Over the years, the Museum and White House of the Confederacy has been enveloped by Virginia Commonwealth University, with a 16-story building the latest addition to the neighboring skyline.

Meantime, visits to the National Historic Landmark have been in a steady downward spiral.

The unabated development has prompted officials of the private attraction to shop around for another Richmond location. First, though, a series of meetings will be conducted.

The Virginia House of Delegates set up a joint subcommittee a few months ago to study the cost and feasibility of relocating the White House and the 108-year-old museum. The first meeting, which is open to the public, will be held July 22.

"We are a private institution, but this is a public asset," said Waite Rawls, the museum's executive director.

"We exist for the public, so we want to hear what the public has to say."

The number of visitors to the museum and White House (www.moc.org) has declined from a high of 92,000 in the early 1990s to fewer than 54,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2004. The museum ended that year with a deficit of about $393,000.

"We have to consider ways to turn the museum into a productive institution again," Rawls said.

Local historians want to keep the White House where it is. The building has stood at the corner of 12th and East Clay streets since 1818. As the executive mansion of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865, it was the official residence of Jefferson Davis.

"I'm certainly sympathetic to their plight, but I think it's a terrible mistake to detach a house from its original location -- especially one with so much history," said Jennie Dotts, executive director of the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods. "So many pivotal moments in American history took place on this site."

Should the White House move, it would lose its landmark designation.

The joint subcommittee will submit recommendations no later than the first day of the 2006 General Assembly session.

The subcommittee is made up of 11 people, including five from the House and three from the Senate.

Another member represents VCU, one the museum and one the mayor's office.