Alabama to Louisiana Road Trip {Demopolis: Gaineswood Plantation}

After a delicious breakfast at Homewood Bagel Co in Mountain Brook, we were on the road again! This was a very special day of our trip and one I’ve been looking forward to since December 12, 2008 – the day Whit was born!

Alabama to Louisiana Road Trip

Part 1: Birmingham {Grand Bohemian Hotel & Habitat Feed and Social}
Part 2: Demopolis {Gaineswood Plantation}
Part 3: Point Clear & Fairhope {The Grand Hotel & Mardi Gras}
Part 4: New Orleans {Mother’s Restaurant, Airboat Tour, Mr. B’s Bistro, Voodoo Bonelady Tour}
Part 5: New Orleans {St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, Central Grocery, Cafe du Monde, Preservation Hall & The Grill Room}
Part 6: New Orleans {New Orleans School of Cooking, National WWII Museum, Commander’s Palace}
Part 7: New Orleans {Mardi Gras World, Superior Seafood, Uptown Acorn}
Part 8: New Orleans {Windsor Court Hotel}

Gaineswood Plantation

When we found out I was having another boy back in 2008, Honey and I agreed that we would name him after my family since John is named for his family. We knew we would honor my dad, so the Francis part was easy. But, we also wanted a name from my mom’s side of the family. William would have been a wonderful choice and gone beautifully with Francis, but Sister was pregnant at the same time and “called” that name :-). (Rightfully so, as it is not only my maternal grandfather’s name but also her husband’s name and Jay is the III. There was a time she said they would be calling him Will so it was definitely out as we would have called Whit “Will” as well.) We tossed around family names for months and kept coming back to Whitfield. It always made me think of my grandma’s tales of spending her young summers (and of her mother’s similar stories) in “the land of milk and honey”, the Whitfield plantation in Demopolis, Alabama called Gaineswood.

I have googled Gaineswood so many times over the years. The time was finally right to bring Whit to the Whitfield plantation! We have countless Whitfields on our family tree thanks to marrying cousins. :-) Now a national historic landmark, the home passed out of the family in 1923 and was purchased by the national park service in 1974. It was surreal to finally see it in person! We were greeted by the director Nancy and she made quite a fuss over meeting our Whit.

Gaineswood, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed over an 18 year period (1843-1861). Owner and architect Nathan Bryan Whitfield produced a series of elaborate interior suites with domed ceilings. He adopted many details from popular architectural pattern books by Minard Lafever and others. A cotton planter, Whitfield is described as a Renaissance man. His family’s antebellum furnishings and remarkable decorative arts fill the Greek revival structure.

Below is the parlor. The Whitfields were wonderful musicians, artists and creatives, in addition to being a prominent political family producing countless Congressmen, Senators, Governors and military generals. I am sure my family history is interesting only to me, but if you want to read more William Whitfield II, the patriarch, is my 6th great grandfather. Ha! The flutina on the right is a musical instrument invented by Nathan Bryan Whitfield. We got to step behind the rope to get close up pictures of the room. One remarkable fact about the home is that 90% of the furnishings are original! We have toured a lot of historical homes and that is extremely unusual. Again, it felt surreal to walk in my grandma and great grandma’s footsteps and see the things they saw.

The dining room was equally as remarkable. The china is all original and the silver engraved with Whitfield.

The drawing room was called “the most splendid room in Alabama” and you could feel that. The windows opened ground to ceiling, on to verandas, back in the day. I could just imagine the parties.

Below is a picture from the “Mister’s Bedroom”. If you’ve followed our travels for a while, you will know that I love looking out windows in old homes. I love standing where people before me stood and seeing what they saw.

The Whitfields were known to be gracious hosts and entertainers. The five daughters lived upstairs in one room. Across the main hall was a guest suite. There was a room for visiting adult married couples, and a separate connected room for their children. Oh, and even a toilet for them to use tucked away in a closet! I know I’ve used the word surreal a few times, but I stood in the rooms where my grandma and great grandma – and their immediate family – stayed. I saw the beds and dressers and fireplaces and art on the walls.

It was a really special day.

While the furnishings are in mint condition, the home itself does need a good deal of work and the neighborhood is very run down, which was so sad to see. <3 Demopolis is not an area I imagine draws a lot of tourists. There were only two people working and just one other couple touring the entire time we were there on a Saturday afternoon. I hope it is still standing for my kid’s kid’s to see, should they have the desire to do that down the road.

If you hung in to the end, thank you for humoring me with this little piece of my family history.

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3 thoughts on “Alabama to Louisiana Road Trip {Demopolis: Gaineswood Plantation}

  1. I can only imagine how exciting it was to tour this old home knowing it was in the family!! We love touring historical homes & buildings when we travel….Who knew Demopolis had such a grand home? 🤣 (it’s on the way from B’ham to Jackson, MS, and def not a tourist hot spot!)
    Thanks for sharing pics!

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