White House of the Confederacy

Annual Legacies: White House of the Confederacy

There are thousands of legacies housed within the American Civil War Museum, and the Annual Fund helps to provide critical funding for all the things the museum needs to preserve and tell them. It helps fund the preservation of the over 15,000 artifacts in our care, allows our educators to create different programs for school children and continues our public programming. It helps to keep our lights on. Your funding is imperative, and we want to thank you for your interest in and support of the Annual Fund.

Below is one of the stories you’ll help preserve, one of which is featured briefly in our Fall Annual Fund letters. The hope for this blog post is that you will learn more about those featured, as well as the effects of the Civil War and its aftermath on three very different legacies.

Built in 1818 as the home of Dr. John Brockenbrough, the house stands in the Court End neighborhood of Richmond, VA. It is a beautiful example of the Federal architectural style and is thought to have been designed by architect Robert Mills. The house served as a private family home for over thirty years, during which time it was owned by a series of individuals typical of upper-class pre-War Richmond. Lewis D. Crenshaw, the last private owner of the house, renovated it to what we see today, adding the 3rd floor and extending the portico. He sold it to the City of Richmond in the summer of 1861, who in turn rented it to the Confederate government. Jefferson Davis and his family moved into the house in August of the same year. 
After the Confederate evacuation and capture of Richmond in April 1865, the house served as part of the headquarters for the U.S. Reconstruction forces in Virginia after the War until 1871. That same year the Richmond Central School opened in the house on October 1, becoming one of the first public schools in the city of Richmond. It operated as a segregated white school for about twenty years. In 1890, the school board elected to close the school, declaring the house “in bad condition and unfit for school purposes.” With the threat of demolition, a group of influential white Richmond women formed the Confederate Memorial Literary Society to save the building, and on June 3, 1894 – the 86th anniversary of Jefferson Davis’s birth –the city gave the deed of his former executive mansion to the C.M.L.S. This gave the building new life as the Confederate Museum. 

Today, the house serves as one of the largest artifacts in the ACWM collection and is an excellent window into exploring the Civil War era and its legacies from multiple perspectives, including its role as a political and social hub of Confederacy, a private family home, a site of enslavement, a key stop in Lincoln’s visit to Richmond, and an evolving example of how Americans choose to remember the Civil War era.

Every legacy of the Civil War should be preserved and told. A gift to the American Civil War Annual Fund allows us to not only conserve the artifacts under our care, it allows us to share the legacies of the people that owned them and the impact the Civil War had on them as well as their impact on us now. Please consider a donation to the fall Annual Fund. To donate online, simply click the red ‘DONATE’ button at the top right corner. You can also send a check to American Civil War Museum, attn: Kathryn Lewis, at 490 Tredegar Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Thank you.