History of Liberty Hall
The story of Liberty Hall is a story of family, one filled with cherished memories, an independent spirit, strong women and patriotism. When John Robert McDowell built his impressive Greek Revival home in the 1850s, he selected the best materials and used the best craftsmen available. He intended his beautiful home to last to be enjoyed by generations to come. Now, his fifth generation descendant lovingly cares for the house and shares it with bed and breakfast guests.
This historic plantation house near Camden, Alabama, is in the heart of the Black Belt, a rich stripe of black earth perfect for growing cotton. This fertile land became the center of plantation culture in Alabama and is home to some of the South’s most beautiful antebellum mansions. Liberty Hall’s two-story front portico features two central Ionic columns flanked by a square column to each side. The floor plan is centered on a broad hall that separates four large, equally proportioned rooms on both levels. The formal rooms and hall on the lower level have elaborate plasterwork designed, in part, by Harriet McDowell, wife of John Robert McDowell. Full French windows open from the parlor onto the large veranda.
The dining room, the largest room in the home, is separated from the main body of the house by an open gallery. Liberty Hall remains one of the most unaltered antebellum mansions in the Black Belt. Only slight alterations have been made to the floor plan, and family heirlooms sit where they’ve been enjoyed for generations.
This house was recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) – a program established by the NPS in 1933 to document historic places in the United States. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1984. The house is also featured in Jennifer Hale’s Historic Plantations of Alabama’s Black Belt.
Liberty Hall is available to overnight guests by reservation only, subject to availability. Liberty Hall is also open for tours by reservation only for $7.00 per person. Contact us at 334-412-3513.
Every Room Tells a Story
The South is known as a land of story tellers, and Liberty Hall certainly has its stories to tell. Long before ancestry.com, generations of Liberty Hall residents easily kept their genealogy straight with an unusually complete set of family portraits. Like many of the house’s heirloom, these portraits provide a fascinating insight about the family and more broadly about Alabama and the South.
Samuel W. McDowell
This portrait of Samuel, born 1858, was likely painted near the beginning of the Civil War. Liberty Hall rises in the background. His stick bird trap continues the rhythm of the rail fences. He holds the small bird he caught, and his hat, resting on the ground beside him, sports a turkey feather.
While Samuel’s portrait pictures a happy childhood, several of his children died very young. Early Alabama was a harsh environment, even for plantation owners. This portrait by one of antebellum Alabama’s top artists, Nicola Marschall, features several symbols of death and mourning including the wilted flower.
Narcissa Goree Tait
This is Narcissa's graduation portrait from Judson College, the fifth oldest women’s college in the United States. Jewett Hall, the college's main building is in the background. She was valedictorian of her class and is shown in her "uniform dress" of plain worsted wool — silk and jewelry were not tolerated.