This mansion is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival neo-classic architecture in the Southeast. Construction began on this house in 1852 but was it not completed until 1856. Built as a townhouse for Col. Edward Watts, the 10-room, 6,000-square-foot mansion cost $69,900 to construct. Artisans from Italy were brought in to do the plaster and marble work throughout the home. The marble was imported from Italy.
Sturdivant Hall is a two-story structure faced with stucco-covered brick that gives the home the appearance of being built from ashlar, or stonework. The 60-foot width front façade of the house showcases six enormous 30-foot Corinthian columns. The front portico is accessed from the second floor by a cantilevered balcony with an intricate cast-iron railing. Identical front doorways on both levels feature elaborate Greek Revival door surrounds with full Corinthian columns to each side of the door.
The rear of this house is dominated by a monumental distyle in antis portico with two Doric columns. A kitchen, smokehouse and two-story servants’ quarters are set at right angles to the rear portico, forming a semi-enclosed courtyard to the rear of the house. A low pyramidal hipped roof covers the main block of the house, as well as the front and rear porticoes. It is crowned by a small cupola.
The City of Selma purchased this home in 1957 and it now serves as a historic house museum. The house is available for rent for special events, private functions, and private tours. Public tours are available through the house, the detached kitchen that now houses the gift shop, and the garden.
Sturdivant Hall was documented in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1934 and added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on January 18, 1973. It is also a contributing property to Selma’s “Old Town Historic District” that’s listed on the NRHP.
Sturdivant Hall is also featured in a short story by Kathryn Tucker Windham, in her “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery”. The story, “The Return of the Ruined Banker”, involves John Parkman, one of the owners of Sturdivant Hall, and the purported return of his ghost to the house after his death.
Sturdivant Hall is located at 713 Mabry Street in Selma’s historic Old Town District (32.413111,-87.028611 – Google Maps).
Included are pictures of Sturdivant Hall. The b&w photographs that are included are provided courtesy the U. S. Library of Congress (HABS), photographer: W. N. Manning, date: February 3, 1934. Also included is a short video that provides details about its resident ghost, John Parkman.
Sources: 1) NRHP “Sturdivant Hall (Watts-Parkman-Gillman Home)” Nomination Form; 2) wikipedia.org/Sturdivant_Hall; 3) encyclopediaofalabama.org/sturdivant-hall-museum.