|Address||1569 Cook Ln.
Tuscumbia, Alabama 35674
Tag: Belle Mont Mansion
Belle Mont was erected in 1828 for a physician from Louisa County, Virginia, Dr. Alexander Williams Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell and his family of seven were already living in Belle Mont when it was fully completed in 1832. Owning 1,680 acres of cotton and corn, Dr. Mitchell became known as one of the largest planters in the area before he quickly sold the mansion and the surrounding land one year after its completion.
However, while living in Belle Mont and planting the surrounding acres, Dr. Mitchell housed 152 slaves in 13 slave cabins on the property. This area of the property can be accessed from the master bedroom through a large door with a window that leads directly to the courtyard area, which is where the detached kitchen would have been accessed as well.
The Mitchell family sold Belle Mont and 33 of the surrounding acres to their friends Isaac and Catherine Baker Jones Winston, who were also from Virginia, in 1833. Mr. Winston was a cousin of Dolly Madison, Patrick Henry, and Isaac Cole, who was a personal friend and secretary of President Thomas Jefferson. Although the actual design of Belle Mont is a mystery, this particular relationship provides a clue about the original designer, or at least his influence.
The source of Belle Mont’s design is shrouded in mystery, but tantalizing clues suggest the direct influence of President Thomas Jefferson, gentlemen architect of the early Republic,” the official Belle Mont pamphlet states (Commission 2). Is it possible that Dr. Mitchell built Belle Mont in this style, two years after Jefferson’s death, to honor the late president? The answer will always be a mystery. However, the pamphlet continues by claiming that, “characteristics of ‘Jeffersonian Classicism’ are exhibited at Belle Mont, including finely executed brickwork with contrasting woodwork and a hilltop setting. Belle Mont also illustrates Jefferson’s reverence for the neoclassical architectural elements and ideas of the Italian Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio,”
The Winston family maintained ownership and continued living in Belle Mont through the Civil War and until around 1940. At this time, the family decided to move to a different location but continued to hold Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations in the mansion. Gradually, the family gatherings became less frequent until the home was completely abandoned.
The abandonment of the home was the largest cause of its deterioration and the vandalism that occurred at Belle Mont. During the 1960s, star-crossed lovers camped inside the rotting mansion in the woods, and the home has long been the site of drunken high school parties. In 1983, concerned about the condition of the house, members of the Winston family donated Belle Mont and 33 surrounding acres to the Alabama Historical Commission.
The house and surrounding property are reportedly haunted by the former slaves that lived and died on the plantation. As there is not formal cemetery for the slaves it is likely that they were buried on some part of the estate. Visitors to the mansion have reported seeing dark shadowy figures walking the fields and have heard the sound of chains rattling near the house.