Henrico County Historical Society
PO Box 90775   Henrico, VA 23273   (804)501-5682   hchsinfo@yahoo.com
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Henrico County Historical Society's motto, which is Preserving the Past in the Present for the FutureSkipwith Academy in Three Chopt District, Henrico County, Virginia.Log Cabin in Tuckahoe District, Henrico County, Virginia.Mankin Mansion in Fairfield District, Henrico County, Virginia.Dorey Barn in Varina District, Henrico County, Virginia.Bethlehem Church in Brookland District, Henrico County, Virginia.



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Past Preservation - White House of the Confederacy

Vintage photo of White House of the Confederacy, Virginia.

In the June 14th, 2005 edition of the The Richmond Times Dispatch, Janet Caggiano, Staff Writer, reported The Museum and White House of the Confederacy may be moved to a new location due to the growth of Virginia Commonwealth University in downtown Richmond.

Located on the southwest corner of Twelfth and Clay Streets, the building was originally the residence of Dr. John Brockenbrough, President of the Bank fo Virginia, built in 1816-1818 after a design by Rober Mills. The house was owned by several prominent families until purchased by the city coucil in 1861 as a residence for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. After the city was occupied on April 3, 1865, the house served as headquarters for the Federal commander until 1870 when military rule came to an end. In 1871 the house was converted into a school and became Central School. It continued as a school until 1894 when it was given by the city to the ladies of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society who wished to preserve the house as a museum and library. On February 22, 1896, the house was formally opened as the Confederate Museum.

Designated a National Historic Landmark, the White House of the Confederacy is one of the nation's finest historic, architectural and decorative treasures. The Washington Post has written that the White House of the Confederacy "is a meticulously restored neoclassical masterpiece that, in terms of quality, historical associations and authenticity, probably is second only to Mount Vernon among restorations of historic American dwellings.

Jefferson Davis was married to Varina Howell. Their first child, Samuel Emory, died before their arrival in Richmond. Margaret, Jefferson, Jr., and Joseph Evan moved into the large nursery and in addition William and Varina Anne, who were born in the Confederate White House. Visitors to the home were likely to hear ringing laughter and screams of bedlam from the playing children, who were infamous for having unbridled spirits and unbroken wills. Tragically, Davis lost his young son, Joseph, "his hope and greatest joy in life" when the five-year-old fell from the east portico on April 30, 1864 and died within an hour. In the decades after the war, three more Davis children died and ultimately, only one daughter, Margaret, survived her parents.

Visitation at the museum and White House has declined steadily, from a high of 92,000 in the early 1990s to fewer than 54,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2004. The museum ended fiscal year 2004 with a deficit of about $393,000.

The Virginia Commonwealth University continues to grow in downtown Richmond. It has acquired the area immediately surrounding the White House and museum. Waite Rawls, executive director of the museum, reported in 2004 that VCU not interested in acquiring the property on which the White House of the Confederacy resides.

Below is a reference to another historic property that was moved from Clay Street, as reported by the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods: (the link has been removed as the website is not valid).

In 1992, MCV/VCU expansion forced a one-block move of the historic Maupin-Maury House, built in 1846, from 11th and Clay to 10th and Clay streets. The MCV Alumni Association, which owns the house, wanted to move the house intact. But engineering studies revealed that an old streambed runs under Clay Street, which raised fears that the street could not withstand the weight of the brick building. There was concern the weight might cause the house to tip over during transport. Consequently, the house was dismantled and a facsimile constructed at 10th and Clay (one block from the White House) where it had neither the integrity of location nor of materials. The result was its removal from the State and National Register of Historic Places - one less historic structure to provide a context for an important old Richmond neighborhood and nearby Capitol Square.

The Henrico County Historical Society was concerned that the fate experienced by Maupin-Maury House would be the same fate awaiting the White House of the Confederacy if it was moved from its original location.

Members of Henrico County Historical Society and other organizations spoke before the Richmond legislative committee to express opposition to the proposal of relocating the White House of the Conferacy. After hearing expressed concern from the public, the legislative committee decided that the White House of the Confederacy should remain in its present location. The Henrico County Historical Society considers this a major preservation success. The latest announcement relating to the museum collection is that it will be displayed at three locations: Appomattox, Chancellorsville, and Fort Monroe. The administrative offices and a small collection of artifacts will remain at the present location in the Museum building behind the White House.

  • (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • (Richmondneighborhoods.org)
  • (Henrico County Historical Society)

Past Preservation Sites: White House of the Confederacy
Cedar Hill-Armour House | Curles Neck | Leake House | Nuckols House-Kent |
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