This historic site, home of Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, and his family, served as the
first White House
of the Confederacy from February 1861 until May 29, 1861. The site now sits across the street from the present day
state capitol, the historic location of his inauguration on February 18, 1861, where visitors will find a bronze
star commemorating the inaugural moment.
The house, built in 1832-1835, was remodeled into its charming Italianate architectural style in 1855 by Colonel Joseph Winter. The Italianate style was then popular across the South and gave the renovated home new value and charm.
In early 1861, as the Deep South states took up South Carolina's lead and started to leave the Union in protest over the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, the city of Montgomery was proposed as a meeting site for a convention of the seceded states to consider matters of common importance, among them defense. The convention began on February 4, 1861, and quickly led to the establishment of a provisional government for the Confederate States of America.
On February 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was sworn into office as the first President of the Confederacy. A military hero, former Secretary of War and former U.S. Senator, Davis had been at home near Vicksburg, Mississippi, when he received the news of his election by telegraph. As was the style of the day, he reluctantly accepted and journeyed to Montgomery by steamboat for his inauguration.
The Provisional Confederate Congress authorized the leasing of an executive mansion. An offer came from Colonel Edmund S. Harrison of nearby Prattville, Alabama, who had recently purchased a newly renovated house in Montgomery that had previously been owned by a series of prominent citizens of the city. He offered to rent the house fully furnished and staffed for $5,000 per year.
The home then stood near the Alabama River at the intersection of Lee and Bibb Streets. It was a prime location as much of the activity of the Confederate government was centered in the area and President Davis and his family were staying at a suite in the Exchange hotel which was just two blocks away.
Varina Anne Howell Davis, the new first lady, was the daughter of a former governor of New Jersey and a cousin of Aaron Burr. Accustomed to moving in elaborate social circles, she entered her duties with clear intent to charm both Confederate and foreign leaders with extreme social dignity and hospitality. Before joining her husband in Montgomery, for example, she arranged for a French chef to join the family in the new capital and also acquired both an elaborate carriage and custom designed French gowns.
Throughout the spring of 1861, the First White House of the Confederacy hosted sparkling receptions and events. Numerous writers of the time described the elegance and charm with which Mrs. Davis received guests and the house became the social center of the South. The house continued to function as the Southern White House until the end of May when the Davis family moved to Richmond, Virginia, which had become the new capital of the Confederacy.
The First White House of the Confederacy is now preserved under the auspices of the White House Association. In partnership with the State of Alabama, they have done a remarkable job of preserving and interpreting the historic home.
It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.
Mon - Fri 8 am - 4:30 pm
First White House of the Confederacy
644 Washington Avenue