1010 Greensboro Avenue
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
In 1835, Alfred Battle, a wealthy plantation owner and railroad financier, constructed this weekend townhouse in, what was then Alabama's state capitol, Tuscaloosa. Battle felt having a nearby home to the capital would give him an opportunity to entertain and influence legislatures. The capitol shortly moved to Montgomery in 1846, but Battle remained within the political scene.
Architectural historians believe that many of Battle's slaves. who were skilled craftsmen, erected this two stoned brick dwelling which boasts Federal and Greek Revival detailing Originally, the house consisted of two front rooms. an entrance hall, and two upstairs bedrooms. The rear dining room, an additional upstairs bedroom, and the front portico, with its six massive, paneled columns and its "faux marble· fa de, were added in the 1844 The six columns were a distinctive style in Tuscaloosa during the nineteenth century. The south dining room and the upstairs southern bedroom were added about 1860.
Alfred Battle's wife, Millicent, focused her attention on the grounds. In 1844, she employed an English landscape architect, Peter McArthur, to design the garden. When completed, the beautiful gardens were a popular attraction to Tuscaloosa residents and travelers. The Battles enjoyed their elegant townhouse for almost 40 years. Following the South's defeat in the Civil War, the Battles' Confederate investments ruined them.
In 1875, Alfred Battle sold his home to Bernard Friedman, a wealthy Hungarian immigrant. Fleeing the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849, Friedman arrived in the United States in the 1850s a poor man. Friedman rose from the ranks of a simple peddler to owning numerous good stores across the Southeast. For almost a century, members of the Friedman family occupied the home, embellishing the interiors, and maintaining the beautiful grounds.
Upon his death in 1965, Hugo Friedman, son of Bernard and a noted Tuscaloosa businessman and philanthropist, deeded the house to the City of Tuscaloosa for use as a cultural and social center. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Today, the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society maintains the house and gardens. In 1997, through a generous gift of Mrs. Anne Boyd Russell, the gardens were restored to their original design. The house's grounds include the only remaining documented antebellum greenhouse in the state of Alabama.
The Battle Family
The Battle-Friedman House was built in 1835 by Alfred Battle and his wife Millicent Beale. Alfred was from North Carolina and Millicent was from Maryland, but they met in Georgia. Soon afterward, their family decided to move to the territory of Alabama. Alfred, rising in status, due to his agricultural and later business interests, wanted to be closer to the city life so they built this townhouse in 1835. The Battle family owned the house until 1875 when they lost it due to foreclosure in the last dark days of the Reconstruction period.
The Friedman Family
The house was bought by the Friedman family. The head of the family, Bernard Friedman, was a Hungarian Jew who had come to Tuscaloosa as a peddler, opened a store, and became a respected member of the Tuscaloosa business community. Bernard and his wife, Linka, raised their three children in the home throughout the early 1900s. The Friedman family owned the house until 1965 when it was willed by Bernard’s youngest son, Hugo Friedman to the City of Tuscaloosa.
The front portico is similar to ones which grace many large antebellum houses in Tuscaloosa and it is thought that one unknown builder was probably responsible for designing and constructing all of them. Please note the typically Tuscaloosa style paneled columns which encase whole tree trunks. The house is brick with plaster over the front facade only. The finish on the plaster is called faux marbre, or false marble. Faux finishes were quite popular in Tuscaloosa in the nineteenth century. The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion is another example of a house with a faux finish. On this house the finish is meant to represent rose marble.
In 1844, Mrs. Battle had the garden laid out by an English gardener who was traveling through the south. He designed the intricate pattern of interlocking diamond shaped beds. It was probably at the same time that the Battles constructed the greenhouse or fern house which you see on the south side of the garden. This is one of the oldest greenhouses in existence in the state of Alabama. Over the years the Friedman’s embellished the gardens by adding a gazebo and the fish pond.
In 1996, the Preservation Society undertook the restoration of Mrs. Battle’s garden. This was made possible by a generous donation from Mrs. Anne Boyd Russell. Mrs. Russell donated over $75,000.00 to the project because she remembered, as a child, hearing her mother sing “It’s not raining rain you know, it’s raining daffodils.” A further generous bequest by Tennie Davidson allowed the Society to finish the project and also undertake other projects which would not have been possible without her legacy. The restored gardens reflect the evolution of gardens from 1844 through the early twentieth century and contain a wealth of mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century plant material including camellias, azaleas, boxwood, hydrangeas, roses, spirea, flowering quince, crape myrtle and dogwoods. The gardens are now known as the Anne Boyd Russell Gardens.
What They’re Saying About Us
We visited this location as a wedding venue, and I found it very interesting from a historic and an architectural point of view. The interior friezes are pretty amazing, and the fact that period furniture is on display is a plus.
We had a great tour of the home. The tour guide knew the ins and outs of the home and the history of the families who owned the home. Keep up the great work and your passion of telling their stories.
Absolutely beautiful historic home. We took a tour of the home and grounds, and it was just breath taking. The sweet lady who gave us our tour shared so much history with us. It was great. We’ve been to a wedding here as well. So pretty.
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