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The Drish House: The unique abandoned mansion proudly survives the passage of time

Bojan Ivanov

The Drish House is located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States. The building is a federal-style house built in 1837 by Dr. John R. Drish.

He was born in Virginia and was later one of the first settlers in Tuscaloosa. The house was among the first plantation residences in the town of Tuscaloosa. The large mansion was erected in the middle of a 450-acre plantation at the periphery of the town. It is a unique fusion of Greek revival and Italianate architecture styles.

Drish House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Drish House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

John R. Drish was a widower when he married Sarah Owen in 1835. Although he was a successful doctor, he also worked as a building constructor. In the course of his building work, he collaborated with many talented slave artisans who made the early plaster works, iron work, and wood carvings for the Drish House and other buildings in Tuscaloosa.

He also worked with the famous Alabama architect William Nichols to construct the town’s capitol building, jail, and university. There is no historical evidence that Nichols was involved in the construction of the Drish House, but the design of the house clearly shows Nichols’ influence.

The Drish House in 1911, while still intact.

The Drish House in 1911, while still intact.

The Drish House in 1936.

The Drish House in 1936.

At the time it was built, the Drish House was the most beautiful building in the town. The house was built in the late federal style, with two floors. Each side of the house’s façade was created differently. The north and south façades had five windows, on the east side there were three windows, and four windows on the west side.

The front door entrance was built in Greek revival style with four Ionic columns. The back façade featured six Doric columns. John R. Drish then remodeled his residence nearly twenty years after it was built. The reconstruction was made in Italianate style by adding brackets on the top of the house and by building a three-floor brick tower on the front.

Rear view of the Drish house.

Rear view of the Drish house.

 

The front entrance of the house.

The front entrance of the house.

 

Drish House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Drish House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

John Drish died in 1867 after falling down the stairs while drunk. His wife died in 1884. Over the following 150 years, the house served as a school, a church, a warehouse, and was abandoned for some time. It almost burnt to the ground during the American Civil War. It was renovated several times, but the house is now decaying and in poor condition.

Today it is owned by the Tuscaloosa Historical Preservation Society, which plans to totally restore the house in the near future. The house is a unique example of 19th-century architecture and a piece of American history.