Gaineswood, circa 1905

Gaineswood from Ransom Center_1.jpg


Gaineswood, circa 1905


Houses and homes


This postcard was sent from Gaius Whitfield of Demopolis to Edwina Dakin of Columbus, Miss., on August 7, 1905, during their courtship. Dakin and Whitfield never married. Instead, Dakin married Cornelius Williams and the two became parents of two children, Rose and Tom. Tom became the writer Tennessee Williams.

The post card reads: "Gaineswood" Genl. Polk's residence, 1863 Demopolis, Alabama.

The postcard message reads: Am sorry I did not get to see you again before I left. Am having a big old time at home. Gaius

One of America’s finest Greek Revival houses, Gaineswood is a masterpiece. Exceptional interior spaces have domed ceilings, elaborate plasterwork, and a facing pair of gilt mirrors that endlessly reflect each other. Designed by owner and amateur architect General Nathan Bryan Whitfield, Gaineswood was constructed during 1843-1861. Some of the elaborate work was executed by African American slaves. The house museum contains many original Whitfield family furnishings and objects. The grounds feature a gazebo, a slave house, and a small building that was most likely a detached kitchen.

A National Historic Landmark, Gaineswood was built by Nathan Bryan Whitfield. A cotton planter and Renaissance man of his time, Whitfield moved from North Carolina to Marengo County in 1834.

In 1842 Whitfield purchased the 480-acre estate of George Strother Gaines. According to family records, a dogtrot cabin in which Gaines lived became the nucleus for Whitfield's Greek Revival mansion. With the help of artists, craftsmen, and other talented persons, including enslaved persons, Whitfield enlarged and refined the home to his liking.

By 1856 Whitfield decided to name the mansion Gaineswood in honor of George Strother Gaines. Gaines played a large role not only in the history of Gaineswood, but also in the history of Demopolis, the state, and in the 1830 Choctaw removal. It was Gaines who encouraged incoming French exiles in 1817 to establish their Vine and Olive Colony in what was to become Demopolis.

By 1860 Whitfield had added Gaineswood's domed ceilings. With the exterior and folly landscape complete, Whitfield hired artist John Sartain to produce a steel engraving of the mansion's façade and grounds. Shown in the engraving are a hand-dug artificial lake fed by an artesian well and a summerhouse pavilion.

(Description of Gaineswood from the Alabama Historical Commission)


Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin


Aug. 7, 1905


Betty Slowe (Description)






Demopolis (AL)

Original Format


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