Monday, June 18, 2012

Prattville Dragoons June Camp Meeting

The Prattville Dragoons held their monthly camp meeting on Thursday June 14 at the Shoneys on Cobbs Ford Road in Prattville AL.  The meeting was very well attended as everyone anticipated another great presentation by our guest speaker, Mrs. Tidmore, who presented "The First White House, Past, Present and Future" or as she suggested, "A House is Never Finished, an Anatomy of a Restoration".  After the Invocation and pledges to the flags, followed by the announcement of upcoming events by Commander Booth, 2nd Lt. Waldo gave a briefing on the Alabama Division Reunion at Lake Guntersville.  Brigade Commander Myrick enumerated all the Dragoons who were recipients of awards at the Reunion and presented Color Sgt. Roten with his Certificate of Appreciation for assuming his new role from Larry Spears.  Then Mrs. Tidmore was introduced by 1st Lt. Grooms. The First White House was originally built in 1832 by William Sayer, an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife.  The townhome was originally situated at Bibb and Lee Streets facing east. It came into the ownership of Col. Winter who renovated it. In February of 1861, Jefferson Davis arrived from Mississippi and resided at the Exchange Hotel for his inauguration.  On Feb 21st, the Confederate Congress authorized a house for the new President and Col. Edwin Harrison  offered Col. Winter's townhouse for $5000/year, a tidy sum for that period. March 4th, Mrs. Davis arrived, the same day as the First Flag of the Confederacy was flown over Montgomery. She toured the house and proclaimed it suitable and promptly returned to Briarfield in Mississippi to return with her children by steamboat. The Davis's lived in the home the spring of 1861 until Virginia seceded and the capital was moved to Richmond.  The home was maintained as a townhouse and boarding house after the War but became so dilapidated that tours around the turn of the century avoided the home.  In 1894 the UDC formed and was organized in Camden in 1896 with the first meeting in Montgomery in 1897.  Mrs. Jessie Beale of the UDC suggested the first priority for the organization should be the restoration of the First White House but the project was dropped in 1903 due to infighting.  Meanwhile though, the White House Association was formed on July 1st 1900 specifically to renovate and preserve the home.  The first Regent was Mrs. Beale and today, a century later, Mrs. Tidmore carries on in this important position.  $25000 was allocated to move the White House from it's original location to Washington and Union facing north, across from the Alabama State Capital building, it's current location.  The White House underwent it's first restoration in 1921 including receiving furniture and relics from Mrs. Davis.  The building actually housed the offices of the State welfare offices in the 1920s where adoptions were processed. The second floor of the structure became unstable over time and in September 1973, the second major renovation was undertaken when $50000 from the Legislature was parlayed into $250000 and steel beams were installed in the flooring and a heat pump HVAC was installed. On December 11, 1976 President Davis's great great grandson untied the ribbon for the reopening.  In 1988, 21 items were enumerated for additional work including replacing rotten gutters, handicap accessibility provisions, and landscaping but the funds were allocated elsewhere by the state government. A $2MM federal Ice Tea grant was obtained and under the administration of Gov. James, $150000 was finally released in May 1995 under the guise of lead paint abatement and the entire interior and exterior paint was replaced, the 3rd restoration.  Finally, in 2007 and 2008, the 4th restoration was completed which included HVAC replacement and interior painting which necessitated the removal of all furnishings. The surrounding yard was sodded and the irrigation system was repaired.  Currently, a security system is included in the Association's Master Plan which includes short and long term projects.  The Dragoons presented Mrs. Tidmore with a $100 check to help the Association fund this important latest effort to safeguard the invaluable historical relics in the First White House.

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