On December 6, 1825 the Alabama state senate decided to move our capital from Cahaba (then spelled “Cahawba”) to Tuscaloosa. Senators chose Childress Hill as the site for the capitol building due to its view to passing ships on the Black Warrior River. Marking the beginning of Western foundation and philosophy in Tuscaloosa, the building was the physical expression of the Western attitude.
Featuring a combination of Greek Revival and Federal architectural styles, the capitol building was the first project awarded to Alabama state architect William Nichols—who also designed the original University campus.
Knowing his way around design and style, Nichols designed the exceptionally beautiful building. It featured an entrance hallway surrounded by three main wings. The north wing housed the Senate’s Chamber, the south wing housed The Hall of the House of Representatives, and the west wing contained the Supreme Court’s Chamber. A gallery for spectators was also contained within the north and south wings. The three wings were connected by a large rotunda directly under the central dome of the building which was naturally lighted by a lantern.
The exterior of the building was made with “rusticated stone” on the first story with the second story being built with red brick that finished the last two stories. The main entrance featured two-story tall pillars while the north and south entrances had sandstone columns. The building was finished in 1829.
Tuscaloosa remained the state capitol for about twenty years, utilizing the building even after the state decided to move the capital to Montgomery in 1846—specifically because Montgomery was closer to the state population due its close proximity to the Alabama River.
After its use as the capitol building, the old capitol building in Tuscaloosa was acquired by the University of Alabama; however, because they could not find a use for it, it was commissioned to The Baptist Convention, which used it as the site for the Alabama Central Female College. It remained a school until a fire destroyed the property on August 22, 1923. The fire was suspected to be caused by faulty wiring.
Today only the stone foundation and columns remain standing, but the importance of the site has not diminished, marking the beginning of Tuscaloosa’s Western foundation and the emergence of a true Title Town.