Gaineswood Plantation

Demopolis, Alabama

 


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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 architecture 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 P. Gaines.

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 Pushmataha Oak.

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.

This 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 unusual neoclassical mansions.

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!
 

Operations:
Tuesday-Friday  9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Last tour begins at 3pm

Gaineswood
805 South Cedar Avenue
Demopolis, Alabama

Directly across from the Demopolis High School football stadium