Did you know the First White House was built between 1832-1835 by William Sayre, ancestor of Zelda Sayre, who married the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald? There are Sayre descendants still living in Montgomery today plus a Sayre street and at one time a Sayre School.
William Sayre sold the house and land to George Whitman. Successive owners included William Knox, Joseph Winter and Col. Edmund S. Harrison, who rented it to the newly-formed Confederate Government for use by President Jefferson Davis and his family. The Davises lived in the house from March until May, 1861, when the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond. Later owners of the house were Willis R. Calloway, William Crawford Bibb, Archibald Tyson and Mrs. R. L. Render.
Hardly had the guns fallen silent after the end of the War Between the States when women throughout the former Confederacy formed groups to tend the graves of their fallen warriors. One such organization was the Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery, which decorated graves in Oakwood Cemetery, beginning April 26, 1866 and continuing on today.
In 1894 the United Daughters of the Confederacy was formed, and one of their early goals was the preservation of the First White House. The ladies soon realized however, that they needed a vehicle solely dedicated to the First White House’s restoration. The White House Association was formed on July 1, 1900.
The Alabama Legislature chartered the group Feb 5, 1901. Thus it is the oldest preservation society in Alabama and one of the oldest in the United States. The oldest is the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, founded in 1856 to save George Washington’s home, to which Montgomery women contributed as early as 1857.
More about the White House Association tomorrow.