This building was previously thought to be a cook’s house or slave quarters here at Oakleigh. However, due to continued research efforts, it has been discovered that this building was instead a barracks building for union soldiers, originally located between Texas and Selma streets. This union camp was referenced in various places including a post-war era map labeled “U.S. barracks” with about ten structures in it. The camp was also referenced in an 1890s history book by Peter Hamilton titled “Mobile of the Five Flags.”
The building was most likely constructed around 1866 by the United States Government, which can be determined by the symmetry in the building and its strong construction. The building was made with four identical rooms across, two with fireplaces. Each room also has its own exterior entrance. These barracks were designed to house two union officers and their wives, with two rooms for each couple.
This building was moved to Oakleigh’s property sometime between 1916 and 1919, when the Home was owned by Dr. Herbert P. Cole and his family. It was his wife, Jessie Cole, who built the sunken garden next to the home and made the major renovations to the home. She brought the barracks building onto the property.
Over the years that Oakleigh was occupied by families, the barracks building served many different purposes. The Denniston family, who bought the home in 1924, used the barracks as quarters for their maid. They used two of the rooms as an apartment for her, and the other two rooms were storage for their car parts and gasoline. It also housed the Oakleigh gift shop in the 1970s and 1980s.
Beginning in 2013, the building underwent a full restoration. It was during this time that research led to the discovery that the building wasn’t a cook’s house but a barracks building. Currently, the building is only used for special events and exhibits.