6, 1846, about six months after his death. During the Civil War, the home was occupied by Union officers, causing the Weedens to relocate to Tuskegee, Macon County, where the oldest daughter and her husband lived. After the war, Jane Weeden deeded the Huntsville home to daughters Kate and Maria, or Howard, as she was known. Howard never married and died at the house in April 1905 at the age of 58. By the time of her death, she had become an internationally recognized artist and an accomplished poet, having published four books before her death.
The house remained in the Weeden family until 1956 when it was purchased at public auction by Mrs. B.A. Stockton. After renting the house for some years, Stockton sold the house to the Twickenham Historic Preservation District Association (THPDA) in 1973. The Association had been organized in 1965 and was officially recognized by the city in 1972 for the purpose of preserving historic structures in downtown Huntsville. In order to secure necessary funds to develop the house as a museum, THPDA sold the house to the Huntsville Housing Authority in 1976. The THPDA leases the house for a nominal amount to make it available for the education and enjoyment of the public. The house opened to the public in 1981.
The house is furnished with authentic nineteenth-century furniture that has been acquired through donations or purchased from antique dealers using donated funds. The structure itself is of the Federal period of American architecture, reflecting the light, elegant designs of the Scottish architect Robert Adam. It can be described as a five-bay, two-story, gabled, L-shaped, center-hall brick home. There are six rooms in all; two parlors and a dining room downstairs, and three bedrooms upstairs. All of these rooms are open to the public on the guided tours of the house. Weeden's famous watercolor portraits of former slaves, along with some of her lesser known oil paintings are on display year round. Other artists with works displayed in the house include William Frye and John Grimes.
The Weeden House Museum is operated by the THPDA and overseen by the THPDA's Board of Directors. The Weeden House Museum is funded by grants from historical organizations based in Alabama which are awarded to the THPDA, and revenue generated through event rentals and entrance fees. The museum is open for group and individual public tours on a limited basis, currently Wednesdays through Saturdays. The museum is staffed by a director who has been assisted over the years by docents, interns, and other volunteers.
The most celebrated annual event at the Weeden House Museum is the Spirit of Christmas Past Tour of Homes and Luminaries, held on the second Saturday in December. Individuals and groups may tour the Weeden House and other homes in the Twickenham Historical District, including five private homes typically closed to the public, that are decorated for Christmas. Each house offers live entertainment, such as traditional carols or readings of Weeden's poetry and opportunities to learn more about the historic homes. The Weeden House is the only constant on the tour, with the other homes rotating among the many historic structures in the Twickenham District. The Tour began in 1978 and featured more than 20 homes, but the event has since been scaled back to six houses. There are currently no other events that take place at the museum with any regularity.