Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site | BOOKER T. WASHINGTON HOUSE TOUR

The Oaks, Booker T. Washington's home at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Booker T. Washington was Tuskegee Institute’s first president, having come to the school shortly after its inception in 1881. He eventually took up residence at The Oaks, a house that was built for him in 1899. He is the only Tuskegee president to live in it, doing so from 1900 until his death in the house in 1915. His wife, Margaret, continued to live at The Oaks until 1925, and one of his sons and his family remained for a few years after that.

Rangers at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site conduct free, 45-minute tours of The Oaks, typically on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. A tour is the only way to see the inside of the house. Get the current schedule on the National Park Service’s Things to Do web page for the park.

The official parking lot for Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is next to The Oaks at 1200 West Montgomery Street. You can also park on campus in the parking deck behind the Kellogg Center, but there is a fee. The parking deck is closer to the George Washington Carver Museum and Visitor Center, but since you will most likely want to see both the museum and The Oaks, no matter where you park you will have to walk. The distance between the two buildings is .3 mile.

There is a limit of twenty-five people per tour, but unless a large group shows up, there is usually no problem to get a spot. I’ve taken the tour twice and was the only person each time. The official meeting place for the tour is at the Carver Museum, but you can also just show up at the house (and of course hope that you are not the 26th person). The Ranger conducting the tour will be waiting on the front porch with gathering tour participants. The first and second floors are visited, but only the first floor is accessible to those in wheelchairs.

The inside of The Oaks is quite dark, in both lighting and color scheme. The paint choices are based on palettes developed by George Washington Carver, who came to teach at Tuskegee in 1896. To simulate the technology of the time, the house is lit with low-wattage bulbs similar to those available in 1900. The Oaks was the first house in Macon County that had electricity and steam heating.

With the exception of Washington’s upstairs office, only the first floor is furnished. A few items are original to the Washington Family when they lived at The Oaks, but most of what you see are period antiques and reproduction pieces. Flash photography is not permitted, so it is very difficult to get decent photos of the rooms on the first floor. More light is let into the unfinished rooms upstairs.

The parlor at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

The parlor at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

One of the upstairs bedrooms at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

One of the upstairs bedrooms at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

You will find a number of original pieces in Booker T. Washington’s office on the second floor. The ornate chair and table were a gift to Washington from the parents of a Japanese student who attended Tuskegee, and the desk in the corner belonged to Washington’s personal secretary, Emmett Scott.

Booker T. Washington's second floor office at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Booker T. Washington’s second floor office at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Desk of Emmet Scott, Washington's secretary at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Desk of Emmet Scott, Washington’s secretary at The Oaks, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

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Last updated on May 5, 2023
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