Zelda Sayre was born in 1900 as the youngest of six children in Montgomery, Alabama. Her family was prominent in the city and throughout the South and her father was a state Supreme Court justice. She was a dancer and active in the local social scene.
In 1918, she met future husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was visiting Montgomery with his army regiment. They quickly fell in love and exchanged letters while he was waiting to be deployed.
He moved to New York and proposed to Zelda, asking her to come live with him. But when she arrived in New York, they had a quick church wedding without any of her friends or family present.
In 1921, she gave birth to their only child, Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald. The couple enjoyed wild parties for much of the 1920s Jazz Age, rubbing elbows with people like Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker in New York, Paris , and beyond.
Their relationship was volatile, often involving drunken fights and infidelities. They struggled with money and were run out of a number of hotels.
In 1930, Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia, leading to her hospitalization in Baltimore two years later. It was here that she started writing on her own and later took up painting.
She is considered to be his muse, but in fact, he took phrases verbatim from her diaries and letters and put them in his novels including Tender is the Night. Zelda wrote her own version of their life together, published by Scribner as Save Me the Waltz.
She transferred to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina where she remained until 1940. Zelda was released before the death of Scott, but she did not attend his funeral or her daughter’s wedding.
She returned to the hospital in 1943. In March 1948, the hospital caught fire, killing Zelda, who was locked in a room awaiting electroshock therapy.
Zelda Fitzgerald Landmarks
Sidney Lanier High School, Montgomery, Alabama
Zelda attended Lanier High School in Montgomery, named for the poet (and Macon native) Sidney Lanier, who lived in the city in 1866. She was voted the prettiest and most popular in her class.
The school was built in 1910 but moved to a different building in 1929. Among the school’s other notable alumni are Hank Williams, Toni Tennille of Captain & Tennille, and astronaut Kathryn Thornton.
The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery, Alabama
The couple lived in this Montgomery home from 1931 to 1932, spending their days writing their respective novels Tender is the Night and Save Me the Last Waltz. They were in her hometown to care for her dying father.
She grew up on Pleasant Avenue and returned in 1940 to Sayre Street after Scott’s death, living with her mother until 1946. Daughter Scottie lived in Montgomery with her three children from 1975 until her death in 1985. Her children run the Fitzgerald Trust, including the museum.
The Fitzgerald Museum was built in 1909 as a single-family home and later became apartments. It was saved from demolition in 1986 and now contains exhibits on their lives and work including artifacts from The Great Gatsby film versions and Zelda’s paintings. Admission is a $10 donation per person. You can even stay the night at the home at one of their two Airbnb properties.
Also in Montgomery, you can see the Court Square Fountain where Zelda is said to have jumped in wearing a nude swimsuit, her family plot at Oakwood Cemetery, and a collection of her paintings at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Montford Historic District, Asheville, North Carolina
Zelda was a patient at Highland Hospital in the Montford District of Asheville in the 1930s and 40s. Scott stayed at the Grove Park Inn in 1935 and 1936 when visiting Zelda, located right across the street.
He rented two rooms, including one for sleeping and one for writing. He died a few years later. They never rebuilt the section with fire damage, leaving a memorial plaque, and the hospital closed for good in 1993.
But some of the buildings on their campus still stand including The Rumbough House, Highland Hall, and Homewood.
Fitzgerald Graves, Rockville, Maryland
Zelda and Scott were buried together, originally at Rockville Union Cemetery. But in 1975, Scottie had them moved to Saint Mary’s Catholic Cemetery to be with the rest of the Fitzgerald family.
Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, Marion, Alabama
Established in 1970, the museum at Bean Hall at Judson College includes exhibits on the state’s notable women. In addition to Zelda, other figures include Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, and her childhood friend Tallulah Bankhead.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City
The Fitzgeralds lived in Paris and Minnesota but their wildest years were in New York City. They were married in the rectory at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1920 and at one point lived in the Plaza Hotel. Both were known to jump into fountains around town and they were frequent visitors to the speakeasies.