Gaineswood, a plantation house in Demopolis, Alabama, was completed on
the eve of
the American Civil War after a construction period of
almost twenty years. It is the grandest plantation house ever built in
Marengo County and is
one of the most significant remaining examples of Greek Revival
in Alabama. The Alabama Historical Commission is currently operating
the house and grounds as a historic house museum.
Gaineswood was designed and built by General Nathan Bryan Whitfield,
beginning in 1843 as an open-hall log dwelling. Whitfield was a cotton
planter and had moved from North Carolina to Marengo County in 1834.
In 1842 Whitfield bought the 480-acre property from George Strother
Gaines, younger brother of Edmund
The grounds had been the site of a
notable historic event while owned by
George Strother Gaines. When
Gaines was serving as the Choctaw Indian Agent
he is said to have met with the famous chief of the Choctaw Nation,
Pushmataha, under an old post oak tree on what would become the Gaineswood estate to work out the terms of the treaty which would lead
to the Choctaw Indian removal. This tree became known as the
Whitfield named the estate Marlmont
in 1843 and then in 1856 renamed it Gaineswood in honor of Gaines. Whitfield family tradition
maintained that Gaines' original log house is the nucleus around which Gaineswood was built and
was located at the present location of the south
entrance hall and and office. Gen. Whitfield sold the house to his
son, Dr. Bryan Watkins Whitfield, in 1861.
second generation of Whitfields maintained Gaineswood as a residence,
along with the nearby Foscue-Whitfield House, which Mary Foscue
Whitfield inherited in 1861 upon her father's death. The Whitfield
family sold Gaineswood in 1923 and it was
acquired by the state of Alabama in 1966.
Gaineswood was completed in
its current Greek Revival form in 1861. It is considered to be
"Alabama's finest neoclassical house" and one of America's most
Gaineswood is one of the few Greek
Revival homes in the United States that uses all three of the ancient
Greek architectural orders and features an asymmetrical layout.
Whitfield is known to have designed most of the house from pattern
books by James Stuart, Minard Lafever, Nicholas Revett and others.
Much of the work on the house
was executed by highly skilled artisan slaves.
Gaineswood is on the National
Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic
Landmark in 1973. The Whitfield family has returned much of the
original family furniture and some statuary
to the house. Severe moisture damage to the ceiling and dome in the
dining room is being addressed by a Save America's Treasures grant.
And speaking of treasures, this is one that I have been passing for
years and did not know it. US Highway 43 goes right by Gaineswood and
I never saw it. I was always in a hurry and all I ever saw was the
Demopolis High School football stadium directly across the street. I need to slow down and see what I
have been missing!
Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Last tour begins at 3pm
805 South Cedar Avenue
Directly across from the Demopolis
High School football stadium.