The White House of the Confederacy turns 200 this year, so what better time to take a look back at the design and architecture of the house? In two posts below, Museum historian John Coski shares research findings by Museum employees and graduate students from the 1990s, and architectural historian Edwin Slipek suggests a brand new theory.
Who Designed the “White House of the Confederacy”?
By John Coski
American Civil War Museum Historian
Famous houses have famous architects. Or if they don’t, they should.
The first photos and detailed descriptions of the building known to history as the White House of the Confederacy come from the days immediately following the end of Confederate Richmond, and owe to its “Yankee” conquerors. The handful of exterior photos and the judgmental descriptions of the public rooms, used in conjunction with Varina Davis’ postwar recollections of the floor and room arrangements provided the broad outline for restoring the home to its wartime appearance.
By Robert Hancock
Director of Collections & Senior Curator
Classical themed decorations based on Greek and Roman mythology, so adored by the Victorians, are seen throughout the house. In a previous post we wrote about the goddesses of the West Parlor that so enthralled the Davis boys. This time we move to the Center Parlor where Cupid and Psyche await us.
There are two small rooms on White House of the Confederacy tours into which large groups simply cannot fit. Tours walk through one of them, the Library. The other is Varina Davis’ Dressing Room. Too small for traffic and with no way to pass through, the room offers visitors a quick peek as they move on to the next stop along the tour.
By Robert Hancock
Senior Curator & Director of Collections
The two adjoining parlors on the first floor of the house were the main entertaining areas for public gatherings, small private affairs, and for the family. These rooms contain everything needed to entertain guests or spend some quiet time during the day or before going up to bed.
It seems that many people have a natural attraction to or curiosity about small figurines. We see a bust or carved figure and we become curious about whom we’re looking at. There also is a natural joy in seeing a bust or figurine of someone from history that we know and admire.