The President’s Mansion is built
The history of the home began in 1838 when the Board of Trustees set aside funds to build a residence for the president of the then young institution.
Since William Nichols, the original architect who had built the few buildings already on campus, had left the state, the mansion was built by Micahel Barry in the Greek revival style that complemented the existing buildings.
A target for destruction
During the presidency of Landon Garland, the university campus was virtually destroyed by the Union troops under the direction of General John Croxton in 1865. Croxton had been ordered to destroy all targets of military value in the area, and had already destroyed all factories and a bridge in Tuscaloosa. And since the University of Alabama trained as many as 200 cadets each year, it had gained the nickname of the “West Point of the Confederacy” and was a prime target.
Saving the home from fire
According to tradition, Lousia Frances Garland, wife of the third UA president, bravely saved the mansion from being burned. Upon hearing that the campus was burning, she left Bryce Hospital where the locals had taken shelter, and raced back to her home.
Arriving just as the Union soldiers were setting fire to a pile of furniture inside the building, she persuaded them to put out the flames, thus sparing the building. The mansion is one of only seven campus buildings that survived Croxton’s Raid.
The President’s Mansion today
Today, the mansion is a bustling social center for the campus. President Stuart R. Bell and his wife Susan, the current residents of the home, host dozens of events annually at the antebellum, 11,781-square-foot mansion.
Student and alumni tours, formal dinners, tailgate parties, and an annual Easter egg hunt for local children are among the activities held at the mansion. The president and his family occupy the third floor, while the first and second floors are used for gatherings and receptions.
On the National Register of Historic Places
Tuscaloosa is fortunate to be home to the University of Alabama with its beautiful campus, and especially the President’s Mansion, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. It has served as home to university presidents and their families for nearly two centuries.
UA’s groundskeepers take meticulous care of the lawn, which on fall Saturdays is covered in white tents for presidential receptions. In spring, UA seniors in cap and gown and high school students headed to prom make their way to the lawn for photos.
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