About the Mansion
This magnificent Italianate house was built between 1859-1862 by Senator Robert Jemison Jr. to serve as his town home. The architect was John Stewart from Philadelphia, who along with his partner, Samuel Sloan, designed Bryce Hospital. The Jemison Mansion was incomplete when the Civil War erupted, causing many finishing touches to be left undone. Most of the building materials came from Jemison’s extensive plantations, and the majority of construction was performed by skilled slaves under the supervision of Philadelphia craftsmen. The mansion served as a single family home for the Jemisons from 1862-1936.
Following the sale of the mansion in 1936, it was utilized as an apartment building for a brief period until it was purchased by J.P. and Nell Burchfield in 1945. The Burchfield's renovated and revitalized the mansion, protecting it from declining into ruins. Following the Burchfield's, the mansion became the Tuscaloosa Public Library from 1958 to 1979. When the library moved to its new building on Jack Warner Parkway in 1979, the mansion was sold to a local magazine owner who utilized the mansion as a publishing house and office space until the late 1980's. Finally, the mansion was purchased by the city in 1991 and deeded to the newly formed Jemison Mansion Foundation in an effort to preserve its history and restore the home to its original splendor.
The restoration efforts of the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion began in 1991 and continue on today. Early changes included rebuilding the wooden porches, porticos, and a belvedere that had crumbled to dust and ruins over the mansion's long life, roofing the entire mansion with a new metal roof, removing additions, walls, and interior changes made during the 1900's and much more. Professionals in their respective fields were consulted for paint color recreations, fabric installments, and furniture acquisitions to help authentically take the mansion back in time to 1862. The Foundation continues these efforts today and is constantly striving to improve the mansion in a way that is historically accurate and educational.