The Richards-DAR House Museum is an historic house museum located in Mobile, Mobile County. Situated in the heart of Mobile’s De Tonti Square Historic District, the home offers visitors an opportunity to explore one of the first Italianate-style mansions built in the city. The home has been operated by local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) since 1973.
Richards-DAR House Museum Homes in the historic district were constructed in the 1850s and 1860s by wealthy businessmen in the area, known as “merchant princes,” who used them as a means to display their economic stature. One such individual was Charles G. Richards, a riverboat captain from Maine. He and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Steele, built the two-story brick home, featuring numerous tall windows and projecting bracketed cornices (eaves), in 1860. The home survived the Civil War unharmed. Much of the fighting in the region took place at the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and at the battles at Fort Blakeley and Spanish Fort in April 1865 as the war was ending. Richards and his wife raised eight of their twelve children in the home, and the Richards family remained in the home for three generations, until 1946. The Ideal Cement Company purchased the home in 1947 from a descendant of Capt. Richards, who sold it under the condition that the home be maintained for its structural authenticity. Ideal Company used it for offices and to house guest employees. In 1973, the company donated it to the city of Mobile, under the agreement that they maintain it as a historic museum, and the city then leased it to a local DAR chapter.
Richards-DAR House Entrance Hall The house grounds consist of 10,000 square feet, including a brick courtyard and formal garden. Notable features of the grounds include two live oak trees extending over the street and front yard of the property. In addition, an ornamental wrought and cast-iron façade wraps around the front porch, balcony, entrance gallery, and as fencing along the sidewalks. Unique to the iron work, considered one of the most elaborate metalwork designs in the city, is its depictions of the four seasons. It is original to the house and was likely manufactured by the Mobile Foundry, whereas the four-season inserts came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The stone sidewalk on the front was constructed with ballast stones (from English ships) that had been prevalent throughout the city. Three gas streetlights also grace the front of the property. A two-story carriage house and butler’s apartment in the rear were remodeled and have been used as meeting and event spaces. The museum is furnished with period antiques. Although not everything is original to the house, the majority of items date to 1870 and before. Original items include chandeliers with detailed mythological figures and etched glass globes, a hand-carved mahogany staircase, ruby-red glass framing on the door, and a Weber box grand piano.
Richards-DAR House Dining Room The house was a contributing structure to the De Tonti Square Historic District designation in 1972 by the National Register of Historic Places. It was named for Henri de Tonti, an Italian who, in the late 1600s, explored present-day Canada and Texas and its environs and the American Midwest for the French. From there, he sailed down the Mississippi River to meet up with Pierre Le Moyne, d’Iberville in Old Mobile around 1700 and was later appointed by the French officials there as an ambassador to the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. He died from yellow fever in Old Mobile in 1704. The district lies just north of downtown Mobile.
The house is located at 250 Joachim Street. It operates as a museum Wednesday through Monday between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. except for Saturday when it is open from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. In addition to historic home tours, the home is available for a variety of events such as lectures, book talks, and haunted tours. Annual events include a Christmas celebration as well as Spring Garden Party. The home is available for private parties, weddings, and business events as well. Nearby are the Bragg-Mitchell House, Historic Oakleigh Mansion, the William and Emily Hearin Mobile Carnival Museum, the History Museum of Mobile, Fort Condé, and the Condé-Charlotte House and Museum.