Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Stewartfield and the Avenue of the Oaks

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Institution Name: Spring Hill College
Original/Historic Place Name: Stewartfield
Location on Campus: end of the Avenue of the Oaks
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1849-1850original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: brick
Walls: wood
Roof: slate
ca. 1850-1903private residence (of Roger Stewart, cotton broker, and family)
ca. 1903residence hall (dormitory for pre-high-school boys)
post- 1903private residence (of college golf course pro)
ca. 1930-1955private residence (of Mable Byrne)
ca. 1955-1979academic department building (fine arts)
ca. 1979other (Decorator's Show House II)
post- 1979administration (President's office)
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (space for wedding receptions, banquets, meetings)

Significance: culture, history, religion
Landmark designation:
National RegisterStewartfield (1984)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Stewartfield, a splended Greek Revival house, was built in 1849-1850 as the residence of Roger Stewart, a Scotsman who had settled in Mobile and set himself up as a cotton broker. He named his house Stewartfield after his ancestral estate in Scotland. Situated at the end of a fine avenue of oak trees, the house gained a reputation as a real show place. A quarter-mile horse race track ran around the avenue of trees and came close to the front porch. Men must have raced their thoroughbreds to the delight of hoop-skirted ladies on the front porch. There were bowling greens in the back. To the rear of the traditional floor plan of the Creole Cottage was added a large semicircular ballroom with a floor constructed to spring under the feet of the dancers.

Sad to say, Mr. Stewart died in 1857 at the age of thirty-five. This, coupled with the coming of the Civil War, probably put an end to Stewartfield as a show place and party house. Mrs. Stewart (Isabella) continued to live there with their one daughter, Annie. Parcels of the Stewart land were sold to the adjoining Spring Hill College, as was the house in 1903. It was used as a dormitory for the pre-high school boys and, later on, as the home of the golf pro of the college course. Miss Mable Byrne lived there from the 1930's until her death in 1955. (Her parents had donated the Thomas Byrne Memorial Library.) Miss Byrne made extensive repairs and some renovations during her stay. After her death the house was used as the location of the Fine Arts Department. In 1979 it was refurbished to become the Decorators' Show House II. Subsequently it was used as the president's office. Currently it is used for wedding receptions, banquets, and meetings. Despite the great variety of uses it has been subjected to, it is in beautiful repair and is again a kind of show place.

Since the mid-1940's the Avenue of the Oaks has been the glorious setting of the college commencements with the house in the background. Getting one's degree at Spring Hill College has become known as "Walking the Avenue."

I. Bibliographic sources:

Boyle, Charles J., ed. Twice Remembered Moments in the History of Spring Hill College. Mobile, AL: Friends of the Spring Hill College Library, 1993.

Boyle, Charles J. A Pelican's Eye View: The History of the Spring Hill College Campus. Pictorial pamphlet. Mobile, AL: Spring Hill College, 1999.

Floyd, Katherine. Spring Hill College. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1936.

Gould, Elizabeth B., and Ellen Mertins. Stewartfield [Spring Hill College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1984.

Kenny, Michael, Catholic Culture in Alabama (also published under the title The Torch on the Hill). New York: America Press, 1931.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
Government Offices

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