Friday, February 28, 2014

Confederate Lore

A well-known and respected retired Judge and historian friend of mine and of the First White House of the Confederacy, made a talk recently. At my request he sent a copy of his speech. In it he mentioned a man of whom I had known nothing, Martin Phillips Parks. Parks was a senior at West Point when Robert E. Lee was a plebe.

The Judge writes: "Parks became a minister in 1828 and was Chaplain at West Point when Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a cadet. Later, after the Mexican War Jackson was assigned to a position in New York City. Martin Parks became rector in the little St. Paul's Chapel , located near the Battery where Jackson was stationed. It is said that it was in that chapel that Stonewall Jackson received his first communion - from Martin Parks."

And now for the "rest of the story." The Judge writes, "St. Paul's Chapel, completed in 1766 is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. ...its rear is on Church street, directly across from the World Trade Center."

He goes on to say "This little church is the one that survived the collapse of the Twin Towers". Wow! What a story.  I have visited that little chapel as have many of you, with a big lump in my throat. Thank you Judge, for this information. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First White House Important Pieces

 I have blogged about several of the important pieces in the First White House of the Confederacy, but do not think I have mentioned the exceptionally rare Mahogany Box type sofa we have in our back hall.

 Our appraiser Edward Pattillo says this about the sofa: "This is without doubt the finest and largest sofa of this type to be recorded. It is richly veneered in the late-classical style of about 1835-45. The deep seat is upholstered in tufted claret velvet, and there are deep arms which terminate at front in massive hexagonal columns. The frame of the sofa is of ogee form, veneered with fine flame pattern veneers, ornamented with applied mahogany roundels."

Mr. Pattillo says even though the history of our sofa is unrecorded, there has been a persistent legend that it was part of the original furnishings of the 1846 Capitol of Alabama and was removed to the White House in the 20th century. If so, Mr. Pattillo says it may have been ordered for that building or it could have been made in the 1830's for the Capitol in Tuscaloosa and brought to Montgomery in 1846 when the Capitol was moved here.

 In The Magazine Antiques, May 2007 is a picture of a sofa that looks very much like ours. The sofa in the magazine was by Edwards and Baldwin and was part of a shipment made to the Louisiana plantation of Lewis Stirling. Edward and Baldwin were well known cabinetmakers in New York City from 1833 to 1857.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quilt Experts Visit Montgomery

 The Southeast Region Quilt Study Group visited Montgomery recently. As this group discovered, Montgomery offers decades of history, from Civil War to Civil Rights, to Hank Williams.

 Several of the group stopped by the First White House of the Confederacy to see our textiles. Our famous Gunboat quilt, recently conserved, is currently touring the country with a show from the prestigious American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. titled "Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War". At the moment our quilt is being shown at the New York Historical Society. It will be returned to the First White House in July of 2015. 

The Quilt Study Group was able to see our Baby Quilt, made by the same person as the Gunboat Quilt and also recently conserved. The difference in this quilt before restoration and after is absolutely amazing as it had been badly stained from extensive water damage. Much of the damage has been miraculously corrected.

It was almost dusk and the quilt is upstairs in the hall where there is very little light, but we procured flashlights for the ladies to use. Another quilt that caught their eye was a handsome 19th century American quilt in the Star of Texas pattern.  The Quilt aficionados were also quite taken with a rare antique American linen coverlet of deep blue and natural coloring, woven in geometric patterns. This piece is thought to have been hand-woven from flax on a plantation in North Carolina about 1815.

We enjoyed having these knowledgeable guests and hope they will return to visit us again when the Gunboat Quilt comes home or even before!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

he Death of Survivor of "Gone With the Wind"

  • 2014 has already seen the death of several notable people, including Shirley Temple, and actress Alicia Rhett, who had been one of the oldest surviving cast members of the classic film "Gone With The Wind". I have said many times how much I enjoy watching this iconic movie over and over, as well as reading and rereading the book. 
  • Miss Rhett played the role of India Wilkes, sister of plantation owner Ashley Wilkes, who was the foil of Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivian Leigh.
      Miss Rhett did not pursue Hollywood and went back to South
      Carolina to live. In Charleston she led a quiet life. She never
      married. She was 98 years old when she  died.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Alabama Voices" Opening at Archives Next Door


The Alabama Department of Archives and History, next door neighbor to the First White House of the Confederacy will host a free grand opening for its new centerpiece exhibit, "Alabama Voices" this Saturday, February 15, 2014.
The Archives calls this a "Smithsonian-quality exhibition, which includes more than 800 artifacts, hundreds of images and more, which spotlights Alabama history from as early as the 1700s to the modern era of the 21st century."

I was privileged to view the new exhibit last week. It is truly stunning, and includes many audiovisual programs on the history of our great State, including the Civil War, industrialization, the rise of the cotton economy, the Civil Rights movement, World War I and II and much more.

The grand opening begins at 9:00 with music, food, art and the official ribbon cutting with Governor Robert Bentley. Congratulations to the Archives for this outstanding new addition to the Archives and History Museum.

Current Happenings at the Frist White House

 Lots of things have been happening at the First White House of the Confederacy. First, we had our evening with David Bridges, an ordained minister, author and Professor  talked about and then signed and sold his new book, "Broken Circle", As we had mentioned in previous blogs, the book was written  about his great-great uncle, Doctor James Breathed. At one battle, Dr. Major Breathed, who chose the cause of the Confederacy over medicine,   had four horses shot out from under him as he strove to save the cannon from the enemy.

Next came our annual Robert E. Lee birthday celebration with speaker Judge Mark Anderson. The Judge practiced law in Montgomery and was president of the Montgomery County Bar Association when he was appointed a Circuit Judge and served for eight years.  Mark has had a lifetime interest in history, particularly all things Confederate.

 Judge Anderson talked about the family of Robert E. Lee, and how he had to become the man of the house at an early age when his father deserted his family. It was a stirring message and I will share more about it in later blogs.

What else has been going on with us? The First White House has recently had a booklet reprinted to sell in our Gift Shop, titled "The Early Life of Jefferson Davis" by Walter L. Fleming.  Be sure and stop by and pick up a copy next time you are down our way. We are very excited about it. Stay warm and near the fire. Spring will be along soon!