As visitors go through the White House of the Confederacy, one of their most common questions is, “What is that?” There are many items in the house, unique to the 19th century, the purpose of which is initially…illusive. There are three objects in particular that we will most certainly be asked about on almost every tour. If you have ever wondered which are the most asked about objects in the house, read on.
As interpreters, we often receive questions and comments from visitors about our work. Sometimes visitors want to know how we keep from being bored. “You say the same thing over and over each day; don’t you get bored?” is a common question.
By Patrick Saylor
Director, Marketing Communication
Old homes hold many stories within their walls, and the house at 12th and Clay Streets in Richmond is no exception. As the residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family from 1861-1865, the White House was the scene of many conversations and interactions, both public and private, among family members, free and enslaved servants, and visitors.
I once worked with an interpreter who told a visitor, “I can’t answer any question that begins, ‘Why did they’.” I chuckled at that, but he did go on to explain that sometimes we simply cannot understand motivation. In many cases, well meaning attempts to understand the “Why did they” question leads to some extraordinary and persistent myths.
In 1988 the White House of the Confederacy opened to the public for tours after a 12-year restoration. In preparing for public tours, staff had to decide how best to guide visitors through two floors of the house. Much thought went into making those decisions, and for almost 30 years, tours of the White House of the Confederacy have followed the same path.
Everyone likes getting new things. With the holidays just past, many are enjoying new gifts as they start the new year.
Historians like getting new things, too. One of the rewards of working in a historic home is the plethora of artifacts that are donated. Each comes with its own interesting, and often fascinating, story.
I suspect most of our visitors don’t know it’s there. It isn’t easy to see. It’s in a bit of a dark recess over their heads. But if you’ve ever wanted to steal a kiss in the White House of the Confederacy, Christmas season is your chance. Hanging in the doorway between the Central and Western Parlors is a Kissing Ball.
A Kissing Ball is a sphere of greenery with a bit of mistletoe affixed to the bottom. A red bow makes this a perfect Christmas decoration.