- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

The Museum of the Confederacy comprises two buildings. One is a 1971 structure that stores and displays a priceless collection of Confederate memorabilia, obtained from the 1890s to the present. The other is the White House of the Confederacy, built in 1818, which served as the home and office of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the war.

The museum recently has suffered a significant drop-off in attendance because of crowding by the adjoining medical college campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The museum is nearly surrounded by the medical college’s multistory buildings.

Now VCU is erecting a 14-story building immediately east of the museum. Plans call for construction to continue in the next 15 or 20 years on other sites within two or three blocks. According to museum Executive Director S. Waite Rawls, “There will be a doughnut of high-rise medical buildings, and we will be the hole.”

The museum has three possibilities: remain where it is, move the museum or move both the museum and the White House.

Visitation topped out at 90,000 a year in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. At that point, VCU constructed a 12-story building that cut off one of the streets leading to the museum, often leaving visitors frustrated. Annual visitation sank to today’s level of 60,000. This is during a period when visits to other Civil War sites are increasing.

Word of the museum’s uncertain future was disclosed in the fall in a fund-raising letter sent to museum members by Chairman of the Board J.E.B. Stuart IV. A decision has yet to be made.

Following the Civil War, Davis’ home served for five years as Virginia headquarters for the Federal occupying force, then for 20 years as a schoolhouse. In 1890, when Richmond was on the verge of tearing it down, the Hollywood Memorial Association stepped in to save it.

The museum was founded in the White House in 1896, the same year as the establishment of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

William Connery

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