Cedarwood is a rare example of a wooden-frame home in Alabama and was constructed in 1818 near present-day Greensboro, Hale County, in what was then the Alabama Territory. The home was relocated in 1974 and then in 2012 to the campus of the University of West Alabama (UWA) in Livingston, Sumter County.

Cedarwood The original structure was designed with a large front room that served as the main room of the home. Behind the front room there was a smaller room with a hallway entrance to the side. The design of this home differed from the typical large, columned two-story plantation homes that would later predominate architecture in the area. Construction materials from the local area used to build the home included lumber from large cedar trees from the surrounding forest and hand-hewn heart pine beams, which remain in the building. Cedarwood’s sturdy construction has allowed it to remain largely intact during two relocations nearly four decades apart.

When Alabama was still a territory, Joseph Blodget Stickney and his wife Harriet Jane Grist relocated from Boston to begin construction on their family home in a small area named Troy (not to be confused with Troy, Pike County), later referred to as Greensborough. Cedarwood was constructed on land that had been ceded to the United States by the Choctaw Indians in the October 24, 1816, Treaty of Fort St. Stephens. A large tract of this land was later granted to former French general Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, who had served under Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, was later exiled, and relocated to Boston. There, he befriended Stickney, who purchased 840 acres of land from him. Lefebvre-Desnouettes was later a leader of the Vine and Olive Colony established in Marengo County. Stickney’s wife, Harriet Jane Grist Stickney, originally from North Carolina, brought with her enslaved persons who were part of her dowry. When they arrived, Stickney and the enslaved workers began constructing the first small dwelling in 1818. This building was named Cedarwood after the trees common in the surrounding forest and was enlarged as the family grew. The Stickneys would become some of the first plantation owners in the fertile region of the Black Belt area that became prosperous through the cultivation of cotton by enslaved workers.

In 1823, the home was enlarged from two to four rooms, with the new rooms on either side of the central hallway. Later additions included an upstairs with additional rooms and steeply gabled roofs characteristic of early nineteenth century Alabama and influenced by the Tidewater region of the mid-Atlantic states. The triangular sloped roofs were designed to shed snow and allowed for more rooms to be added later as needed. Sometime in the early 1840s, two wings were added to the exterior, reminiscent of Greek Revival and New England styles. The Stickney family would total 13 children, most of whom were born in Cedarwood, and the home would eventually be enlarged to 3,000 square feet, with a second story replacing loft spaces, and a total of eight rooms and six fireplaces with Federal-style mantels. The interior features solid hardwood mantels, wooden chair rails, and two steep and narrow stairways.

Joseph Stickney died in 1846, and Cedarwood remained in the family’s possession until 2009. A series of Joseph Stickney’s descendants lived in the home until the early 1940s. The home became a rental property after the last Stickney family members moved out, and most family members had left the Hale County area by around 1941. By the early 1960s, the historic home was empty. In 1974, Stickney descendant Rev. Edward Whatley moved the home to Havana Junction, an area just outside of Moundville, Hale County.

After several decades of being unoccupied and with the building slowly disintegrating, Whatley decided to sell the home that had been in his family’s possession since 1817 so that the historic building could be restored. The Endangered Properties Trust of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation funded $25,000 to buy the historic dwelling from Whatley in 2009. The trust then began searching for a buyer who would move and restore the home. In 2010, UWA and the Sumter County Historical Society purchased Cedarwood. It was moved in 2012 to the UWA campus and is awaiting restoration.

The Joseph Blodgett Stickney house was documented in 1974 by the Historical American Building Survey, which produced architectural drawings when Whatley was considering its relocation and renovation. As of the early 2010s, only seven of these wooden frame homes from the territorial period are known to exist.

Further Reading

  • Burnes, Valerie Pope. “History on the Move: The Past, Present, and Future of Cedarwood.” Alabama Heritage 108 (Spring 2013): 10-17.

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