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DruidCity

Some Tuscaloosa old homes, etc

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Last month, I got a digital camera.

Here's a sampling of the photos I've taken about town, some of which turned out rather blurry :

Dearing Place Historic District :

The first four homes are located next to each other :

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Alaca Place Historic District :

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7th Street Historic District

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Caplewood Terrace Historic District

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Audubon Place Historic District

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Pinehurst Historic District

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Druid City Historic District downtown

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One side of home built in 1822 :

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"The Purple Palace"

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Newtown Historic District (Newtown was a separate municipality when founded in 1820 and served as a county seat briefly, but was absorbed into Tuscaloosa early on. This is the only one of Tuscaloosa's official historic districts where most current residents are black.):

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Capitol Park Historic District (state capitol from 1826-46):

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One of the main uses for Capitol Park and a nearby cluster of antebellum buildings (including the McGuire-Strickland House, built in 1820) is The Capitol School, Alabama's internationally accredited private school, currently with students from 19 countries. One of their classrooms is an antebellum jail:

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The Gorgas-Manly Historic District was the first part of the University of Alabama campus designated as a historic district, and includes the eight main academic buildings on campus circa 1880:

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The Downtown Area Historic District is pretty much a catch-all term including the central business district, historically centered around Greensboro Avenue:

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Fire Ant Statue in downtown Northport at the Kentuck Museum, which is best known for folk art:

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Downtown Northport has an annual event called "Dickens Downtown : A Victorian Christmas," but this is one of very few Victorian-style buildings there:

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Shirley-Christian home (1840) in downtown Northport :

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The VA Hospital here has the most licensed beds of any VA hospital in Alabama.

The 25-building complex on the east side of town is rather utilitarian in design:

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Corus Steel mill:

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Gulf States Paper Corporation is the largest company based in Tuscaloosa.

Here are some photos I took of their headquarters, a couple or three miles east of downtown along the river:

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Yes, the Kyoto-inspired theming is throughout the Gulf States HQ (where about 500 people work), complete with an aviary and the interior furnishings. I don't know if they still do it or not, but they used to offer free guided tours of the whole complex. A few miles north, at the NorthRiver Yacht Club area (which was developed by the same company), there's a few more buildings of that style.

There are about 3 dozen antebellum structures, mostly homes, remaining in the city. Most of our others were wiped out during urban renewal a few decades ago, or when the university was mostly destroyed during the Civil War.

There's one 5,000-sq-ft home from the 1850s in Alaca Place Historic District currently on sale for about $350,000.

There's a band of small, poor towns in the "Black Belt" region, 30-80 miles south of here that have a lot more. I'd guess there are 50 or more antebellum homes each in Eutaw, Greensboro, Demopolis, Marion, and Selma. Some of those homes are quite cheap, sometimes selling for < $100,000.

Perhaps the best known of Alabama's Black Belt mansions is Gaineswood in Demopolis, which is preserved as a museum :

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60 miles west of Tuscaloosa, in Columbus, MS, there are over 100 antebellum homes, and they have an annual spring tour with the horse-drawn carriages and such.

Of course, places like New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, Natchez, and St. Augustine really have amazing lots of great old architecture.

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Hi DruidCity. Thanks for the interesting post from the heart of Dixie.Tuscaloosa has some fabulous heritage mansions.Only 3 weeks back on my train journey to Darwin,here in Northern Territory of Australia, I talked with some visitors from Alabama.We have a lot of similar style mansions here in Adelaide,which are known as 'wedding cake' houses,and the European tourists love them and say that is what makes our city very special. :D

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I've never had the pleasure of visiting Australia, but my great-aunt did years ago, when she was in her eighties. It was the best trip she ever took. Adelaide was one of her favorite places, for the grand houses you mention. She found the locals to be very friendly & she even exchanged gifts and cards with one family for the rest of her life.

Last week, my next-door neighbor had some of his distant relatives from Australia as house guests.

A company called Austal USA (majority owned by Australians) has a shipbuilding operation on the Alabama coast (Mobile).

Here's a few more photos (not mine) of Tuscaloosa antebellum homes:

The Jemison mansion downtown :

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At the time of the Civil War, Jemison was Tuscaloosa's wealthiest and most influential citizen. Like Tuscaloosa's other representative, he opposed Alabama's secession from the U.S. Alabama did secede, but it was by a narrow margin. Of course, like everyone else, Jemison lost most of his wealth as a result of the war.

Much like Atlanta, much of Tuscaloosa's culture and wealth were destroyed.

Unlike Atlanta, though, Tuscaloosa had no strategic military significance (only one person died defending the city & it was within a week of the end of the war), and never had any sort of "Gone With The Wind" romanticized story that resulted in any great rebirth. Much of Tuscaloosa was destroyed for the simple reason that Union troops saw an opportunity to steal all sorts of valuables from a defenseless and then-well-to-do place, even prying open graves to rob and torturing slaves until the masters told where their valuables were hidden. The destruction of the old university library was one of the greatest losses to the history and culture of the region. Among the items needlessly and shamefully burned by the Union troops were original copies of writings by some of America's greatest authors. Just last week, an anonymous donor gave the university some very rare books that were similar to some of those. Of course, others were one-of-a-kind items that cannot be replaced.

http://www.datelinealabama.com/article/200...3_news_art.php3

One of the slaves Jemison had freed, Horace King, became very successful in his own right, and built a bridge over the river in the 1880s to replace the one that Union troops had destroyed in 1865. A section of that old bridge has been located & there's some local effort to restore it as a pedestrian/bike bridge parallel to the river.

You need a free log-in to read it, but here's an article about Solomon Perteet, a mixed-race antebellum businessman in Tuscaloosa. Even though he was part-black, he was well-respected within the white community, and bought slaves himself to free:

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/apps/pbcs.dl...03180303&Ref=AR

Here's the University of Alabama President's mansion. The antebellum home still has a couple of slave cabin buildings in back. When most of the university was destroyed by the U.S. Army in 1865, the university president's wife stood on the front lawn and successfully begged the invading forces to spare this home :

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The first part of the Battle-Friedman home downtown was built as a townhouse in 1835 by a Mr. Battle from a wealthy family North Carolina. In the 1870s, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, Mr. Friedman, bought the home and added onto it.

Mr. Friedman became the wealthiest local citizen in the 1870s. At the time, Mr. Friedman, who had done business in cities like Nashville and Atlanta, believed Tuscaloosa had the natural setting and resources to become as grand as those two cities. As it so happened, a new city called Birmingham was formed 55 miles to our east in 1871 that quickly boomed. Tuscaloosa remained a small, slow-growing place (as it is today), while Birmingham did grow to a comparable size to Atlanta by the 1930s (Birmingham's city population is much smaller now than it was 50+ years ago).

Today, the Battle-Friedman home is open as a museum, and is popular for local weddings. The small garden area has been restored to its original design.

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The University Club (private club mostly for UofA employees) was the governor's mansion in the 1840s, and received a $3-million renovation last year:

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Here's a downtown home from the 1830s that is still a single-family residence:

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From 1837 :

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Since 1821, Greenwood Cemetery has been at the western end of downtown.

Even though I was born in 1972, my grandfather's first wife (who is buried there) was born before the Civil War in 1860. Her father is buried there, too, and he was born way back in 1792. I think that's their family plot at the very front, in fact.

The raised style is a bit different from most of our modern cemeteries, and some of the early monuments were from New Orleans, which has to have raised monuments because of flooding concerns.

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I'll also add in some information about our main suburb of Northport, which is practically part of the same city. Their downtown area is very short (everything 3 stories or less), but a lot of their businesses have stayed open at the same locations for a long time. The Northport Barber Shop turned 100 years old this week (as did the buildings that house Spiller Furniture and Wild Birds Unlimited). Anders Hardware has been in the same location since 1909. It was a two-story building when constructed in 1891, but a tornado destroyed the upper floor in 1932. Faucett's, a two-level women's clothing store, has been in operation since 1881, the City Cafe since the 1930s, and the Northport 5&10 since 1853.

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Tuscaloosa has some great historic architecture! Some of it reminds me of what can be found around here. Yet other homes are completely different from what is found here. Thanks for the tour!

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Thanks for the additional post DruidCity.Much of the architecture from your area has inspired buildings in many countries.I was fascinated to learn of your grandmothers travels to Australia,and her connection to Adelaide.There are a few magnificent mansions in Tasmania.My favourite in South Australia is Georgian style,and located at Mintaro in the mid north of SA.It was used as the school in the movie 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'.Cheers,kota16 :P

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I had completely forgotten this old thread.

I don't think I've used my camera since.

Anybody have any history or info on the Corus Steel Mill?

It was built in 1985, and has changed hands several times. It cost something like $250 million to build, if I recall. It was "British Steel," "Tuscaloosa Steel," "Corus," and as of last year, "Nucor," a Charlotte-based company that also bought out sizable steel operations in Birmingham and Decatur:

http://www.tsteel.com/about.aspx

The eastern bridge, completed just a couple of years ago, can be seen in the Corus photo.

There's also a much-smaller Hanna Steel facility by the airport : http://www.hannasteel.com/directions_tuscaloosa_plant.htm

, and there used to be Sabel Steel downtown.

A developer bought and levelled the Sabel site in 1999, with the intent to build a "Class A office building," but it remains vacant.

"I don't think that I have ever seen a corporate HQ in the South with an oriental theme like that."

Gulf States Paper's main operations were bought out by a Georgia company called Rock-Tenn a few months ago, so the future use of this oriental-styled complex is unknown. Fortunately, the site is not owned by Gulf States, but by the local industrial development board, and just leased to the company.

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Thanks for the info on the steelmill. I'm really into industrial development and getting to about local industries, so I love that sort of information!

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Thanks for the info on the steelmill. I'm really into industrial development and getting to about local industries, so I love that sort of information!

Thanks !

Although there have been cutbacks (such as the planned closing of the nation's deepest-shaft coal mine), Jim Walter Resources remains one of the top employers in Tusc. county.

Here's a link that includes photos of the mines in eastern Tusc. County :

http://www.jimwalterresources.com/

This 1887 city plan shows the traditional influence of coal and iron in this area :

http://landmanagement.ua.edu/campus/Web/im...aloosa1887a.jpg

Halfway between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, straddling their respective county lines, is Tannehill Ironworks Historic State Park: http://www.tannehill.org/tsphist.html

(There is also a smaller sister-park, Brierfield, in Shelby County, 30 miles or so south of B'ham).

The Birmingham area still has some large steel mills in places like Fairfield. The Vulcan and Sloss museums in Birmingham are definitely worth a visit for people interested in industry and history.

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