Much to my chagrin, last week I had to apologize to my current home state of Alabama. Reluctantly moving here in May due to circumstances being what they were, I vehemently pronounced that there wasn’t one thing I was interested in in the entire state. I have tried to prove myself wrong since then, but this place just isn’t for me. That all changed when I discovered that Montgomery, Alabama is home to The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, which bills itself as “the only museum dedicated to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.”
As Fitzgerald is my literary idol, I happily made the 3 hour drive from Huntsville though the countryside spotted with billboards reminding me of my damnation and informing me that if I don’t love America I must leave it. All your classic southern stereotypes made flesh. Not far off of I-65, we found 919 Felder Avenue in an old neighborhood close to the University.
Upon entering the house one is in a small foyer with doors to the right and left, and stairs going up. I was under the mistaken impression that the entire house was the museum, but turns out it is only the first floor, the rest being apartments. Once inside I as greeted by Willie, who I had emailed before coming down to make sure they would be open. He began by showing us a half-hour video made in the 80s about the house and the Fitzgeralds.
Slated for destruction in 1986, Julian and Leslie McPhillips saved the home and established the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Association, opening it to the public the following year. Zelda of course was from Montgomery, which led the couple to return there a number of times. According to the museum brochure, the Felder house is the last surviving home in Montgomery either Scott or Zelda lived in. They moved into it with daughter Scottie in the fall of 1931. At the time Fitzgerald was working on Tender is the Night as well as a screenwriting job on Red-Headed Woman, a Jean Harlow movie. In January 1932, Zelda had a mental collapse, which led her to a Baltimore clinic. Scott and Scottie remained in the home through April of that year.
The museum itself is not all that big, but to a Fitzgerald fan such as myself it’s incredible. Filled with photos, books, letters, personal possessions and a wonderful sense of history, it was well worth the $5 donation. Having to make the 3 hour drive back we only spent a relatively short while there, but I could have spent most of the day soaking it all up.