On a warm August evening in 1932, the Alexandria Association was founded by a self-described group of thirty-seven "concerned citizens." Charles R. Hooff, Sr. was elected president; Ward Brown, vice-president and secretary; and Col. Charles Beatty Moore, treasurer. Dues were one dollar a year, or five dollars a year, payable semi-annually, for sustaining members. The first year’s agenda was full of serious issues with discussions ranging over a broad spectrum: eligibility of new residents to vote, water rates and water quality, the regulation of smoke from chimneys, dumping on the river front, support for the Alexandria Library, development of the waterfront, lectures on historical maps and Alexandria's "old houses," and last but not least the beginning of fund-raising for preservation in the form of a tour of historic houses. In that first year were sown the seeds of the present-day organization, today a thriving convivial group of approximately 600 members.
The Association today is organized "exclusively for educational purposes." Essential activities include: its monthly lecture series (October-June); its preservation and grant-making activities (since 1933); the Spring Event house tours (since 1933) and dinners (since 2010); and its collection of museum objects. The Association is especially proud of its monthly lecture series (October through June, except December when a holiday party is held). Nationally recognized experts present illustrated slide talks on the decorative arts including furniture, silver, paintings, ceramics, glass, historic interiors, archaeology, historic gardens, and cultural and architectural history topics. Other educational projects supported by the Association include: the "Our Town, 1749-1865" exhibition and catalog (1956) and the "Archaeology Sets the Table" exhibit (1993) at Gadsby's Tavern Museum; the "Oriental Porcelains from Alexandria Collections" exhibition (1979); "In the Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver" exhibition and catalog at The Lyceum (1994-1995), and “Changing Perceptions Charting Alexandria, 1590-1999” exhibit at The Lyceum (May 1999- October 1999) and catalog.
Notable preservation projects include the membership's efforts in having the city adopt the Charleston Ordinance for preservation of old buildings and influencing the Virginia General Assembly in passing the act establishing the Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission. The Association was in the forefront of successful efforts to save both The Lyceum and the Lloyd House. In the case of the latter, it raised the necessary sum of $7,000 to pay off the wrecking company that had already started demolition. A grant to the Apothecary Shop in 1964 enabled this landmark to retire its mortgage.
Major restoration funds have been given to The Athenaeum, Friendship Firehouse, Gadsby's Tavern Museum (including funds to reinstall the original doorway that framed George Washington as he bid farewell to his troops), The Lyceum, Old Presbyterian Meeting House, and Ramsay House. The Association collected antiques that are on display at the Lee-Fendall House and Gadsby's Tavern Museum. Association funds contributed to the restoration of "The Gadsby's Portraits" and more recently, the restoration of portraits of Humphrey Peake, Collector of Customs, and his wife. Decorative arts projects include assisting with the reinstallation of the busts of Cicero and Seneca that grace the Association's lovely meeting room at The Lyceum (1994); providing grants to the Carlyle House for the manufacture and installation of documented period wallpaper in the dining room (1996), purchase of a pier looking glass for the dining room (2001), purchase of an engraving, and painting of historic colors and installation of wallpaper and borders in the upper and lower passages; providing grants to Gadsby’s Tavern Museum for the reconstruction of historically accurate curtains for the ballroom (1998), for a dendrochronology of the Assembly Room (2001), a comprehensive paint analysis (2003), and restoration of the ice well (2009) ; awarding funds to the Menokin Foundation for a computer modeling project (2003) and support beam restoration (2008); grants to the Lee-Fendall House Museum for a comprehensive interior paint analysis (2000), restoration of the main structural support beam (2005), and restoration of the garden (2009); a grant to Lloyd House for restoration of the garden (2006); a grant to Woodlawn Plantation to restore the smokehouse (2008); and a grant to the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothcary Museum to restore the doorway transoms (2006).
The historic house tours were a success from their inception. These are documented in the Association's archives of the first Historic House tour (1933) and the first Spring Event tour (1970). 1996 saw another "first" for the Association, professionally lead group study tours which are held periodically, with the first tour abroad (Georgian Ireland) in 2006 and a second to Scotland in 2008 .
1996 saw the establishment of the Alexandria Association Endowment which is a permanent base for funding Association projects. This fund is supplemented (since 1997) by the Association’s participation in the Antiques in Alexandria Show.
Alexandria Association members are looking ahead with an increased ability to support educational projects, the decorative arts, and preservation. We are pleased to be able to build on a record of achievements that truly have helped to shape the City that we live in today...culturally, aesthetically, and philosophically. The Association continually welcomes new members.