Tour the only museum in the world dedicated to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. The Fitzgerald Museum preserves the legacy of the darlings of the Jazz Age.
In 1919, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a Princeton drop-out and a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army stationed in Montgomery, Alabama when he met Zelda Sayre, the daughter of Alabama’s Supreme Court Justice. Scott was poor, and Zelda would only marry rich. His first book was in the hands of the publisher, and while the book deal seemed to be going well Zelda was madly in love with him, but anytime the publication hit a bump, she would call off their engagement, until the book was published in April 1920. They would marry a week later.
Their daughter Scottie was born in 1921. Despite the huge success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Scott made his living mostly by writing short stories for magazines, and the couple was constantly in financial trouble. The Great Gatsby was a flop, and Scott considered the writing he did for magazines as whoring himself out. They moved from New York to Paris, living a lifestyle they could not sustain. Zelda had decided to become a ballerina at the age of 27, and she developed an eating disorder and what was then called schizophrenia, but was probably more likely bipolar disorder. She was admitted to a sanatorium in France. From there, the couple would move back to Montgomery.
The Fitzgeralds lived in their home in Montgomery from the fall of 1931 through the spring of 1932. Zelda’s health deteriorated after the death of her father, and she was hospitalized in Baltimore. Scottie was sent to boarding school, and Scott rented a space in Maryland to work on Tender is the Night. Zelda was also hard at work on a novel, Save Me the Waltz, which was largely autobiographical in all the same ways Scott was writing Tender. Scott’s publisher agreed to publish her book, but it was not received well by critics. In the hospital, Zelda found comfort in painting and continued the work even as she was moved in and out of sanatoriums. Eventually, Scott moved to Hollywood and Zelda became violent and reclusive and had to be moved to a hospital in North Carolina. The Fitzgeralds wrote each other daily, but they didn’t see each other again after 1938. Scott died in 1940.
The Fitzgerald Museum
Their home in Montgomery is the last place the Fitzgeralds would live as a family. They had never stayed in one place long; at 8 months this was their longest residency. This is also the house that Scottie felt most at home in.
In the late ’30s, the home was divided into a boarding house until 1986 when it was saved from demolition by Julian and Leslie McPhillips, who decided to create a permanent home for Scott and Zelda. They donated the home to the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Association in 1999.
The rooms of the home take you chronologically through the Fitzgeralds’ lives, featuring a comprehensive collection of memorabilia from Scott’s failing report card to Zelda’s family paper dolls. The home is filled with Scott’s short stories, Zelda’s paintings, and the family’s letters to each other and other famous writers through the years. The museum is free to tour, though they do encourage donations.
Have you been to your favorite author’s house? Let me know in the comments!