500 Nicks Kids Avenue
Tuscaloosa, AL 35403
The Old Tavern was built in 1827 by William Dunton, a local hotel keeper of early Tuscaloosa. Through the years, the structure has been a tavern, a stagecoach inn, and a residence.
The Old Tavern illustrates several French influences. There are French designs, such as an overhanging balcony, an asymmetrical plan, and an exterior chimney breast. The layout of The Old Tavern consists of six rooms— three upstairs and three downstairs— with a narrow staircase connecting. The kitchen was once held in the basement but was later abandoned after the inn was moved to its current location.
During the nineteenth century, The Old Tavern played host to many individuals, such as weary travelers, Civil War soldiers, and members of the state legislature. Several state committee meetings were held under this roof. The state’s 7th Governor, John Gayle, even temporarily called The Old Tavern “home” during his administration, from 1831-1835. The property was used as a hotel tavern until 1882, when it was sold to the Robert Wilson family as their residence.
During much of the 1900's, the Old Tavern was used as a private residence. It was the home of Taylor Robinson, a violinist, from 1900-1930. During the 1930's the Tavern was photographed and evaluated by the Historic American Building Survey. It may have had several other residents through the mid-1900's years. But by the 1960's the Tavern and her history were in danger.
In 1964, Miss Emma Wilson sold The Old Tavern to Egerton Harris, Jr., who deeded it to Historic Tuscaloosa.
Due to bridge construction, Historic Tuscaloosa was forced to move the tavern to a new location or see its destruction.
In 1966, with the help of citizens, money was raised to move The Old Tavern to its current home in Capitol Park.
Saving the Tavern
In 1966, the Old Tavern was in danger of being demolished and forgotten. The Hugh Thomas Bridge over the Black Warrior River was being built and the Tavern's location put it right in the middle of the construction bustle. A group of Tuscaloosa citizens formed and raised funds and volunteers to move the Tavern from its location on University Blvd. to Capitol Park where now resides. During the move and further construction of the Thomas Bridge, numerous artifacts where discovered at the Old Tavern original site and are now on display inside the tavern.
Significant People of the Old Tavern
William Dunton: The Old Tavern was built in 1827 by William Dunton. Dunton was a successful hotelkeeper in early Tuscaloosa. In addition to The Old Tavern, he also managed the Golden Ball Hotel (located where the restaurant DePalma’s now stands).
S.A.M. Wood: Sterling Alexander Martin Wood was born in Florence, Alabama on March 17, 1823. As a young adult, Wood practiced law in Tennessee, served in the Alabama legislature, and was a newspaper editor. When the nation became divided by the Civil War, Wood enlisted in the Confederate Army as part of the “Florence Guard” on April 3, 1861. Wood took part in numerous battles and campaigns, including the Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Pennyville, Battle of Stones River, Tullahoma Campaign, and the Battle of Chickamauga. During the Civil War, The Old Tavern was host to many Confederate soldiers, including Wood. After he and his family were forced from their Florence home by Union troops, they decided to flee to Tuscaloosa and temporarily moved into The Old Tavern. Wood later made his home in Tuscaloosa, where he became a state representative for Tuscaloosa County. Wood died in Tuscaloosa on July 26, 1891.
John Gayle: John Gayle was the 7th Governor of the state of Alabama, from 1831 to 1835. During his term as Governor, the state bank was expanded, Alabama’s first railroad, the Tuscumbia Railway, was completed, and The Bell Factory, the state's first textile mill, was incorporated. During his administration, the capitol of Alabama was Tuscaloosa and Gayle made his home, briefly, at The Old Tavern. He also served in the United States House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. Gayle died on July 21, 1859, at the age of 66 in Mobile, Alabama.
Wilson Family: The Old Tavern was used as a hotel tavern until 1882, when it was sold to the Robert Wilson family as their residence. The home remained in the family until 1964. Miss Emma Wilson sold The Old Tavern to Egerton Harris, Jr. who deeded it to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society.
Had a great afternoon adventure touring the Old Tavern and the Capitol Park next door with my mom and sister! The Old Tavern was full of historical tidbits and knock knacks. We learned a lot about Tuscaloosa’s early history and place in the Alabama political realm too.
Great place to see how things were in Tuscaloosa in the 1800's and what it was like when Tuscaloosa was the state capital.
My wife took me to The Old Tavern Museum as she knows I love history. The museum has a great tour guide and it is laid back when you visit. I'd definitely recommend visiting if you're in Tuscaloosa, or interested in Alabama or southern history.
Look around the inside and outside of the Old Tavern with our interactive tool below. You can read stories, see pictures and different views of the building, and learn interesting facts about its history. If you're looking for more information on the Tavern, make sure to click the "Tour Virtually" link above.