Karl C. Harrison

Museum of George Washington


50 Lester Street

Columbiana, AL 35052


Services: Museum


Founded in 1982 by Karl C. Harrison, a Columbiana banker and philanthropist, the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington has become an important forum for learning about America's first First Family.


Through the foresighted efforts and encouragement of Martha Washington's granddaughter Eliza Parke Custis, family heirlooms have been lovingly passed down through generations. In the early 1980's, Shelby County resident Charlotte Smith-Weaver, a sixth generation granddaughter of Martha, decided to share her legacy with the public, providing the basis of the museum.


The museum occupies a new wing of the Harrison Regional Library. The beautifully designed museum provides just the right atmosphere for a trip in time back to 1776. Moving into the new facility in the fall of 2000 brought together the entire collection of over 1,000 artifacts.


The oldest item in the Museum is the handwritten will of Colonel Daniel Parke dated 1710. His grandson Daniel Parke Custis married Martha Dandridge. After his death she married George Washington. Other 18th century treasures abound - from Martha's prayer book to the original sketch of the landscaping planned for Mount Vernon in 1787.


Tracing of letters from George to Martha discussed the trepidation he felt at being appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. Another letter, addressed to President James Madison in 1792, expressed George's desire to retire from public serice. Numerous other documents bring these historical figures to life.


The beauty and craftsmanship of 18th and 19th century furniture is evidenced by a number of carefully preserved pieces from the estates of the Washington family and their descendants. Coin-silver utensils used at Mount Vernon, a 207 piece set of Minton porcelain and an exquisite pair of Sevres vases, circa 1785, from the Augustin Washington estate, the half-brother of George, highlight the display. One highly-regarded piece is a walnut games table with tulip and rosewood inlay (circa 1805). The beautiful table belonged to Bushrod Washington, a direct descendant, who inherited Mount Vernon upon Martha's death.


Tours are available on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Call for reservations.