Point of Interest - Athenaeum

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The Athenaeum, located on the outskirts of the Old Town neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia is an exquisite venue on the banks of the Potomac River. The building is primarily focused on celebrating visual and performing artists from within the DMV area and beyond. By preserving and maintaining the building’s glorious heritage it remains both a vital community asset and draw card for visitors with a creative inclination.

 The Athenaeum is home to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA), which is a membership-based organization dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the site and the continual promotion and celebration of the regional arts scene. 

The Athenaeum’s Gallery hosts a wide variety of rotating and permanent exhibitions and collections that range from edgy to classic, and include a wide range of media and styles.  Live music, dance, literary events, and even poetry slams are performed regularly in the majestic Main Room.  The Athenaeum glorious pine floors are even used for yoga classes and ballet recitals. Despite its impressive history and status, The Athenaeum maintains a modern air available to everyone. Here’s another site in the area.

The quaint galleries, wings, rooms, and enchanting rear courtyard are perfect locations for weddings, receptions, business meetings, or other special events. 

With regard to its history, The Athenaeum is one of Alexandria’s two remaining examples of Greek revival neo-classic architecture that is still open to the public at no cost of entry. It is also not a government-owned building 

The elegant rooms within have 24-foot high coved ceilings, vast windows, and stunning wood accents. The exterior of the building features four towering Doric columns across the porch entrance and walls of stucco placed over original stone and brick. Find more information here.

The Athenaeum was built in 1852 at the head of Captain’s Row on historic Prince Street, and was originally intended to be the Bank of the Old Dominion. Robert E. Lee was in fact a client of this bank. During the Civil War, the building served as the Chief Commissary’s Office for the Union Army. From 1870, it was owned by the Citizens National Bank. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop bought the building in 1907 so they could use it as a factory. In 1925 it became Alexandria’s first Free Methodist Church. Finally in 1964 the building was purchased by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA) and repurposed as an art center and renamed The Athenaeum.

As you can see, the building has undergone quite the number of changes, identities and owners over the years!

The name is derived from the Greek word Athenaion, which was a temple dedicated to Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom. 

The Athenaeum is opened Thursday through Sunday from Midday to 4pm. It is closed Monday to Wednesday.

The Athenaeum has something for all lovers of fine art throughout the year and looks forward to having you as a guest or hosting your next important event.

If you’d like to learn more about Alexandria, click here to read about Carlyle House Historic Park.

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