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Virtual tour to offer look inside Confederate White House

By Josette Keelor

It's a lucky few who have seen what's in the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond.

Part of The Museum of the Confederacy, the home of Jefferson Davis and his family while he was president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, is open to tours but closed to photography.

An exception will be made at 7 p.m. Thursday, when visitors to the Warren Heritage Society will have a chance to tour the museum virtually from Front Royal during a talk by museum docent Charles Hibbler.

The free program at the Ivy Lodge, 101 Chester St., Front Royal, is a Lower Shenandoah Valley Civil War Roundtable event. It's the first of three over the next three weeks that Executive Director Patrick Farris said feature speakers new to the Heritage Society.

According to Farris, painstaking restoration of the White House of the Confederacy during the 1980s is patented, so the museum will not allow it to be copied, even for marketing purposes.

The Historical Society secured Hibbler and the PowerPoint presentation in part because Farris thought to ask.

"I feel extremely fortunate," he said. "It's not an every-day occurrence."

During the virtual tour, he said visitors will see wall hangings, floor coverings and furniture that the museum recovered from an estate sale of Davis' 19th century home.

"There are furnishings in every single room that Jefferson Davis used during the Civil War," Farris said.

Hibbler, whom Farris said has led nearly 1,000 tours, specializes in the life history of Davis and his family.

"This is novel because the only other way to take this tour is to drive to Richmond," Farris said. "If you are living locally and you would like to take this tour, this is your opportunity."

Also planned is a presentation March 27 with author and Shenandoah University professor of history Warren Hofstra, and, the following Thursday, an evening with biographer Billy L. Wayson.

Hofstra, who has written several books on the history of Virginia, particularly the Shenandoah Valley, most recently wrote about the Valley Pike in his book "The Great Valley Road of Virginia: Shenandoah Landscapes from Prehistory to the Present."

Also known as U.S. 11, it previous went by Valley Turnpike, The Great Wagon Road, The Philadelphia Road and the Philadelphia Wagon Road, Farris said.

"Warren Hofstra is a historian without comparison in the Shenandoah Valley right now," he said. From the road's physical geologic formation to its role in providing pre-interstate commerce, "his book documents the entire history of that corridor."

At 7 p.m. April 3, Wayson will talk about his biography of Martha Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson who played a unique role in the social life of her father's presidency.

"He had a problem," Farris said. "It might sound trivial, but it was very real. He did not have a wife."

A widower by the time he was elected president, Jefferson didn't have a first lady to welcome the wives of White House guests. His grown daughter accepted that role -- the role of first ladies that Farris said "saved their husbands' presidencies through their efforts."

For more information about the programs at the Warren Heritage Society, call 540-636-1446 or visit www.warrenheritagesociety.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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