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What Is Gorgas House?

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  • Written By: Paul Cartmell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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The Gorgas House is a state monument on the campus of the University of Alabama in the United States. Architect William Nichols designed the building as a part of the original University of Alabama campus before the U.S. Civil War. Gorgas House is named for the Gorgas family who lived in the building in the latter half of the 19th century. The building is preserved as a historic memorial and is open to visitors to the university campus.

Built in 1828, the Gorgas House was originally intended as a guest house for dignitaries and academics visiting the University of Alabama. Students were also permitted to use the building as a dining room before the house was remodeled as a faculty residence in the 1840s. During the U.S. Civil War, the Gorgas House was the only building on the University of Alabama campus that was not destroyed.

Architect William Nichols was responsible for designing the building, which was built two years prior to the rest of the original university campus. Along with the original University of Alabama campus, Nichols was responsible for designing the Alabama State Capitol in Tuscaloosa, and the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Mississippi. There are no other buildings remaining on the Alabama campus designed by William Nichols.

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General Josiah Gorgas was awarded the Gorgas House following his retirement from the position of University of Alabama President. Ill health forced General Gorgas to accept the position of university librarian, which he held until his death in 1883. During the Gorgas family’s occupancy of the house, General Gorgas’s wife, Amelia Gayle Gorgas, took the dual positions of post mistress and mistress of the infirmary. Following her husband's death, she took over the job of university librarian, leading to the naming of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas library on the University of Alabama campus in her honor.

The high esteem in which the Gorgas family is held in Alabama led to the Gorgas House being declared a memorial to the family by the state legislature in 1944. Along with his work at the university, General Josiah Gorgas was a Confederate General during the Civil War and Amelia Gayle Gorgas was the daughter of Alabama Governor John Gayle. To preserve the Gorgas House, the building became part of the University of Alabama Museums group. As of 2011, tours are operated from Tuesday to Saturday for visitors to the Gorgas House, with rental of the building available for special occasions and celebrations.

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