Travel

Want to Live Like F. Scott and Zelda?

Montgomery, Alabama’s Fitzgerald Museum opens up the storied family home to overnight guests

photo: Jonathon Kohn, Courtesy of the Fitzgerald Museum

The magnolia-shaded craftsman at 919 Felder Avenue in Montgomery, Alabama, is beautiful but unassuming—it looks no different than many of the other historic homes in the city’s Cloverdale neighborhood. And it isn’t; not really. But its occupants were. The century-old house is the last place where Jazz Age literary lights Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and their daughter, Scottie, lived together as a family. In 1932, F. Scott set out for Hollywood; Zelda was hospitalized; and Scottie went to live with Scott’s literary agent in Baltimore.

Today, the structure—which was divided into apartments after the stock market crash—serves as the Fitzgerald Museum, the only institution in the world dedicated exclusively to the two authors, who wrote portions of Tender is the Night and Save Me the Waltz from inside those four walls on Felder. Despite the singular history of its subjects, the museum is an under-the-radar destination for most Southern travelers. “We have more visitors from Australia than Alabama,” says director Sarah Powell. But now there’s added reason to visit—and stay. Museum patrons have the opportunity to spend the night in one of the upstairs apartments, which guests can rent directly through the museum or via AirBnB beginning this April.

Overnight rentals will help provide a valuable source of income for the museum. “Because of certain restrictions we have by the city that don’t allow for any kind of retail space, we saw this as an opportunity for a steady revenue stream,” Powell says. The apartment is redecorated to reflect the late 1920s and early 30s without sacrificing twenty-first-century creature comforts.  Copies of The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned, and other classics line the bookshelves.

Jonathon Kohn, Courtesy of the Fitzgerald Museum

Downstairs, the museum houses such artifacts as Scott’s honorary degree from Princeton in 1917, which just appeared in the museum’s mail one day. “Because of the vagabond way they lived their lives, working here is almost like a scavenger hunt,” Powell says. “You never know what you might find. There’s a story about Zelda throwing a platinum watch out of a train—a gift from Scott at their marriage—and I joke that somewhere out there is a beautiful diamond art deco watch just lying in the dirt.”

Jonathon Kohn, Courtesy of the Fitzgerald Museum

Staffers are also happy to point guests in the direction of other local Fitzgerald landmarks. Zelda, a Montgomery native, grew up one neighborhood over in historic Cottage Hill, and was said to have danced in the Court Square fountain. Also, though the Fitzgeralds always maintained that they met at the Montgomery Country Club, local old-timers claim the couple really met in the basement of Winter Park, a Cottage Hill mansion well-known for its risqué parties—there’s even a rumored bootleggers’ tunnel connecting the mansion to the river. All things considered, it’s surprising the pair didn’t run with the tale. “With Montgomery being Zelda’s childhood home,” Powell says. “There is all the lore you can imagine.”


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