One of my favorite homes in Tuscaloosa is the Drish House at 2300 17th St – it was built in 1837 by Dr. John Drish, and he remodeled it in the 1850s by adding the tower and columns. It was the center home of a several hundred-acre plantation, and it’s believed that the architect was William Nichols.
William Nichols is famous on his own — he was born in England and came to the US in 1800, and became the state architect of North Carolina in 1818. He moved to Alabama in 1827 when he was commissioned to become Alabama’s state architect and thus design the capitol at Tuscaloosa. He also designed buildings to make up the University of Alabama, and every one of them except one were burned to the ground by the Union Army in 1865. His rotunda in the center of campus, pictured below, were among those lost:
(This image is pre-1923, so it is in the public domain.) Nichols went on to Mississippi and designed the old state capitol building and the Lyceum at Ole Miss, besides other projects.
After the turn of the century, the Drish home was turned into a school, then ‘Tuscaloosa Wrecking Company’ which Walker Evans photographed and made famous. Later Southside Baptist bought the home, adding their own building to the side, which has now been demolished. The Drish home alone remains.
Image from LOC, Reproduction Number: LC-USF342-T01-008252-A
It was put on the state’s Places in Peril list about five years ago.
It is said that Dr. Drish had night terrors, and during one episode ran from his bedroom and fell off a banister in the home to his death. His wife grieved terribly. The ghost story is in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s first ‘13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey‘ book.
(This image is pre-1923, so it is in the public domain.) This is how the home appeared in 1905.