Serving as the Executive Mansion for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865, this house was designed by architect Robert Mills and constructed in 1818 overlooking Richmond’s Shockoe Valley. Situated a few blocks from the Virginia State Capitol, the Classical Revival mansion was built for Dr. John Brockenbrough and was eventually sold to the City of Richmond, which rented it to the Confederate Government. Mrs. Davis’ memoirs indicate that well-established gardens surrounded the house and that apple, cherry, and pear trees could be found on Shockoe Hill’s terraces extending from the property. After the surrender of Richmond in 1865, the house served as a Reconstruction-era military headquarters and became a school in 1870 with its garden used as a playground. In 1890, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society formed to preserve the house and in 1896 opened it to the public as the Confederate Museum.
In the 1950s, the Garden Club of Virginia funded the installation of a formal garden. The Club’s landscape architect Alden Hopkins designed a Colonial Revival garden featuring parterres, ornamental planting beds, and naturalistic groupings of native plants. In 1976, a distinctly Modernist museum was constructed on contiguous land, designed by Petticord Associates. Built of concrete to match the stucco of the historic mansion, it was constructed to create a courtyard between the two structures. The White House of the Confederacy was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The property and museum are managed by the American Civil War Museum.