Historic Markers Across Alabama

The Battle for Decatur 5 -Dancy-Polk House (circa 1829)

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of Church Street Northwest and Railroad Street Northwest, Decatur, Alabama
County: Morgan
Coordinates: N 34° 36.877    W 086° 59.106
  34.61461666    -86.9851
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Dancy-Polk House (circa 1829)
“A Hard Nut to Crack”
— The Battle for Decatur —

The oldest home in Decatur still standing, this Early Classical Revival mansion was built by Frank Dancy and was a private residence until 1872, when it became a boarding house and hotel. During the Civil War, the home belonged to Dancy's daughter, Caroline Wood, and occupied the front center of Union fortifications during the October 1864 Battle for Decatur, and was used as Federal officer' quarters. Tradition holds that a Confederate 6-pounder cannon ball, fired from the Confederate lines south of here, struck and dislodge one of the chestnut columns on the lower front porch. The column was subsequently repaired, and the patch can still be seen today. Local legend also maintains that the main staircase was damaged by Federal cavalrymen during its occupation. The house passed to Dancy's granddaughter, Lavinia, in 1869, after she married Captain Thomas G. Polk, a nephew of late Confederate General Leonidas Polk and cousin of late U. S. President James Knox Polk. One of a handful of structures in Decatur to survive the Civil War, the Polk House, as it was later known, became a popular stopping point for train passengers. Joseph Wheeler, a Confederate General, later a U. S. Congressman and U. S. General, and a resident of Courtland west of Decatur, is known to have stayed at the Polk House. Noted outlaw Frank James allegedly stayed at the Polk House under an assumed name in 1883. James later said that he never committed any robberies in Decatur because"there was nothing worth carrying off.”

Erected by City of Decatur. (Marker Number 5.)

End of The Battle for Decatur 5 -Dancy-Polk House (circa 1829)