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Kildare House ‘Fortress Fence’ Draws Ire, Double-Takes From Huntsville Neighbors and City Leaders

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

kildare1HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – If the grandeur of the Queen Anne castle style architecture of the Kildare Estate in north Huntsville wasn’t enough to make passersby on Oakwood Avenue stop in their tracks to gawk – a new and emerging feature is now contributing to the home’s wow factor.

According to neighbors, over the weekend, owners of the 17,000 square foot 40-room mansion finished in 1889  – in an effort to preserve privacy – have begun building a massive fence around the entire property.

In spots along the front of the property on Kildare Street fence posts soar in excess of 16 feet high.

The property owners obviously deem the privacy measure necessary, but some are calling the fence an out-of-place - and more pointedly - confusing eyesore.

One WHNT News 19 viewer emailed saying:

"I drive past the historic Kildare House every day. The people who own it are to say the least weird but they have crossed the line to mentally disturbed. They are building a 15-foot fence around the entire property. I can understand a privacy fence, but this is insane. It looks like a fort is being built. If I tried that the city would be on my neck before the first board went up. Who are these people and why are they allowed to erect this abomination?"

We did some digging and found that on July 25th, the city entered into a license agreement with Kildare Estate property owner Dwight Wright. The property is subject to city right-of-way down the east boundary of the property along Kildare Street. The agreement indicates Wright submitted a formal request to the city council which granted him the ability to construct a fence along the city right-of-way in order to 'secure the property and prevent trespassing.'

Wright has the city's blessing to construct the fence as stipulated in the survey map along the boundary of the 1.14 acre lot. But what about what some describe as the structure's 'abominable' height?

Another viewer wrote she felt the fence was 'way too tall for the city’s code.'

She's right.

City engineer Shane Davis says when the city entered into a use agreement with the Wrights, they assumed the structure would be more like a four-foot decorative picket fence - not a towering battlement parapet.

Davis says the city has entered into a stop motion order on the project and that work on the fence was stopped Tuesday. "It will come down," Davis said.

WHNT News 19 attempted to gain comment from Wright or the resident of the home about the concerns that led them to what some characterize as 'drastic' measures to preserve privacy. When we rang the doorbell of the mansion, no one came to the door.

Kildare Estate resident attempts to deflect our camera's gaze.

Kildare Estate resident attempts to deflect our camera's gaze.

When we returned just hours later,  a resident flashed a mirror into our camera lens but did not respond to our questions.

Search 'Kildare Mansion' on YouTube and you'll find several videos of experiences from people who have been rebuked when passing by the property.

Shane Davis says the city is in contact with the property owner's attorney in discussions about how the fence can more closely resemble the intended final product.


  • rampant

    what happend to the out buildings that use to be behind the property? I believe they are secretly taking the property down peice by piece and selling it off,and dont want anyone to know.

    • Marie

      The out buildings were dismantled by the current resident, Delila Renee Van Landingham, and the current owner, Dwight Wright. They should have been preserved as part of the house (it being on the National Register of Historic Places). However, they only want the law when they think they can leverage it to their own will/advantage; they are more than happy to exploit the law when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t.

      • Carol Berryhill

        Marie you do not know what you are talking about the out building was condemned by the city of Huntsville , and the owners were ordered to take the building down due to termite damage . Before you commit maybe you should check your fact’s .

  • Jim M

    I personally don’t have a problem with them building a fence around their property that is appropriate. A stockade fence is not appropriate for the front of a property. Can you imagine your neighbors having that on the front of their properties? They could put a stockade fence around the perimeter of their property on the sides and back but along the front either have some type of picket style fence or Iron fencing. If I owned the property and had the money I would put in either brick columns connected with iron fencing on the front and stockade around the sides and back. Otherwise the property is going to look like a fort and pretty trashy too. 16 feet tall fence on the front is a no go period..People can do what they want but it must be within reason of city zoning codes.

    • Jay

      Except sell drugs, prostitution, burglary, And all illegal activities.

      They live in a forgotten area of Huntsville.
      If they want a 20ft tall electrified fence and the crime rate is high enough in the area(it is) then give them an ordnance that allows it.

    • Albert L

      But you wouldn’t put up a 4 ft tall brick and iron fence would you? Probably 8-10 ft.

      I’m wondering exactly why, when he asked for permission to erect this fence in order to ‘secure the property and prevent trespassing’ that the city “assumed the structure would be more like a four-foot decorative picket fence.” Yeah, prostitution and drug deals around the corner and the city thinks a four-foot picket fence will provide security.

  • jimmerrell

    The House is a beautiful piece of architecture that is to be preserved. The owners however are pretty hostile to people driving by taking pictures of it. The first time I saw the property someone inside started yelling at me saying it was against the law to take pictures of the house and that they had called the police etc.. The owners need to understand that people think the house is beautiful and there is no need for them to harass people who come by and are not tresspassing on their property..If they would stop that they most likely wouldn’t have teenagers trying to rile them up.

  • Privacy advocate

    It’s weird that ya’ll care about a fence going up to preserve privacy and deter harassment for the homeowners, yet none of you have any issues with the shady happenings going on right down the road……why don’t you all focus on cleaning up drug houses and prostitution issues, instead of picking on someone that is trying to deter trespassers? Heck, if lived there I’d want a dang fortress wall too.

    • Marie

      Dwight, perhaps you should sell your house in Old Town at the corner of Holmes and Steele and move in with Delila in the McCormick House. Of course, with all the demolition Delila has done in both houses, it’s gonna be hard to find a buyer without finishing the reconstruction/ renovations you’ve been doing all these years without having construction permits.

      It is weird that Delila no longer wants people looking at her and her/your house. It is also weird that you and Delila draw more attention by doing these stunts supposedly to get privacy (perhaps the cellar has become a great place to do other questionable things);

  • Katie B.

    I have a video on YouTube….they attacked my two teen boys for walking by and taking a picture from the road. Y’all are crazy for going to the door! By the way….Dwight wasn’t flashing the mirror….that was Delilah, she is CRAZY.

  • Privacy advocate

    Why don’t you all worry less about someone trying to prevent harassment from the constant gawkers and teen derelicts, and be more worried about the drug house down the road? Geez, what has happened to this world that a FENCE is put on the news, but drug deals on the same road are not ever reported on? If I lived in that area, you better believe I’d want a 16 foot fence around my property. Leave it alone if it’s none of your business.

  • Robert

    I wood love for one that size in front of my house so as I wouldn’t have to look at the eye sore that has had a camping tent in the front yard for the last 6 months & the & the city looked at it & went on

  • Jay

    Do you realize you can stand on the front of their property and see crack deals going on? Need a prostitute? Couple more steps.

    But hey at least the city is worried about there fence right?

    I have done work for them and they are generous very nice people from my experience. They have had many break-in(no one ever caught) and very much dislike people on there property.

    Let them put up a fence.
    Let them electrify it.
    If it gives them piece of mind let them have it.
    The city could care less about that area anyways.

    • Jim M

      I sympathize with them regarding the problems in the neighborhood but the lady is a little excentric about people driving by and looking and admiring their house. Like I said earlier no problem putting up a tall wooden fence around the property but not along the front. A more appropriate fence in front would work. 16 foot does not work anywhere in Huntsville for the front yard. I do agree the house is located in a bad area overall.

  • a. nonnie mouse

    I feel so sorry for these people. I watched the videos on youtube; including a video where a mother drove her child to the house so the child could blow a horn at the house while they were filming. Shameless behavior! It is almost like they are animals in a cage and people feel free to taunt them to draw them out. I think they have a right to protect themselves. Too bad crappy behavior isn’t against the law…the videos would make great evidence.

  • a. nonnie mouse

    Watch the videos like I did. These people are being taunted like animals stuck in a cage. Too bad such behavior from the public isn’t against the law…the videos would make good evidence. In one, a mother actually drove her child to the house to honk a horn, trying to draw out the people, while another passenger filmed. Shameless! I feel sorry for them…let them protect themselves. What would you do if people came to your house to draw you out and film…how threatened would you feel?

  • Rachel

    This house is on the National Register! If she didn’t want sightseers she shouldn’t have moved in there! She is trashing the place! Not to mention she is crazy!!

    • Sophie Katt

      So what are you saying – because they bought a house on “The National Register” they should be forced to endure whatever people feel like doing to them? How about we all stand around in front of YOUR house and stare? That would be OK with you? For about fifteen minutes, then you would be wanting to know “why”, why are we there, what do we want? We would answer, “Well you bought a house on this block, what did you think would happen?” That would be OK, right? You’re an idiot.

    • Sophie Katt

      You poor thing, you’re just fresh out of any business of your own to mind, aren’t you. It’s a lonely lonely life you lead, isn’t it? All a’twitter about the coming’s and going’s of everyone else, and no one gives a flying flip about YOU, do they. Did you ever stop and ask yourself WHY that is? Maybe you should.

  • John Titor

    The North Huntsville area around Oakwood and Meridian is actually an up and coming neighborhood undergoing a slow but steady arts renewal; the new 5 Points. It’s a shame the owners of the Kildare House want to take such a unique neighborhood landmark and block it from view. They should just satiate the public’s curiosity, open it up for tours like Burritt Museum and live somewhere else.

  • Bobbie

    If they really do not want any attention and desire privacy they should just move to a normal residence or one that is not in the middle of the city. The house is gorgeous and mostly people just want to admire it and are proud that we have such a historical house in our city. Their behavior has drawn people to taunt them as they act so outrageous to the admirers. My husband took me by this house about a year or so ago because I love old houses and the woman jumped out from the bushes and began shouting at us and videoing us. It was quite traumatic for the kids and myself. It is really sad to see such a lovely home go down hill.

  • Branko Pezdi

    In that neighborhood a properly constructed fence should be built in a star pattern so that enfilading fields of fire are available over the entire circumference of the property!

  • Sophie Katt

    It’s their property and they can erect a fence if they want to. They live in a bad part of town and cops will be among the first to tell them, “Do whatever you have to do, to protect yourself AND YOUR PROPERTY.”

    Cops these days can’t protect you. Neighbors can’t be counted upon to help you.

    What should these property owners do? Wait until something bad happens, then call 911 and WAIT? Wait for what? Cops to show up at their leisure to do some paperwork? Pull a white tarp over their dead body and stand around wisecracking and joking about overtime?

    • Privacy advocate

      I agree with Sophie, and the fact that this fence made the evening news is a travesty. The report is inaccurate, one sided, and mean spirited. The lady that lives in the house HAS to be frustrated, feeling threatened and downright angry about the constant drive bys and rude people taking pictures. People need to leave her alone, the house is beautiful yes, but for goodness sake’s have some sense and don’t be rude and intrusive to stop and get out of your car in front of someone’s personal property. I would HATE for that to happen to me at my house. And…..shame shame shame on the parents that are ignorant enough to allow and even encourage their kids to harass strangers. Come on people, everyone knows by now that this house isn’t haunted. Someone is trying to live there and just wants to be left alone. And shame on WHNT for running the story the way they did….’sensationalism’ isn’t the same as ‘investigative reporting’. This story was NOT professional reporting.

      • allsion

        The owners attack even when someone merely drives slowly to look. They are jerks and provoking gawkers. They brought it on themselves!

  • Marie

    Full disclosure requires the everyone know:

    Sophie Katt is Delila herself

    Privacy Advocate is Dwight himself

    Everyone should know that the wall / fence they were trying to build was to protect themselves and the house from the improved explosives they were planning to place under the rock they put in the street against the concrete curb; it is surprising that the HPD and HSV Traffic Engineering Department are allowing them to put #3 limestone rock in the street against the curb … it looks just like an IED designed to blast rock as projectiles to injure people in the street.

    These people are dangerous. Please be careful around them.

  • Dee

    I live on Kildare Street and am totally amazed at the comments some of you are placing on here and am really ashamed of WHNT for helping to stir contraversy up. I was part of a community watch for this area of Kildare Street and I had to (and still have to) deal with not just teen-aged kids, but so-called adults too, who come by just to be a nuisance and then speed up and down the street, and/or who will circle the block over and over again making noises, blowing horns, etc. Delila and Dwight both have tried to make their personal property a safe place for them to live all while doing so with beautiful landscaping of rocks, shrubs, etc. People say the fence is an eye-sore – the fence is not finished. Don’t criticize people if you don’t know them or know what they have had to deal with. How would you like for someone to stop in front of your house all hours of the night and blow the horn, run their car on your lawn and do doughnuts, destroy the landscaping that you fixed with your own sweat and time? People are so easy to comment and judge others when they don’t even know them or the facts of what they have had to deal with.

  • erica

    Delia Renee Vanlandingham has been arrested on multiple occasions, likely for harassing passerby. It doesn’t specifically say on the mugshot why she was arrested other than “shooting/throwing into occupied vehicle”, the woman is a nutcase. I had never seen the house before and my fiancé went to school with a kid who used to live there. He had seen the inside of the house before and wanted to at least show me the outside. We were across the street admiring the house and the woman ran towards our vehicle in a threatening manner. We got out of there quickly. There’s no telling what she would have done had we not left. She must sit and stare out the windows 24 hours a day watching to see if people approach he house or drive by the house. What a nut!

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