A Museum For The Jazz Age



A Museum For The Jazz Age: Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum

 A Craftsman-Style House With Letters, Photographs And Artifacts That Tell The Story Of The Famous Great Gatsby Writer And His Wife

The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Exterior [Courtesy/Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum]

The famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda traveled the world during their marriage, never owning a home but a house they rented in Montgomery, Alabama in 1931 and 1932 which gives off a certain Southern charm, with camellias, jasmine, wisteria and magnolias dotting the grounds was their favorite. Visitors to the house- now a museum- can easily imagine them entertaining in the great room, writing in the study, relaxing in the sunporch.

 The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is in an old historic neighborhood in the Deep South. Despite its unlikely location, this stately museum is a must-visit for fans of the Jazz Age icons.

In her daily letters to Scott when he was working in Hollywood, CA, Zelda wrote about the house, “The weather here is a continual circus day -- smoky with the sun like a red balloon and soft and romantic and sensual.”

Stepping inside the brick-and-brown-clapboard, Craftsman-style house visitors will find that the small home is filled with letters and photographs. Walls are lined with artifacts and pictures that tell the story of how Scott rose to fame with his debut novel This Side of Paradise, in 1920, and faced a lackluster response to The Great Gatsby five years later. Zelda, the headstrong daughter of a prominent Montgomery judge, became a media darling as the iconic flapper.

F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald
The Beautiful Backyard [Photo Credit: Jonathon Kohn]
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Office [Photo Credit: Jonathon Kohn]

A back-bedroom houses Zelda’s paintings and period furniture complete the scene. The impression is of quiet comfort in these inviting, sunlit rooms that look out to a wide green lawn and magnolia trees, a mood at variance with the turmoil that wracked the Fitzgerald’s

“There is no other place in the world a lay person can visit to learn of Scott and Zelda's legacy,” said Sara Powell, executive director of the museum. “Behind the brick entryway, the museum houses include over 300 Fitzgerald artifacts, among them photographs, manuscripts, typewriters, and letters. It also includes Zelda’s artwork, and the museum’s founders are committed to preserving her memory and history along with her more famous husband.”

The family relocated to the South after an extended tour in Europe that was cut short by the first of Zelda’s breakdowns. The neighborhood, known as Old Cloverdale, was close to Zelda parents. Zelda spent a fair amount of that time alone with their daughter Scottie, as F.S. was away, writing in Hollywood.

It was in this home that Zelda outlined her book about a marriage in turmoil, ‘Save Me the Waltz,’ as Scott was writing his own novel about a destructive marriage, ‘Tender Is The Night.’  Despite both writers crafting fiction out of their own lives, their passion for each other remained strong. In a letter from Montgomery to Hollywood in December, 1931, from Zelda writes, “The house is so pleasant and I have everything in the world except you.”

Zelda's Hairbrush [Photo Credit: Jonathon Kohn]
The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald [Courtesy/Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum]
The Many Paintings And Artifacts Of The Fitzgerald's [Courtesy/Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum]

“We have a quite a bit in terms of what you can see while you're here,” Powell said. “Letters between Scott and Zelda, artifacts from their early childhood and teenage years, first edition prints of Scott's novels and short stories, first edition prints of the Esquire magazines that the 'Pat Hobby Stories' were printed in, various photographs from their many travels, a handful of Zelda's original paintings, the stamp collection of Scott and Scottie's. This year we're looking to do featured galleries that would highlight fashion from the late 1800's to the 1940's and we're always on a continual search for new items and artifacts.”

The house was turned into four tenant apartments after the writers moved out as way to maintain the home. It was set to be demolished in 1986 until the founders, Julian and Leslie McPhillips bought the home and donated it to the Fitzgerald Association in 1989. Not only were they personal fans of Fitzgerald's work. Zelda turned from writing to painting, and the museum has 11 examples of her idiosyncratic artistic output, including flowers of oddly menacing aspect, a favorite theme. Especially popular with visitors are her colorful paper dolls, a genre she adored.

Today the house forms an important link in the Southern Literary Trail, connecting mythic places that influenced great novelists and playwrights of the 20th Century along with sites dedicated to Ralph Ellison and Harper Lee. This museum is the perfect place to start.

Candice Reed

A graduate of Kelsey-Jenny College in Communications as well as a certified grant writer, Candice has written for The Los Angeles Times & The New York Times. She loves entertaining and all things French.

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