Battle-Friedman Garden Blooms Again

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A home surrounded by an intricately designed and well-kept garden is a rare pleasure today, and was even more so in the 19th century. And that’s what makes the rediscovery and restoration of the Battle-Friedman garden such a revelation.

Built in the late 1830s by Alfred Battle, the Battle-Friedman house in Tuscaloosa remained as one of the finest examples of antebellum architecture in Alabama, but not until 1987, when an elaborate garden design was uncovered on the Battle-Friedman grounds, was the home’s grandeur fully realized.

In the winter issue of Alabama Heritage, author George R. Stritikus tells the story of the Battle-Friedman garden, the oldest documented garden in Alabama, and a garden with roots running all the way to the rich landscaping tradition of England.

Installed in 1843 at the request of Millicent Bealle Battle, the garden was the source of immense pride for her and her family. And when Bernard Friedman purchased the Battle home in 1875, the grounds could not have been left in better hands than those of Mr. Friedman’s wife, Linka Loveman Friedman. A woman who once cited the fact that a particular hall table had been moved only twice in 10 years as reason enough not to move it again, even though the move would have made more room for her granddaughter’s wedding, Mrs. Friedman protected the garden with the same zeal.

But who designed the elaborate walkways and flowerbeds? Recounting his attempts to unravel the mystery behind the garden’s design, Stritikus reveals that an English gardener in the employ of Alexander Baring, Lord Ashburton, accompanied his employer to America and chose to remain, eventually finding his way to Tuscaloosa and displaying his skill on the grounds of the Battle-Friedman home.

Today the Battle-Friedman garden is maintained by the Tuscaloosa Preservation Society. Eventually, the society hopes to establish an annual maintenance budget with the city, and to hire a trained horticulturist to supervise the garden’s development. With time and knowledgeable tending, the garden could grow into one of the finest in the South.

George R. Stritikus, Jefferson County Alabama Cooperative Extension Service Agent, is a landscape consultant and advisor for several state, municipal, and private groups in Alabama. He teaches in the Master Gardener’s Program in north Alabama.

Alabama Heritage is a non-profit quarterly magazine published by The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama Birmingham. To order the magazine, write Alabama Heritage, Box 870342, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0342, or call 205/348-7467.


Sara Martin or Stuart Flynn, 205/348-7467