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The Old Tavern and Capitol Park: Two Historic Treasures in Tuscaloosa

Two of Tuscaloosa’s historic landmarks, The Old Tavern and Capitol Park, stand today as reminders of our city’s storied past. In 1827, architects designed the Old Tavern as an inn and gathering place, located just down the road from the new capitol building.

 

Its location was ideal for travelers, as it was near the stagecoach stop and livery stables. In addition to serving as a hotel and meeting place for state legislators, it was the temporary home of Governor John Gayle. After acquiring the property in 1964, the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society moved it to its current location. One of the few remaining nineteenth-century taverns in Alabama, the building currently houses a museum that showcases the early history of our area.
Old Tavern in Tuscaloosa

The Old Tavern was built in 1827, during the time that Tuscaloosa
served as Alabama’s capital.

Tuscaloosa becomes the state capital

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.

Old Tavern Museum

A visit to the Old Tavern Museum provides a glimpse of life in the early days of Tuscaloosa’s history.

Capitol Park ruins

Capitol Park, located near the Old Tavern, features ruins of the former state capitol building.

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.

The building had three wings that met in a ninety-foot-tall rotunda under the copper-clad dome.

Builders constructed it on a hill to ensure ships along the Black Warrior River could see it. Moreover, many believe it shaped the architectural style of numerous Tuscaloosa structures as the city transitioned from its agricultural roots to becoming the home of the University of Alabama.

After relocating the capital to Montgomery, the Alabama Central Female College used the building until 1923.

Alabama Central Female College

The former Capitol building became the Alabama Central Female College in 1923.

Preserved ruins on the site

On August 22, 1923, faulty wiring caused the building to burn to the ground. Then, in the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration provided funds to clear the site for park use. 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. The park, with its beautifully preserved ruins, offers a perfect backdrop for photographs. Additionally, people use it for weddings, plays, and other special occasions.

Capitol Park gazebo

The gazebo at Capitol Park is a popular spot for gatherings.

Performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream

A past performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Capitol Park.

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.

If you’re interested in renting the park for special events, please contact PARA. The Old Tavern is also available for rent for private parties, meetings, and special events.

—- Bottom Line —-

Call us at 205.248.7353 or send us a message. We’ll help you take your first step toward finding “A House That Fitts.”

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