In a way, it’s like visiting Graceland.
Hallmark Farms, a stately property in Alabama, is a gorgeous time capsule of a place, harking back to its origins in the 1970s.
Elvis Presley didn’t live here, but Ted Hallmark and his family did, and their 565-acre residence — with its palatial house, picturesque barn, spacious pole barn, tennis court, helicopter pad and several lakes — has been an eye-catching landmark in North Jefferson County for more than four decades.
Travelers along Interstate 65 have long been entranced by a glimpse of Hallmark Farms, visible from the highway in the Warrior-Kimberly area. The property, an especially charming sight during the Christmas season with its lighted tree, has seemed tailor-made for a storybook, a postcard or a movie set.
If you’ve always wanted to visit the property and get a closer look, now’s your chance to do so. Hallmark Farms is this year’s location for the Decorators ShowHouse, an event that has returned to Birmingham’s cultural landscape after a two-year hiatus.
Hallmark Farms was set to be the Decorators ShowHouse location in 2020, but the event was canceled due the coronavirus pandemic. Although this was disappointing for organizers and folks who love the annual ShowHouse, it’s given the volunteer team more time to bring the property back to glowing life.
“When I was approached about doing this, I fell in love with the property,” said Pam Wood, one of two chairwomen for this year’s ShowHouse. “The house was not very well maintained, but I could see past that. And I just knew that people wanted to see the inside of this house. And I knew it was going to be a success.”
RELATED: Decorators ShowHouse 2022 is a must-see at this picturesque location in Alabama
The ShowHouse, a fundraiser for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, takes an eye-catching residence — typically, a spacious house that’s for sale — and allows decorators to let their imaginations run free, choosing rooms in the house and giving the empty spaces creative redos from ceiling to floor.
Hallmark Farms provided special opportunities and unique challenges to the decorators this year, as they sought to give the palatial home a refresh, while paying tribute to its 1970s vibe.
Visitors can see the results of their labors through May 8, on self-guided tours that focus on the Hallmark house and about 10,000 square feet of living space on two main floors.
About 17 rooms in the house have been newly decorated, including an inviting solarium, a fancy ballroom, a cozy library, a sizable living room and a show-stopping hall bath. (A bright red tub! Ornate velvet wallpaper! Glittering gold accents!)
Many interior details of the Hallmark mansion are wonderfully retro, and folks who tour the residence are likely to marvel at its opulent vintage vibe. (Get your first look at the 2022 Decorators’ ShowHouse via photos in the gallery at the top of this post.)
Decorators for the 2022 ShowHouse include Brandy Spears and Libby McCurry of McCurry Fine Furniture, Ann Marie James of White House Interiors, Cathy Morris Hannah and Julie Morris Hooper of Hannah Interiors, Allyson Kirkpatrick of AllysonK Designs and Lynne Coker of Lynne Coker Interiors.
Issis & Sons Furniture Galleries, Prophouse Birmingham and fashion designer Heidi Elnora were involved in the project, as well.
Although the primary focus of the ShowHouse is the Hallmark mansion, visitors can take a peek inside the iconic barn, which is currently used for storage. A pole barn is within walking distance of the house, as well.
Here are some things you might want to know about the 2022 ShowHouse:
- Fred H. “Ted” Hallmark — a can-do country guy who became a successful businessman and the owner of Hallmark Coal Co. — built the house in 1976-1977 with his wife, Mary Ruth Hallmark, and lived there with their children.
- Davis, Speake & Associates was the architect for the Hallmark mansion; Rives Construction was the builder.
- “We designed it, but (Charlie Davis) brought it all together,” Ted Hallmark said in a 1995 interview with The Birmingham News. “We finally sat down and listed all the things we wanted in a house, like beautiful woodwork and dentil molding and large windows,” Mary Hallmark told reporter Elma Bell. “Then we laid out a floor plan and took it all to Mr. Charlie.”
- Crystal chandeliers chosen by Mary Hallmark remain in the house today, and are focal points in many rooms on the ShowHouse tour. The huge chandelier in the solarium was made in Germany and required special framework because of its size. The chandeliers also are equipped to be lowered for maintenance.
- Broad porches, bricked courtyards and terraces and landscaped grounds surround the house, which formerly had a swimming pool. A complete apartment was in the pool house, which repeats the classic lines of the main house.
- A graceful oak staircase rises up from the solarium in the main house to a long balcony leading to bedrooms and baths. The ceiling in the solarium is 26 feet high, and the floor is made of a special stone sought out by architect Davis.
- There are five fireplaces in the home, and fieldstone frames them in some rooms. “The fieldstone is from ravines right here on the property,” Ted Hallmark told The Birmingham News in 1995. “We put the house about in the middle of 600-plus acres that we both love. The Warrior River, about 2 miles of it, sort of makes a U-shape around this plot.”
- One of the upstairs bathrooms, in the owner’s suite, has a massive heart-shaped tub. It was featured in a 1987 TV movie, “Roses Are for the Rich,” starring Lisa Hartman and Bruce Dern.
- The original kitchen in the house remains intact, in a small room off the dining room. Although unlikely to wow visitors, it served the needs of the Hallmark family and provides an interesting contrast to the elaborate, high-profile kitchens of today.
- The Hallmark mansion’s lower level isn’t on the tour, but Ted Hallmark’s classic cars were housed there, including a 1929 Packard Phaeton. The basement area also had a game room for the Hallmarks’ grandchildren.
- “The guy that owned it, he was a one-of-a-kind fella,” said Warrior Mayor Johnny Ragland, who knew Ted Hallmark well. “You’d come over here to see him, and you might see him on top of the house, cleaning out gutters. He always wore a blue airplane pilot’s jumpsuit.”
- Ted Hallmark had at least one working train on the property, reportedly purchased from the Petticoat Junction Amusement Park in Panama City, Florida.
- Hallmark Farms is so large, it stretches past both sides of Interstate 65. Ted Hallmark had a tunnel installed that allowed him to travel under the highway and access his property without getting on the interstate.
- The Hallmarks liked to entertain, opening their home in Warrior to friends and family members. They also hosted charity events such as an annual “Jewels and Jeans” gala for the Birmingham Board for Children, raising money for programs in Alabama to aid abused or neglected children
- Ted Hallmark died in 2013; Mary Hallmark died in 2014. The property fell into disrepair in the years after their deaths and was purchased in 2019 by the Hallmark Farms Cooperative, a partnership of the City of Warrior and the Jefferson County Commission. The cooperative paid $7.5 million for the 565-acre property.
- The Hallmark Farms Cooperative intends to keep the house and barn intact for event space — weddings immediately come to mind, Mayor Ragland said — while developing the property for restaurant, retail, commercial and light industrial use.
Hours for the Decorators’ ShowHouse are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 30-May 1 (Saturday-Sunday) and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 4-8 (Wednesday through next Sunday.) Tickets are $25 in advance via Eventbrite, $30 at the door. Parking fee is $5. Food trucks will be on site.
To get to Hallmark Farms, take exit 280 from I-65 North, take the first left and look for a parking lot, according to the Decorators ShowHouse Facebook page. Shuttles will run from the parking lot to the house. The house is ADA accessible, and there’s an elevator between floors.
Also, a shuttle from Homewood to the ShowHouse site will run on Wednesday, May 4. Pickup times are 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the former Macy’s parking lot in the Brookwood Village shopping center. Tickets for this shuttle are $20; reservations are required. Call Char Bonsack at 205-408-9084 or email her at [email protected] Fifty seats are available for each time slot, organizers said.
The ShowHouse is hosted by the Alabama Symphony Volunteer Council, who’ve sponsored scholarships for young musicians since 1998 and raised about $5 million for the symphonic association since 1997.