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The University Club: Restoring a historic gem in the heart of Tuscaloosa

The University Club, a beloved special events and private dining facility with a fascinating history, is slated to reopen its doors to the public in May.

The prestigious establishment with its iconic Greek revival structure and towering columns sits atop Queen City Avenue on The  University of Alabama campus, and has remained a cherished University institution for nearly a century.

(The University of Alabama/Contributed)

The home was built in 1834 by James H. Dearing, a local steamboat captain and a member of the Alabama legislature. The mansion changed ownership hands multiple times over the next decade, and even became home to Alabama governor Arthur P. Bagby from 1837 to 1841. Because Bagby was not provided an official residence by the state, the building earned the nickname “The Governor’s Mansion” during his four year term.

After remaining a private residence for several decades, the home officially became a part of the University in 1944 as a generous donation by the Warner family. Their generosity expanded into the following years as they worked to furnish the mansion, oversee improvements and add decorative embellishments. And in 1946, it was officially established as the University Club – a unique social hub for faculty and staff on the campus, and a highly sought-after venue for receptions and other special events.

(The University of Alabama/Contributed)

Unfortunately, the University Club closed its doors during the 2020 pandemic, and has been closed ever since. However, its closure provided the University with the opportunity to embark on a series of renovations to restore the mansion to its former beauty and add some contemporary additions as well.

“As we meticulously restore and reinvent, we are mindful of our responsibility to retain the original character and charm that has made the University Club what it is today,” says Alexia Cadle, the club’s membership director. “We are introducing a blend of tradition and innovation to provide a refreshed and elevated experience for our members and guests.”

(The University of Alabama/Contributed)

While the University Club enters a new chapter, its team is looking forward to presenting a rejuvenated space that will serve the communities in a variety of capacities. The Club boasts private yet affordable membership options with opportunities for non-resident memberships as well.

(The University of Alabama/Contributed)

Within the newly-renovated private dining facility, the University Club will introduce two restaurant concepts, offering both an elevated dining experience on the main floor alongside a more casual bar and lounge. The restaurants will focus on locally-sourced ingredients and will include the beloved “Almond Ball,” the club’s iconic, nostalgic dessert of vanilla ice cream coated in almonds and rich chocolate. This simple yet classic dessert has its own fan following and is well-known as the “perfect Southern dessert.”

Hospitality management students will also be able to use the venue as a training ground for hands-on experience.

The University Club is also part of the Invited network, formerly ClubCorp, the largest operator of private membership clubs in the country.

At its reopening this May, the club will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its acquisition by The University of Alabama, as well as the 190th anniversary of the building itself. Get ready to enjoy an almond ball in one of Alabama’s most beautiful and historic homes — the wait is almost over.

Courtesy of SoulGrown Alabama

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