Tuscaloosa becomes the state capitol
After Cahaba was abandoned as the state capital, Tuscaloosa served as Alabama’s capital from 1827 to 1846. At the time, Tuscaloosa was a thriving community along the Black Warrior River. But it was later found to be too far west as the population of eastern parts of Alabama grew. Thus, the capital was moved to Montgomery, a more central location, in 1846.
All that remains of Tuscaloosa’s capitol building are ruins that can be seen today in Capitol Park, located at 2828 Sixth Street in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Greek Revival and Federal style building
Designed by William Nichols in the Greek Revival and Federal styles, the capitol building was impressive. It was Nichols’ first project as the state architect of Alabama.
When the capital was relocated to Montgomery, the building was used by the Alabama Central Female College until 1923.
Preserved ruins on the site
On August 22, 1923 the building burned to the ground in a fire that was attributed to faulty wiring. In the 1930’s, funds provided by the Works Progress Administration allowed for the site to be cleared for use as a park. People from the area gathered bricks and other materials from the ruins of the fire to construct their homes and decorate their yards.
An archeological excavation begun in 1989 exposed the outline of the capitol. A design committee, which included UA historian and architecture expert Robert Mellown, drew up plans to create a ruin that would place the columns and other stone fragments in their original location. Today, a portion of a brick wall, a part of the foundation, and two stone columns are all that remain from the building. These reconstructed architectural ruins now stand as a reminder of Tuscaloosa’s early days. With its beautifully preserved ruins, the park provides a perfect backdrop for photographs, and it is also used for weddings, plays, and other special occasions.
Special events at these historic sites
Make a visit soon to the Old Tavern and Capitol Park. Now operated by PARA, Tuscaloosa County’s Parks and Recreation Authority, this park is a family-friendly green space in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa.
For special events, contact PARA if you are interested in renting the park. The Old Tavern is also available for rent for private parties, meetings, and special events.