Ayr Mount was home to William Kirkland and four generations of the Kirkland family for the next 170 years. In 1985, the widow of the last direct Kirkland descendant was still living when the house was sold to Richard H. Jenrette. It was meticulously restored and furnished with period antiques and decorative arts, including many original Kirkland furnishings.
The many Kirkland pieces currently displayed at Ayr Mount indicate the original furnishings were stylish. These have been supplemented by antiques and other decorative arts of the period attributed to Duncan Phyfe, Charles-Honore Lannuier, and John and Thomas Seymour. Of special interest is William Kirkland’s portrait by Jacob Marling, installed in a place of honor over the dining room fireplace where it has hung since 1815. Among the more recently acquired items of interest are a rare complete set of 51 etchings of North Carolina architecture by Louis Orr and a portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Ezra Ames.
Ayr Mount’s classical architectural design, with a two-story central block and flanking single story wings on either side, became the prototype for many similar houses in North Carolina in the coming years. The transverse hallway, elaborate mantlepieces, built-in cabinets, high ceilings, tall wainscot and intricate cornices are a feast for the eyes. The elaborate Federal period woodwork and plasterwork found throughout the house is unusual in this area of North Carolina. Elhannon Nutt, who did similar work at nearby Fairntosh Plantation, is said to be the joiner or cabinetmaker at Ayr Mount.
Ayr Mount functioned as a plantation after it was built. Kirkland used half of the 503 acres for farming. Although tobacco was never a successful crop, the plantation did produce cotton and wheat among others crops. Outbuildings included slave quarters, a stone barn, a well, small barns for poultry and milk cows, an icehouse, a smokehouse and a two-room kitchen. These buildings were gone for many years before the house was restored in 1985.
Today the house stands on approximately 60 of the original 503 acres beside the Old Indian Trading Path, once the principal route to the interior of North Carolina, Few’s Tavern and the Eno River. A stone’s throw from the house is the Kirkland family cemetery that has been the final resting place of the Kirkland family for over 200 years. Four generations are interred alongside William Kirkland (1768-1836), the patriarch from Ayr, Scotland and his wife Margaret (1773-1839). The cemetery holds approximately 26 graves plus the unmarked graves of all four of their infant sons, William (1799), William (1801), James (1805) and David (1813), all born before Ayr Mount was completed.
Click here for more information about The Kirkland Family Cemetery at Ayr Mount.