Stillman House is a Tuscaloosa landmark
Authorized by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1875, what was to become Stillman held its first classes in 1876 and was chartered as a legal corporation by the state of Alabama in 1895.
At that time, the name was changed from Tuscaloosa Institute to Stillman Institute and later to Stillman College. The institute was a concept initiated by the Rev. Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa.
Today, as Stillman winds up homecoming festivities on its west Tuscaloosa campus, it stands as one of the premiere historic black institutions of higher education in the United States.
This year’s homecoming had special significance since the college reopened the historic Stillman House, where the first classes at the college were taught long before the present campus was established.
Located on 21st Avenue downtown, the lot on which the house stands was purchased by Rev. Stillman during his tenure as pastor of First Presbyterian. The purchase was made 16 years before the current 105-acre campus was acquired
After the Stillman House was built, it became a site both for training Tuscaloosa’s first African-American Presbyterian ministers, and later the first location of the college.
After the buildings on the current campus were complete and the first classes there were held in 1897, the Stillman House remained a part of the college and for more than a century was used for alumni gatherings, receptions, parties and even tutoring.
Eventually, however, the house fell into disrepair and was deeded to the National Alumni Association of Stillman College, which formed a committee in 2006 to find a way to repair and reopen the historic structure.
Under the guidance of committee chair Melissa Davis, who said restoring the house has been “a passion of mine for over 20 years,” more than $100,000 in grants and donations were secured. Thus far, $120,000 has been spent on renovations, which are continuing.
But last Thursday the Stillman House was in good enough shape to host a grand reopening following Stillman College’s 133rd Founders Day celebration.
“It will be used for the community at large,” Davis said. “It means that we have once again put the association in a position to serve the Tuscaloosa community.”
“The significance of its reopening is that it was one of the first properties that our founder purchased,” said Veronica Clark, Stillman College assistant vice president for marketing public relations. “That’s where the first classes were held, and so the building holds significance to the college.”
It also holds great significance for the city of Tuscaloosa as one of our early landmarks.
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