Virginia's defeat in the Civil War and the subsequent years of social, political, and economic unrest set the framework for the APVA's formation. Its preservationists, who followed in the footsteps of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, were women who acted to protect domestic values. Their male associates, on the other hand, often pursued a political agenda aimed at restoring antebellum restraints on the lower social orders and improving Virginia's national standing.
The APVA was formed initially in Williamsburg to acquire the deteriorating Powder Horn. Built in 1715, the Powder Horn was a storehouse whose weapons had once deterred slave rebellions in colonial Virginia, supported anti-British patriots during the American Revolution (1775–1783), and assisted Confederates during the Civil War. It was a symbol for the APVA as much as it was a building. Celebrating Virginia's role in representative but limited government, the APVA also acquired in 1897 the vacant site of the colonial capitol, which it ceremoniously marked with a bronze plaque. Hoping to improve Williamsburg's image, which had been recently shaped by its lunatic asylum and poverty, preservationists like Tyler wanted to capitalize on the peninsula's history.
Jamestown and Beyond
Elsewhere, the APVA was enshrining sites, establishing house museums, and trumpeting traditionalism. As it promoted tourism and preached local pride, it preceded the state government in erecting roadside markers (Virginia's program was established in 1926) and marketing historical attractions. In its first half century, the APVA developed museums at such sites as the Mary Washington House (acquired 1891) and the Rising Sun Tavern (acquired 1907) in Fredericksburg, as well as the John Marshall House (leased 1911, acquired 2005) and Old Stone House (acquired 1912) in Richmond. The group also acquired the Cape Henry Lighthouse (1930), which was the site of the first English landing in 1607, and Smith's Fort Plantation in Surry County (1933), which included earthworks from 1609.
The APVA is still a keystone in Virginia's traditional identity, but it has evolved from a mostly volunteer-run operation to one with a broadened focus and a three-dozen-strong professional staff. In a 1990 award, the American Institute of Architects honored the APVA for its innovations, including property transfers, coalition building, and public advocacy of preservation. Like others in the field, the APVA saw its funds stretched by the increasing costs of preservation and maintenance; it thus began to sell some properties with deed restrictions to sympathetic buyers.
Additionally, the association has emphasized coalition building. In 2004, it combined with the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, expanding the organization's name to APVA/Preservation Virginia. It has also tried to reach a more diverse audience and expand its programs. For example, it established joint ticketing and programs in 2006 for the Marshall House and nearby related museums. In other public advocacy, the APVA has published an annual list of endangered sites, publicized pending legislation affecting historic properties, and disseminated preservation news.
Bacon's Castle and Jamestown Rediscovery
Across the James River, Jamestown Island has been the APVA's centerpiece. After the establishment of Colonial National Historical Park in 1930 and the purchase of more than 1,500 acres at Jamestown, the National Park Service (NPS) has shared the island and the ticket booth with APVA since the 1940s. Yet to boost tourism and highlight Virginia's claim to prominence, the state erected Jamestown Festival Park less than one mile away for the 350th anniversary. It includes an approximation of the second fort (1610) and reproductions of three vessels. Renaming it Jamestown Settlement in 1990, and thus confusing visitors, the state expanded its operations and opened in 2006 a large exhibition hall. In contrast, the island held by the APVA and NPS, which is called Historic Jamestowne, was pushed aside by the state initially in the preparations for the quatercentenary. In redesigning the roadways, composing the planning committees, and promoting tourism, the state seemingly put the interests of its hypothetical fort first. The APVA and NPS cried foul, citing Historic Jamestowne's undeserved lower priority.
The quatercentenary revealed the APVA's challenges. Despite the pressures of fund-raising due to the lack of state funding, the APVA's two dozen properties include some of the state's historic jewels, and Jamestown is one of the nation's most important archaeological sites, with many years of digging ahead. Yet, unlike the organization's founding generations, the APVA's current administration early in the twenty-first century admitted that the history of those sites, to put it lightly, can be "uncomfortable and unpleasant" to recount. Moreover, the era of house museums is waning; their upkeep is expensive, visitation decreasing, and the future demands innovative steps. Furthermore, the APVA's past orientation to Tidewater and Richmond has left the state's western counties disconnected, though the association did open a Shenandoah Valley office in 2006 to promote preservation planning. Lastly, with its traditional focus on colonial and antebellum architecture and culture, preservationists are pressed to incorporate the perspectives and heritage of African Americans, Virginia Indians, and many others of both old and new Virginia. The APVA mandate is inclusive, however, as the organization is dedicated, it says, "to preserving and promoting the state's irreplaceable historic structures, landscapes, collections, communities and archaeological sites."
February 13, 1889 - The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the first statewide historic preservation organization, is formed.
March, 1893 - The APVA acquires part of Jamestown Island containing the church tower, its graveyard, and nearby Confederate earthworks.
1897 - The APVA acquires the vacant site of the colonial capitol in Williamsburg and marks it with a bronze plaque.
1958 - The APVA acquires Scotchtown, which was Patrick Henry's home in the 1770s.
1993 - The APVA hires archaeologist William M. Kelso to oversee its newly established Jamestown Rediscovery project.
1999 - The Commonwealth of Virginia administers a $1.5 million fund to the APVA, which it uses to help purchase more than a dozen properties for resale.
2004 - The APVA combines with the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, expanding its name to APVA/Preservation Virginia.
May 13, 2006 - The APVA opens the Archaearium Museum, which illustrates the archaeological story of 1607 Jamestown.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Lindgren, J. M. Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. (2012, January 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Association_for_the_Preservation_of_Virginia_Antiquities.
- MLA Citation:
Lindgren, James M. "Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: January 28, 2009 | Last modified: January 18, 2012