The Drish House – Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Drish House was built in the 1830s by a Doctor named John Drish. This old federal style house has seen many faces and has set the stage for many stories throughout it’s life. It was at first simply a house for the Drish family, then it was turned into a school, at one time it was even a wrecking company, it has been a church and later on a storage space. The house has set vacant for quite a while as well. Over 175 years of history has went on inside these walls.

Doctor Drish’s legacy holds quite a bit of drama, which obviously has led to the hauntings inhabiting the home. Doctor Drish was born in Loudoun County, Virginia and in 1795 he went to school to be a doctor. His wife was a very wealthy woman named Catherine Washington. After marriage, the two had daughter and named her Katherine M. Drish.

Years later, a dark cloud fell on the family and Doctor Drish’s wife Catherine died early on when the little girl was still very young. His wife’s untimely death led the doctor to leave the child behind with his relatives in Virginia. The doctor felt he couldn’t watch after the little girl like she needed and have a successful career as a doctor. He moved alone to Alabama, taking his wife’s fortune with him.

Old Drish Plantation Mansion, Monroe Place
Old Drish Plantation Mansion, Monroe Place

The doctor arrived in the town of Tuscaloosa in 1822. This is where he was married again three years later to a wealthy widow by the name of Sarah Owen. The couple bought around 160 acres in Southern Tuscaloosa to build their dream home and in 1837 construction started on Monroe Place. The construction of the home was finished in 1839 and the doctor then brought his daughter Katherine home from Virginia to live along with him and his new wife.

The house was originally named Monroe Place because it sits at the terminus of what was then called Monroe Street. The home has two levels and a basement. The architectural influence of the home was taken from a notable Alabama Architect named William Nichols. Doctor Drish had previously worked with Nichols as a contractor in building several government structures, the capitol, the local jail and even the University. There is no proof that the Architect Nichols had a thing to do with the design, it’s merely an observation by locals that he influenced Drish. The house was embellished with 14 Tuscan columns and a double-ellipse staircase designed and built by his nieces husband John Fitch who was a very skilled carpenter.

The war came around 1860 and hit the Drish family pretty badly, like many others in the south. However Monroe Place and many of the other close-by mansions were spared.

Old Drish Plantation
Old Drish Plantation

After the war, Drish was bankrupt and soon died in 1867. In his will, he left his wife Monroe Place. However unfortunately since he owed the state of Alabama money, all of his property and real estate, including the Monroe Place mansion were auctioned off. The home was sold to an Alabama lawyer who went by the name of Powell in 1869. The new owner however let Sarah Drish use the house until she died in 1884.

After the long occupancy of the Drish family, the house was sold time and time again and housed many different facilities.

The Wrecking Company
The Wrecking Company front side, previously known as Monroe Place

In 2007 everything in the area including the Drish house was condemned and was soon to be torn down. However the church was still in place and they were able to negotiate to save the Drish house and renovate, while all the other surrounding buildings met their end and were finally torn down.

As with any old house from the 1800s the Drish house became susceptible to many stories and rumors. Some say that Doctor Drish was a drunk and gambled all his money away. They also say that his daughter Katherine fell in love with a man that her father did not approve of and locked in her room for many weeks with scarce food or drink.

The man she had previously fell for eventually left Tuscaloosa, so she then married a man by the name of W.W. King from New Orleans and later had two sons with him. She and her two sons later returned to the Drish House to finalize a divorce from their father. Many say his daughter had went insane after witnessing many outbursts and incidents occurring at the home due to her unruly behavior. Around the same time, Doctor Drish’s niece Helen Whiting was murdered by her husband, the carpenter Mr. Fitch, he was the same carpenter who built the mansion’s staircase. In an episode of rage, he slit her throat almost severing her head. These heinous actions by Mr. Fitch ultimately sent him to an insane asylum.

While all this craziness was going on Doctor Drish became ill himself and refused to eat; he was only kept alive by force feeding. Some say he leapt from his bed and fell going down the staircase. Some of his workers or slaves insisted this is how he died.

One story is that one of the tower rooms is haunted by a runaway slave who had somehow managed to get into the tower room and hid. The slave was eventually forced out from starvation. Story says that he was then handed over to his master, and his master then burned him to death. So this is where the legend of the burning tower was born.

The second story is that Katherine’s sons returned to the Mansion to retrieve her after her death. Katherine wanted the same candles burned at her funeral that were burned at her husband’s funeral several years before. Unfortunately she did not get her wish fulfilled to have the candles at her funeral as they were unable to be found by her sons in time for her funeral.

These two stories over time have led to the legend of the burning tower at Drish house.

Sometimes people see the towers burning and notify the local fire department only to find that there was no fire at all. Firefighters have reported seeing the ghost of Mrs.Drish while responding to the mystery fires numerous times. Others have reported hearing the slaves crying and yelling about the fire from inside of the Drish House.

The Old Drish House today
The Old Drish House today

Below are two videos, one of a very convincing Tuscaloosa resident story teller and the other of a news story on the Drish house.