It dawned a gorgeous day for a road trip, so I headed out to Demopolis, AL, to find the Gaineswood National Historic Site.
The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America: The Deep South calls Gaineswood “one of the three or four most interesting houses in America.” Well, I can agree. I’m not one for visiting old houses, but thanks to a very knowledgeable guide I thought the tour of this house was more than worth the 75 mile drive. It’s hard to believe that this house started out as a two room cabin with a dog trot in the middle. The white building you see above took 18 years of add-ons and improvements to end up the way it was in 1861.
When Nathan Bryan Whitfield bought the cabin in 1843 he moved in with, if I remember correctly, 12 other family members. Needless to say he began immediate expansion of the home. All of the designs were his, and he didn’t spare any money in the construction. Huge mirrors like the one on the top left were made in France and shipped to the home. The majority of the skilled craftsmen who built Gaineswood were slaves. (Remember that view through the window in the bottom right area)
One of the rooms in the upstairs immediately made me think of Karen (of RVing: Small house…BIG Backyard blogging fame). I’m sure she would have appreciated this room, and could probably do a better job of explaining the picture in the bottom right. As I understood it, after spinning the cotton on the big wheel (to the left) the ladies of the house could put in as many as 20 miles a day walking back and forth working that big spinning wheel. Then they used the machine in the lower right to put the cotton into skeins. When one skein’s length was reached, the round cogged or geared circle would pop off. That circle was called a weasel, hence: that’s where ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ came from. COOL BEANS!! I love it when I learn where phrases come from.
Okay folks, do you think bathing in an RV can be a challenge at times? Well here’s my favorite artifact that was on display in a small room off the master bedroom that was dedicated to the mistress’ personal hygiene. It’s the “tub”. It’s made out of tin, is maybe a little under three feet wide, and the water holding depression is maybe 5” deep and a foot across. Talk about a sponge bath! Yep, I’m sure liking modern conveniences like running water. Of course, the Lady had slaves to bring her the hot water she needed…
There are many many other things I saw and learned of on this tour, but I’ll just say that I recommend you visit Gaineswood if you are ever anywhere near Demopolis, Alabama. Not being a fan of fast food, I had packed a lunch to bring along, and I will leave you with a picture of the view from my lunch gazebo today. (remember the pic through the window)
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy