This stunning example of Post-Civil War Italianate architecture was built by German immigrant and merchant Martin Horst in 1867. Despite the South being in economic shambles, he built a stately home with ornate plaster cornices, medallions, and woodwork that helped drive construction costs $7000 over budget. Horst was elected mayor of Mobile while living in the house, which was occupied until 1959. Afterward it sat empty during the post-WWII suburbanization era, until the house sold in 1963 to a developer who planned to have it bulldozed for a parking lot. Luckily the Mobile Historic Development Commission intervened and found a buyer for the stately home. Carl and Dorothea Brady renovated the house extensively, renting it to New Orleans restaurateur Bernard Guste. Bernard’s Restaurant became quite popular, and was part of the earliest efforts to revive historic downtown. Today the house is called the Ezell House, and is used as a wedding and event venue.
The Secret History of the Ezell house is that the small carved busts over the archway in the double parlor depict Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, leaving no doubt that Horst remained stubbornly loyal to the Confederacy long after the war had impoverished Mobile and damaged its port. He even wrote a letter to his brother bemoaning the “trying times down here. No money, no business and none in prospect.” He went on to complain that “Such is the state of affairs all over the Southern states and will remain so as long as radical thieves rule this once happy country.”