It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992, specifically for being where Jefferson Davis had his last council of war.
Davis' wife, Varina Davis, had met Armistead Burt when Jefferson Davis first entered the United States Congress in December 1845. Burt invited Varina Davis and her children to his house, as Varina was sent away from Richmond, Virginia for her protection. Varina pointed out to Burt that Yankees might eventually burn his house for harboring her, but he said there would be no greater cause then for his house to be burnt for. Varina moved to the Mansion on April 17. Days later, after Varina had left to go further South, Davis came to the house.
On May 2, 1865, between four and six in the afternoon, Jefferson Davis held his final war council, with Secretary of war John C. Breckinridge and several military officers, most notable of them Braxton Bragg and Basil W. Duke. Davis wanted to continue the fighting, using the forces still plentiful west of the Mississippi River, but the others disagreed. When Davis asked the men why they were still there then, they replied it was to make sure Davis got to safety. After fuming for a minutes, Davis resigned himself to the decision of the others, effectively ending the existence of the Confederate State of America. However, the last land Confederate force to surrender would not be until June 24, when Stand Watie surrendered in Oklahoma; the last Confederate vessel surrendered at Liverpool later that year. After the Abbeville meeting, the Cabinet, Davis; 3,000 thousand protective force, and the treasury of the Confederacy dispersed.
After the war, in 1868 Burt had to sell the house due to bankruptcy. A local planter, James R. Norwood, bought it; when he died in 1875, his widow and daughter inherited it. James Samuel Stark bought it from them in 1900, and with his wife restored the building. On their death, their daughter Mary Stark Davis inherited it. After Davis died in the Fall of 1987, Abbeville Historic Preservation Commission was given control of the house, and have operated tours of it ever since.
It was built in the 1830s by David Lesley, a local attorney, judge, planter, and Presbyterian Church elder. Lesley had seen a house in the north that he liked, and chose that house as the prototype for his own. He sent a man named Cubic, a slave that was also a master carpenter, to look at the prototype house, and he then oversaw construction of Lesley's.