The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is located in the Old Cloverdale historic neighborhood of Montgomery, Montgomery County. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and painter and writer Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, two of the best-known figures of the Jazz Age of the 1920s, lived in this house from October 1931 until February 1932, a brief but significant period in their writing careers. It is currently the only museum in the world dedicated to the couple.
The museum houses numerous photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, and books that tell the story of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald: their youth, the circumstances that brought them together, their courtship, their marriage, and their eventual breakup. The museum also features a number of Zelda's paintings, which were often overshadowed by her literary ouptut and public notoriety. The extensive library is supplemented by illuminating anecdotes during tours of the space. The museum is financed solely through public contributions. It has a staff of one full-time curator as well as volunteers and is overseen by an executive director.
The house, built in a Georgian Vernacular style, was completed in 1904 and was privately owned until 1986. Scheduled for demolition that year, it was purchased by Leslie and Julian McPhillips, a prominent Montgomery attorney who felt a connection with Scott Fitzgerald as both were Princeton University alumni. Shortly after the purchase, McPhillips helped co-found and chaired the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Association, which consists of 20 active and honorary board members who help promote and support the museum. It opened to the public in 1989.
Sayre was a native of Montgomery who was a fixture on the Montgomery social scene and popular with the press for her vivacious personality. She met the 21-year-old Fitzgerald, who was stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan, at a country club dance in July 1918. He was immediately enamored of Zelda and would frequently travel from the camp to court her; they married in 1920. Scott's literary success, combined with the couple's eccentric and outlandish escapades, made the Fitzgerald's celebrities and icons of the Jazz Age. However, Scott's alcoholism and Zelda's increasingly erratic behavior strained the relationship. In April 1930, Zelda was committed to a sanatorium in France, and following her release in September 1931, the Fitzgeralds left Europe and relocated to Montgomery, an event that was noted in the Montgomery Advertiser. The couple believed that proximity to family would help Zelda's mental health.
Notorious for moving frequently, the couple never bought a home. Thus, Scott, Zelda, and their daughter, Scottie, rented the Felder Avenue house in October 1931, but Scott did not stay for long. A combination of Zelda's hospital bills and poor spending decisions left the couple in terrible financial shape. To make money, Scott moved to Hollywood in 1931 to work in screenwriting. Prior to leaving, however, Scott finished significant portions of his last completed novel, Tender is the Night. During her time in the house, Zelda outlined her first and only novel, Save Me the Waltz. The book's iconic jacket photo of Zelda in a tutu holding a cat would be taken in the foyer of the house, and the box she is sitting on bears the address of the house. Both novels are semi-autobiographical and provide insight into the collapse of the couple's marriage and the effects of Zelda's mental illness and F. Scott's alcoholism on their relationship. The two would never live in the same house again. After her father died in November, Zelda relapsed and was committed to the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She would remain in and out of sanitariums until her death in a fire in 1948.
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is located at 919 Felder Avenue, Montgomery and is open Wednesday through Sunday. The museum holds an annual short story literary contest for high school and college students who compete for cash awards. The deadline for submissions is the end of May. Since 1994, the museum has held an annual gala to raise money and celebrate the museum. It is part of the Southern Literary Trail.
Banks, Cathy, and Jackson Bryer, eds. Dear Scott, Dear Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003.
Bruccoli, Matthew, and Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, eds. The Romantic Egoists: A Pictorial Autobiography from the Scrapbooks and Albums of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.
King, Carole, and Karren Pell. Montgomery's Historic Neighborhoods: Images of America. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Taylor, Kendall. Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, A Marriage. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.
Published August 14, 2014
Last updated August 28, 2014