Gaineswood celebrates preservation month

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 12, 2007

Gaineswood commemorates National Preservation Month and the theme Making Preservation Work with a presentation and open house on May 17 in Demopolis.

Selma Architect Dick Hudgens and Gaineswood Site Director Matt Hartzell will give a PowerPoint presentation on the upcoming restoration of the National Historic Landmark.

The pair will discuss the work to be done in the next year to improve the condition of the roof, siding, and exterior foundation drainage.

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The presentation begins at 6 p.m. in the ballroom and will last about 50 minutes. Following the program, Hudgens and Hartzell will take visitors on the rooftops and grounds to see the problems, discuss solutions and to answer questions.

According to Hudgens, &8220;When you are standing outside on the grounds looking up at the roof, it appears to be very simple.

But when you come inside, go upstairs, and see the parapets, joints, and other irregularities through the windows, you see that the roof design is anything but simple.&8221;

A &8220;Sunset Open House&8221; from 6 to 8 p.m. features tours of the observatory and roof. &8220;Our open house offers a rare opportunity for visitors to go onto the roof and gain direct insight into the complexity of the problems we are trying to address with the upcoming restoration,&8221; said Hartzell.

The Greek Revival-style mansion was gradually enlarged and modified by owner-architect Nathan Bryan Whitfield over an 18-year period.

&8220;This is a major reason why the roof is so intricate and poses moisture issues today,&8221; said Hartzell.

Whitfield&8217;s daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was awakened in 1848 by a water leak in the parlor.

&8220;So, even he was battling moisture intrusion during the mansion&8217;s heyday,&8221; Hartzell said.

Admission for the May 17 event is $5 for adults and $3 for ages 6-18. For those who simply want to see the house, guides will be stationed on the main floor with the ballroom open for viewing following the 6 p.m. presentation.

In 2005, the Friends of Gaineswood and the Alabama Historical were awarded a Save America&8217;s Treasures matching grant in the amount of $260,000. The Historical Commission, the Friends of Gaineswood, the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, and the City of Demopolis have committed matching funds to the grant provided by the National Park Service.

Gaineswood, a historic site of the Alabama Historical Commission, is considered one of America&8217;s finest examples of the Greek Revival style of architecture.

For more information, call 334-289-4846. To protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama&8217;s historic places is the mission of the Alabama Historical Commission, Alabama&8217;s state agency for historic preservation.