The Jemison-van de graaf MAnsion
The Jemison- Van de Graff Mansion (constructed 1852-62) was one of the last and most elaborate great houses to be built in Alabama before the devastation of Reconstruction following the American Civil War. The builder, wealthy planter, businessman and Senator in the Confederacy Robert Jemison, Jr., spared no expense to create a state-of-the-art city home for his family. The Italianate style house was designed by Philadelphia architect John Stewart who was in Tuscaloosa supervising the construction of Bryce Hospital which was designed by him and his partner Samuel Sloan. The Jemison home incorporated the latest innovations in design and technology including an elaborate plumbing system which included running water, flush toilets, and a copper bath tub; a large conservatory to be warmed by a central heating plant (which was never installed due to the Yankee blockade) 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, an early form of “refrigerator” and a dumb waiter from the basement kitchen to the pantry located above.
The Jemison Mansion remained in the family well into the 20th Century. In the 1940’s the house was purchased by J.P. and Nell Burchfield who undertook a major restoration. From 1955 to 1979 the mansion served as a public library for the City of Tuscaloosa. When construction was complete for a new public library the mansion become the home of two publications, Antique Monthly and Horizon magazine. The home was then bought by the Jemison- Van der Graff Mansion Foundation and is now open to the public for tours and available for rent for events.