In 1955, physician and Huntsville native William Henry Burritt (1869-1955) willed his estate and mansion, known as Round-Top Mountain, to the city of Huntsville to create Burritt on the Mountain, which now operates as a living history museum. The site features Burritt's eclectic mansion, a historic park with restored nineteenth-century houses, and concerts, plays, and exhibits. The mission of Burritt on the Mountain is to provide Alabama citizens with educational, artistic, and recreational experiences that connect them with the state's cultural heritage, land, and historic structures.
William Henry Burritt received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University and practiced medicine in Cincinnati and New York before returning to Huntsville to care for his ailing mother in 1891. Like his father and grandfather, Burritt opened a homeopathic medical practice and for a time served as the Health Officer of Madison County. Married three times, Burritt's second wife was wealthy heiress and widow Josephine Drummond Burritt, of Missouri's Drummond Tobacco Company. After his marriage to Drummond, Burritt retired from his practice to become her personal physician. He shifted his attention from medicine to rubber products, inventing and registering numerous tire and wheel patents from 1903–1927. Josephine Burritt died in 1933, and the following year, Burritt used his inheritance from her to purchase Round Top Mountain and build his mansion there after her death in 1933. Upon his death in 1955, the property passed to the city of Huntsville to serve as a museum and park for the public.
The grounds of Burritt on the Mountain boasts a number of original homes brought to the site and restored by volunteers and community activists. Each house belongs to a specific architectural style that symbolizes life in the Cumberland Plateau's past, including such "folk" architectural styles as the "dogtrot" and the "saddleback" house. There are six houses, a barn, and a church that was brought to the site from Madison, in Madison County. One of the cabins, the Joel Eddins house, is the oldest intact log cabin in the state and dates to around 1810. Historical interpreters demonstrate activities typical of a nineteenth-century farm, including blacksmithing, spinning, and cooking over an open hearth. In the site's barnyard, visitors can see animals that would have been kept for work, wool, or food by the farmers and their families.
The education department at Burritt on the Mountain offers camps, field trips, and festivals that focus on seasonal farm activities such as sheep shearing in the spring and apple pressing in the fall. Children can immerse themselves in the world of a nineteenth-century boy or girl. Musical programs are widely varied and include Sacred Harp singing, jazz concerts, and musicals in the church. The City Lights and Stars concert series has grown in attendance each year, and the local Renaissance Theatre often performs at the park.
Burritt on the Mountain receives less than half its budget from the City of Huntsville. Primary funding comes from grants, donations, memberships, and sponsorships. The site has more than 30,000 visitors per year. The museum is governed by a board of directors and an advisory board; it employs more than 20 people.
Burritt on the Mountain
Published March 9, 2009
Last updated October 31, 2012