The First White House in Montgomery, where Jefferson Davis and his family lived is 180 years old. That’s right, it was built between 1832 – 1835 by William Sayre, ancestor of Zelda Sayre, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald (by the way, “Gatsby” is coming to a motion picture near you very soon!)
The First White House has undergone four major restorations: the first in 1921 when the House was moved from the corner of Lee & Bibb Streets (where it faced east) to the corner of Washington and Union Streets (where it faces north, watching for the Yankees).
The second was in 1976 when steel beams were placed under the first and second floors, a heat pump installed, house painted inside and outside and other major improvements made.
The third was in 1994 when the hazardous lead-paint was removed, and the probable 1861 colors were uncovered by paint archaeologist, Frank Welsh. After the outside work was done, the House had to be thoroughly cleaned, inside and outside to make sure all lead paint dust had been removed.
The fourth was in 2007-2008 when the air condition and heating systems, which had not worked for four years, were removed and a new system installed, which entailed tearing out walls, duct work, etc.
Each of these restorations was major, with the House having to be closed for many months and the Collection moved out and stored. And guess what???? In spite of all that has been done, paint and plaster continue to fall off the ceiling and off the walls. We are indeed a “House that is Never Finished”!!! Or we might say “We are a work in progress”!