Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion

Photos/Text courtesy of Steven Hippensteel, AL
Webmaster for any use of the following  photos

More Tuscaloosa:
Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion
Chabannes-Sealy House
Drish Plantation Mansion

Bryce Hospital
University of Alabama Campus
Skirmish at Black Warrior River Bridge
Old Capitol Building Ruins
Greenwood Cemetery

Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Page1   Page2   Page3   Page4   Next

1. Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion
2. Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion: Wikipedia

3. Historic Tuscaloosa - Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion
4. Bridging The Divide: Van de Graff - Jemison Legacy Lives On

Description from the Jemison Van de Graaff Mansion website:
The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion (constructed 1859-1862) was one of the last and most elaborate great houses to be built in Alabama before the state’s economy was devastated by the Civil War. The builder, wealthy planter and business man , Robert Jemison, Jr., spared no expense to create a “state of the art” home for his family. The Italianate style house was designed by Philadelphia architect John Stewart who was in Tuscaloosa supervising the construction of the Alabama Insane Hospital (now Bryce Hospital). This enormous structure had been designed by Stewart’s partner Samuel Sloan, who also designed famous “Longwood” in Natchez, Mississippi. Jemison’s home incorporated the latest innovations in design and technology including an elaborate plumbing system with running water, flush toilets, and a copper bathtub. It also featured a large conservatory to be warmed by a central heating plant (unfortunately never installed because of the Yankee blockades), and indoor lighting fueled by coal gas manufactured in a machine located in the basement. Other modern features incorporated in the design were a boiler for producing hot water, a gas stove and, an early form of “refrigerator” consisting of a deep dry well in the basement that kept food fresh even in hot Alabama summers. This dry well seems to be the source of an enduring myth about the house which says that there is a tunnel from here to the river.

The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion was almost burned during the waning days of the Civil War. When Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama were threatened by Union troops, Senator Jemison fled for his life and spent several days hiding in the swamp near his plantation. In retribution, Union soldiers sought to burn the home of this leading Confederate senator. Mrs. Jemison was given fifteen minutes to take what possessions she needed from the house before it was put to the torch. Fortunately, during those few minutes young boys, playing a trick on the invading Yankees, rode down Greensboro Avenue crying, “Forrest is coming, hurrah for Forrest!” The Yankee commander, fearful of this legendary rebel general, ordered his troops to retreat. In their haste, they neglected to burn down the Jemison Mansion. The mansion is considered unfinished due to the blockades during the Civil War preventing the needed items from getting to the builders. In the past the Jemison Mansion has served as Tuscaloosa's Library and currently serves as the official Tuscaloosa Welcome Center.


(2010) Enlarge Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion
Enlarged Views: Hit Back Button to return

(2010) Enlarge Jemison Home marker



(2010) Enlarge Part of the water system

(2010) Enlarge Private water system sketch


(2010) Enlarge Private water system display


(2010) Enlarge Dining room clock and Mr. Jemison portrait

Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Page1   Page2   Page3   Page4   Next

Site Index     Sites by State Home