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Sturdivant Hall Museum

713 Mabry Street
Selma, Dallas County, Alabama, 36701

Sturdivant Hall in Selma, Alabama
Photo: License: Public Domain
Sturdivant Hall, also known as the Watts-Parkman-Gillman Home, is a historic Greek Revival mansion and house museum in Selma, Alabama.
Construction of what is now known as Sturdivant Hall began in 1852, but was not completely finished until 1856. Following completion, Edward Watts and his family lived in the house until 1864, when the house was sold and the family moved to Texas.

The house was purchased from Watts by John McGee Parkman, a local banker, for the sum of $65,000 on February 12, 1864. Following the end of the American Civil War, Parkman was made president of the First National Bank of Selma. The bank engaged in cotton speculation and accumulated huge losses. The military governor of Alabama, Wager Swayne, had his Reconstruction authorities take possession of the bank and arrest Parkman. He was imprisoned at the county jail at Cahaba. Assisted by his friends, Parkman attempted to escape from the prison on May 23, 1867, but was killed.

The house was sold at auction for $12,500 in January 1870 to Emile Gillman, a prominent Selma merchant. The Gillman family owned the house until 1957, when it was sold to the City of Selma for $75,000. A large share of the money for buying the house came through a $50,000 bequest from the estate of Robert Daniel Sturdivant, with a provision for setting up a museum in the city. The mansion was turned into a house museum after the purchase and named in honor of Sturdivant. The property continues to be maintained into the present day by the City of Selma, Dallas County, and the Sturdivant Museum Association.

The house is a two-story brick structure, stuccoed to give the appearance of ashlar. The front facade features a monumentally scaled hexastyle portico utilizing 30-foot (9.1 m)-tall Corinthian columns. The front portico is accessed from the second floor by a cantilevered balcony with an intricate cast-iron railing. Identical front doorways on both levels feature elaborate Greek Revival door surrounds with full Corinthian columns to each side of the door.

The side elevations of the house feature a small cantilevered balcony on one side and a wide first floor porch surmounted by another balcony on the other. Both make use of elaborate cast-iron structural and decorative elements. The rear elevation is dominated by a monumental distyle in antis portico with two Doric columns. A kitchen, smokehouse and two-story servants' quarters are set at right angles to the rear portico, forming a semi-enclosed courtyard to the rear of the house. A low pyramidal hipped roof covers the main block of the house, as well as the front and rear porticoes. It is crowned by a small cupola.

The house has at least one ghost story associated with it. Sturdivant Hall is featured in a short story by Kathryn Tucker Windham, in her 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. The story, "The Return of the Ruined Banker", involves John Parkman and the purported return of his ghost to the house after his death.

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