Constructed over an 18 year period (1843-1861), Gaineswood evolved from a two-room “dogtrot” cabin into a Greek Revival style mansion. General Nathan Bryan Whitfield, the builder, was his own architect, though he had no formal training. The labor was done mostly by slaves, some of whom were extremely accomplished carpenters and plasterers. Three styles of Greek architecture are represented in the house: Doric-style outside, Ionic for the interior, and Corinthian in the drawing room. Gaineswood contains much of its original furnishings as well as several inventions of the builder.
Gaineswood was photographed and recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1936. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1972 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
The house and grounds are now operated by the Alabama Historical Commission as a historic house museum. For touring information, visit PreserveALA.org/Gaineswood.
This antebellum mansion is located at 805 South Cedar Avenue at Demopolis, AL (32°30’31.0″N 87°50’06.2″W – Google Maps).
Sources: 1) PreserveALA.org/Gaineswood, 2) The Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.
B&W photographs courtesy U. S. Library of Congress (HABS) – pictures taken 1934-1936.