“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
One of the greatest American writers penned the quote above in one of the most widely read novels of the Roaring ‘20s – the years of jazz and champagne and a world trying to figure itself out after the First World War.
Scott Fitzgerald wrote those words in his best seller “The Great Gatsby.”
The last surviving home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is in Montgomery. The Fitzgeralds lived there for nine months – they averaged only six months per house.
Sarah Powell is director of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum based in the home. She spoke about the passion she possesses for the prolific American writer.
“I had a background in nonprofits and a personal love for F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also felt that this site was sort of undermined in a way. A lot of people didn’t realize the gem we had here in Montgomery. Even today, I have more visitors from Australia than Alabama,” Powell said.
The home sits on a large lot in the historic section of the city close to downtown. The Fitzgeralds came to the house trying to settle down as a family, but had to deal with Zelda’s diagnosis as a schizophrenic. It wasn’t the best part of their life.
“Scott wrote parts of ‘Tender is the Night’ while they were here. She would write the beginning of ‘Save Me the Waltz,’ so there is some literary history here. They also met in 1918 right here in Montgomery. It was the birth of the jazz age,” Powell said.
The museum contains all of Scott Fitzgerald’s first editions, including “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender in the Night,” as well as 11 of Zelda’s original paintings. The collection is rare since most of her paintings were burned after her death.
“We have first editions of every novel that Scott published, including the armed service editions, which I always liked because they were pocket-size novels given to soldiers during World War II, and the reason that ‘The Great Gatsby’ came back into popularity after his death in the ‘40s,” Powell said.
Some of the pictures in the museum showed Scott and Zelda as a happily married couple. A few carried a smile, but most have that feel of a lot of life behind the eyes.
Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips founded the museum after living two houses down and realizing the treasure the city had.
“We spent over two years after having the house just gathering artifacts. When we first opened it was only a quarter this size, just one of the four apartments this house was turned into,” McPhillips said. “This museum is a passion of mine. We live just two houses down and just last night I was over here trimming the hedges. I think it’s become an anchor for this neighborhood.”
For Powell, working at the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is a life-long passion answered. “I absolutely love being here. I travel around and speak at different conferences and show people the essence of two huge lives, which has affected many in a wonderful way,” Powell said.
Included in the upstairs of the museum is an Airbnb available year-round. Many Fitzgerald fans love to stay at the museum where two literary and art giants lived and worked.
For more information, visit www.thefitzgeraldmuseum.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected]