White House of the Confederacy
East Clay Street.
Museum of the Confederacy.
Beside the Confederate White House.
October 11, 2005
The Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) officials have a problem.
The Museum of the Confederacy, and the Confederate White House beside it, are being enclosed by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) which, like a malignant growth, is taking over a large part of downtown Richmond. For the next several years, VCU construction will cause visitors, attempting to see the Confederate White House and Museum of the Confederacy, to have to deal with dust, trucks, road blockages, and limited parking. The resulting reduction in the number of visitors will make the continued operation of the Museum of the Confederacy and Confederate White House financially difficult.
Anticipating this, Museum of the Confederacy officials have been discussing the possibility of physically moving the Confederate White House, and relocating the Museum of the Confederacy, to another location. Presently being considered is an area three miles west of the current location.
Museum of the Confederacy officials have indicated that the whole project would take around five million dollars to complete. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, moving the Confederate White House would take approximately two weeks and involve removing and reinstalling over sixty street lights and traffic signals during the three mile move of the 1,350 ton structure.
Should it be done?
It is said that the Confederate White House will lose its Historic Landmark designation and that it, well, will just not be the Confederate White House at some other location. Some Civil War historians and/or interpreters have spoken out against the move, arguing that the small plot of land that it now sits on is as important as the building itself.
In addition, for some reason---the building is privately owned---the Virginia Assembly is looking into this, which, if nothing else, is an indication that the Museum of the Confederacy officials are serious about the move.
I have no objection to the move.
In my mind, the historic events that make the Confederate White House a landmark occurred inside the structure, not outside of it. Any outside relationship between the current Confederate White House and the one President Davis stayed in has already been destroyed by VCU's growth. It is in the Confederate White House where history occurred; not on the plot of dirt outside of it.
I am constantly hearing about how important it is that we educate our children about history. Would we not educate more children, if more were brought to the Confederate White House and the MOC because of easier access?
When you stand in the room viewing the table where Davis, Lee, and Jackson discussed the war, does it really matter if you look out the window and see trees or the side of a VCU building? Does it really matter where the building is located?
I don't think so.
Let's go ahead and spend the five million. Let's watch on evening news as the Confederate White House inches its way down Broad Street to its new location. Let's be happy as we watch the lines of visitors waiting to go into the structure at its new location and learn of our history and heritage.
To paraphrase Admiral David Farragut,
Damn that patch of dirt, full speed ahead!
Note -January 8, 2007: It appears that the Museum of the Confederacy has ruled out moving the White House. They are considering, however, moving the Museum. How this will impact visitation to the White House I do not know. ...Moving the White House was an interesting idea!...sigh.
Note -September 8, 2007: The Museum of the Confederacy announced that it will be dividing its relic collection between three not-yet-constructed museums. One museum will be on the Chancellorsville battlefield, one will be at Appomattox, and the third will be named by the end of the month. The MOC's offices will continue to be in Richmond and, I assume, there will continue to be tours of the Confederate White House.
(Since these events are considerably different from the events that caused this opinion to be generated, this opinion page will be removed shortly - Ed.)
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