First White House of the Confederacy.
I know what you’re thinking, how could you go from the lynching memorial to the First White House of the Confederacy? Yes, it was quite the compare and contrast moment. The lynching memorial represents how we look at our history today. The First White House of the Confederacy shows us how it was done in the past. If you are familiar with the Lost Cause idea of the Confederacy, this is Lost Cause on steroids. I thought it might be kitschy enough to be fun.
A little history lesson is probably in order. Montgomery was the capital of the Confederacy from February 4 until May 29, 1861. Since Jefferson Davis, its president, wasn’t from Montgomery, he needed a place to live. The Confederate government leased a home for him and his family.
I don’t really know what I was expecting—a docent in a hoopskirt, I think—but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be met by an African American woman—not in a costume—when I pushed open the door. She couldn’t have been friendlier and more welcoming; my guess is that she doesn’t get many customers. She offered bottles of cold water. While I was grateful for it, I thought that food and drink were frowned upon in museums.
United Daughters of the Confederacy adopted the idea of preserving the house.
In PR speak worthy of rebranding the Civil War as “the recent unpleasantness”, the United Daughters of the Confederacy became “entangled in personal differences” and that effort went nowhere.
The White House Association, modeled after the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, eventually picked up the ball (gown) and got the job done.
Mrs. Jefferson Davis was selected as the group’s first Queen Regent. In fact, she was the group’s only Queen Regent. The post has been vacant since Mrs. Davis’ death in 1906. The group’s current regent is Seibels Lanier Marshall (Mrs. Jim Marshall). At least I think so; the website hasn’t been updated in some time.
The house is not on its original site. It’s been moved to a place of honor across the street from the Alabama State Capitol.
The real mother lode is upstairs in a room chock full of cases filled with relics.
OK, perhaps the place really is as creepy as Grey Gardens, just without the cats, raccoons, Little Edie singing, and so on.
Interestingly enough the house is closed on June 5 for Jefferson Davis’ birthday.
It’s all kitschy and creepy and for a history geek like me, fun. Even if they don’t mention that Jackie O was Non-Queen Regent Jesse Drew Beale’s people.
So, if kitschy and creepy, old-fashioned Lost Cause house museums are your thing, go. Otherwise, it’s probably ok to move it down to the list of second tier Montgomery attractions.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum. It was in a neighborhood not too far from downtown Montgomery.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was from St. Paul, Minnesota, but his wife, the former Zelda Sayre, was from Montgomery. This particular museum (and I use the term lightly) claims to be the only museum dedicated to the Fitzgeralds.
My first clue that something was up was the state of the driveway.
Ho Chi Minh Trail might have been in better shape when it was being pounded daily by bombs dropped by B-52s. Seriously, you could twist an ankle walking up to the front door.
The front door was dirty and in bad repair. It didn’t need just a little tender loving care, it needed a full work up at the Mayo Clinic.
The Fitzgeralds lived in the house slightly longer than the Davis family lived in the First White House of the Confederacy. Unfortunately for us, they left even less of a mark on their house than the Davis family did.
The interior looked as if someone bought an old fraternity house, took the furniture out, framed issues of old Life magazines, hung those on the walls, and called it a day.
As far as actual Fitzgerald memorabilia, there wasn’t much. Once again, there is no sacred desk and honey-do list (1. Write the Great American novel (again). 2. Buy booze 3. Buy more booze).
And what’s worse, Scott and Zelda were in no way related to Jackie O, Jackie Chan, or even Jackie Collins.
The rather listless person in charge came around and said that we could go online to pay the admission fee. Yeah, I was going to get right on that.
After a great lunch, we were on our way to Selma and the next stop on our trip.