Grey Columns (AKA the Varner-Alexander House) is located on Montgomery Street in Tuskegee, Alabama. It's about half a mile past the university. It was built in 1840 by William Varner, one of Alabama's original "pioneers" and also one the largest plantation owners in Macon County. As such, his home was one of the most impressive in the region.
The house – its past and present – holds a lot of irony. William Varner was born May 9, 1793 in Decatur, Georgia, the son of an Irish immigrant with his mother being a Scottish descendant. William Varner attended Harvard and then married late in life at age 40 to Sabrina Watson of Georgia. William and Sabrina continued to live in Monroe County, Georgia and had nine children. Only two lived past ~30 years old. One died infancy. Even sadder, all attended various universities (mostly UGA) and went on to some of the best graduate schools in the country, then each died during or almost immediately after completion.
Sabrina died at the onset of the Civil War, so William moved his family closer to his landholdings in Alabama. He chose Tuskegee because of access to schools for his kids. He built this home – which was also lucky to have survived the Civil War. When Union troops approached with the intention to destroy it, William Varner just so happened to have attended Harvard with their commander. The commander ordered the troops to leave the home.
Thompson family - owners in 1913.
Janie Varner wrote the following in her journal:
The home remained in the family until 1974 when it was acquired by the National Park Service for preservation. The NPS currently has an arrangement with the Tuskegee Institute, now serving as the residence of the Tuskegee University’s President and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!