If you’re eager to step back in time, to experience life in Tuscaloosa in the 1860’s, schedule a visit to one of Tuscaloosa’s historic treasures, the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion. Built by Alabama State Senator Robert Jemison between 1859 and 1863, this stately home still stands on Greensboro Avenue. Most homes of that era were built in the Greek Revival style, but the Jemison home is an exception: it was built in the Italianate style. Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan, who was in Tuscaloosa working on the Bryce Hospital complex at the time, designed the home.
Jemison-Van de Graff mansion
For a brief time it was an apartment building until it was purchased by J.P. and Nell Burchfield in 1945. The Burchfields renovated the home, saving it from decline. From 1958 to 1979, the mansion was used as the public library for Tuscaloosa County.
It was purchased by the city of Tuscaloosa in 1991 and deeded to the Jemison Mansion Foundation.
Jemison Foundation’s renovations
In 1992, the Jemison-Van de Graaff Foundation was formed in order to restore the home to its former splendor. With the advice of professionals in historic preservation, and the help of grants, fundraising, and generous donations, the foundation oversaw major renovations to the mansion. In addition to restoring the interior of the home, the group supervised the building of new porches, the installation of a new roof, and the renovation of the belvedere atop the home.
Historic museum and tours
Today, this home operates as a historical museum. Tours are free to the public, although donations are appreciated, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Visit the website (https://www.historictuscaloosa.org/visit-us) to get up-to-date information on scheduling a tour.
Tours to this historic home provide visitors with an immersive experience of early Southern life in Tuscaloosa. On exhibit are original carpet patterns, art, and a collection of 19th century cooking tools such as potato mashers, apple corers, and coffee grinders. All through the home are original hardwoods, including fourteen varieties of local trees. The home and grounds are beautifully kept.
A beautiful wedding venue
This beautiful historic home is available for rent and is a popular venue for weddings, parties, meetings, luncheons, and more. It provides a lovely backdrop for photographing family and friends, and can be rented by the hour for such occasions.
Treat yourself to a tour of this beautiful home, or call ahead and schedule a group tour. Time spent exploring this historic home, one of the county’s first Italianate-style houses, would be time well spent.
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