Gaineswood Antebellum House Museum
One of America’s finest Greek Revival houses, Gaineswood is a masterpiece. Exceptional interior spaces have domed ceilings, elaborate plasterwork, and a facing pair of gilt mirrors that endlessly reflect each other. Designed by owner and amateur architect General Nathan Bryan Whitfield, Gaineswood was constructed during 1843-1861. Some of the elaborate work was executed by African American slaves. The house museum contains many original Whitfield family furnishings and objects. The grounds feature a gazebo, a slave house, and a small building that was most likely a detached kitchen.
A National Historic Landmark, Gaineswood was built by Nathan Bryan Whitfield. A cotton planter and Renaissance man of his time, Whitfield moved from North Carolina to Marengo County in 1834.
In 1842 Whitfield purchased the 480-acre estate of George Strother Gaines. According to family records, a dogtrot cabin in which Gaines lived became the nucleus for Whitfield's Greek Revival mansion. With the help of artists, craftsmen, and other talented persons, including enslaved persons, Whitfield enlarged and refined the home to his liking.
By 1856 Whitfield decided to name the mansion Gaineswood in honor of George Strother Gaines. Gaines played a large role not only in the history of Gaineswood, but also in the history of Demopolis, the state, and in the 1830 Choctaw removal. It was Gaines who encouraged incoming French exiles in 1817 to establish their Vine and Olive Colony in what was to become Demopolis.
By 1860 Whitfield had added Gaineswood's domed ceilings. With the exterior and folly landscape complete, Whitfield hired artist John Sartain to produce a steel engraving of the mansion's façade and grounds. Shown in the engraving are a hand-dug artificial lake fed by an artesian well and a summerhouse pavilion.
Today visitors can tour the Greek Revival structure which contains many original Whitfield family furnishings donated by descendants.
I debated between visiting Gaineswood and Magnolia Grove...I am more than happy with my decision. Gaineswood has been (and is) restored to it original beauty. While the grounds are not as large as they once were, you still feel the immense beauty of the place. What is perhaps the most impressive fact is that Whitfield designed the house from a dog run cabin to its current state with no formal training. Both the director and the volunteers were knowledgeable and welcoming, they truly knew how to treat guests with an experience they would not forget. You are taken through the house as it was built by Whitfield and each room simply drips with history of a long-gone era. There are many original elements and pieces throughout the house which only adds to the experience. Allow yourself at least 2 hours to properly see the house and ask questions as the come to you. Gaineswood is just a wonderfully hidden gem in Demopolis, AL. I made the 2-hour drive from Montgomery to see the house and I do not regret my decision at all. Admission is $7 for Adults, $5 for Military, $3 for Students (6-18), they are cash only, so keep that in mind however, if you forget there are two ATMs (one at Regions Bank) located close by.
You can mostly get to know history here
History comes to life, great old home
Awesome historic site