Once a grand mansion that served as the focal point of a 450-acre plantation on the edge of town, Tuscaloosa’s historic Drish house has an interesting past. Built in 1837 by Dr. John R. Drish,
The large stuccoed brick home is considered by state preservationists to be one of the best examples of a mix between Greek Revival and Italianate styles in Alabama. In addition to being a private residence, the mansion has been home to a school, an automobile warehouse and wrecking company, and a church.
From Near-Demolition to Cherished Landmark
It was condemned by the city and came dangerously close to demolition until 2007 when the Southside Baptist Church donated the property to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society. After much repair and renovation, the home stands today as a reminder of the past and is also a popular venue for special events.
The Tragic and Complex Legacy of John Drish
John Drish, originally from Virginia, settled early in Tuscaloosa. There, he launched a thriving medical practice and worked as a building contractor. His slave artisans likely constructed his house, and state architect William Nichols seems to have heavily influenced its style. Sadly, life’s troubles overwhelmed Drish. By the Civil War’s end, he had squandered his fortune on war and gambling, and excessive drinking had deteriorated his health. In 1867, in what some say was a delirium tremors episode, he tragically fell and died on the house’s grand curved staircase.
13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey
However, the tale continues. Many believe the Drish house is haunted. Kathryn Tucker Windham highlighted it in her book, “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey,” with a tale titled “Death Lights in the Tower.” This story suggests that Drish’s wife, Sarah, held his wake in the house’s still-standing tower. A year later, Sarah tragically leaped from the tower, ending her life. She had a final request: to have the same candles from John’s wake at her funeral. Yet, for unknown reasons, this didn’t happen. Some claim no one searched for the candles, while others believe they did, but couldn’t find them.
Sarah Drish’s Eternal Vigil
However, rumors persist that Sarah Drish still haunts the tower. Many claim to have spotted mysterious lights in the tower room. Often, these lights startled onlookers, making them think the house was on fire. The elderly woman’s servants felt that her spirit came back to light her own death candles. For a video of Windham narrating this eerie tale with her distinctive Southern voice, click here Death Lights in the Tower
Unraveling Tuscaloosa’s Enigma
Although Tuscaloosa is home to many historic and storied places, perhaps none can rival the mystery surrounding the historic Drish house. To learn more about the home in its modern-day state or to book a special event, check out their website here The Historic Drish House
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