Tours of the 1867 Matheson House are $5 per person and are free for ages 12 and under. Scheduled tours for public and private school groups and home school groups are free and include an overview of local and Florida history. To schedule a tour please contact Peggy Macdonald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-378-2280.
History of the House
The Matheson House, one of the three oldest residences in Gainesville, was completed in 1867 by James Douglas Matheson, an emigrant from South Carolina and a prominent merchant. The house was bequeathed to James’s son, Chris, who served as the mayor of Gainesville from 1910 through 1917; was a state legislator; and later became a Presbyterian minister. His wife, Sarah Hamilton Matheson, was the first female elder at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. Sarah helped form the Alachua County Historical Society and served as its president. She also co-founded the Matheson History Museum, which opened in 1994. Sarah deeded the Matheson House to the Alachua County Historical Society in 1977. The Society later merged with the museum.
A blend of South Carolina plantation and classic revival raised cottage architecture, the Matheson House incorporates Gothic decorative elements in roof finials and an interior stairway. The gambrel roof and ceiling-to-ground porch columns are uncommon in Florida. Inside, period furniture and personal possessions are a testament to the Matheson family’s history and also reveal the early history of Gainesville.
More information on the Matheson House and the Matheson family is available in Murray Laurie’s 1999 book, “The Matheson House of Gainesville, Florida: Sheltering the Past.” Copies are available in the Matheson’s research library.