Past is PrologueAugust 2nd, 2012, 12:49 am
Coming soon: the Washington Heritage Museums
It happened without fanfare, save in the cheery and polite mood among those gathered in a room of Mary Washington’s 18th-century home at 1200 Charles St. in Fredericksburg’s Historic District.
But years from now, I have little doubt that people will look back on the moment as a big occasion.
There, in that front parlor, Preservation Virginia Executive Director Elizabeth S. Kostelny and Fredericksburg resident Gail Braxton, director of Preservation Virginia’s Mary Washington Branch, signed a memo that charts the future for four of Fredericksburg most historic and most-visited properties. (Thursday’s print story about the event is here.)
Come winter, with some luck and a lot more hard work. the four sites–the Mary Washington House, Rising Sun Tavern, Hugh Mercer Apothecary and the St. James’ House–will be operated by a new, local nonprofit, the Washington Heritage Museums.
Visitors, at least immediately, likely won’t notice any big changes in tours or what the experience at any of these unique, story-telling places.
But having the four properties go their own way may almost be as much a watershed moment as when the branch formed in 1890 (depending on how one measures that event) to save the last residence of George Washington’s mother.
I’ll write more on this in coming days and weeks, but here’s a little historical perspective from the Mary Washington Branch–the entity separating itself from Preservation Virginia–about how it came to be some 120 years ago and what it has done since:
In 1890, the fledgling Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities saved the Mary Washington House from the dire fate of being sold, dismantled and shipped for display at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition.
The APVA turned management and care of the house over to a handful of women in the Mary Washington Branch of its organization.
In later years, the APVA, now called Preservation Virginia, added three other 18th-century Fredericksburg sites to its statewide list, and the branch assumed responsibility for each in turn.
Now, Preservation Virginia has offered the opportunity for local ownership of its Fredericksburg sites.
Branch members and community friends are establishing Washington Heritage Museums, a new 501(c)3 organization to receive the properties, collections and associated assets and to grow the support that will ensure the relevance of their legacy for generations ahead.