Worship  at 8:30 and 11 a.m.
Coffee Hour at 12
Childcare 8:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.


Make a 2019 Pledge



Member Login














fblogo Visit our Facebook Page


Church Office

8:30 to 4:30 Monday - Friday

323 South Fairfax Street
Alexandria, Virginia  22314-3716
Phone: 703-549-6670

The History and Archives Committee

Interest in the history of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, and in conveying its story to others, dates from at least 1794.  In that year, the Rev. Dr. James Muir prepared a two-page written account entitled, “History of the Presbyterian Church at Alexandria” for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  In 1940, William Buckner McGroarty (1858—1950) published the first book-length treatment of the congregation’s history, The Old Presbyterian Meeting House at Alexandria, 1774-1874.  Long a member of Second Presbyterian Church, he actively promoted the recognition of the heritage of the Meeting House, and he survived to see the Meeting House reopen in 1949 with a congregation of its own, which he joined.

With the renewed congregation at the Meeting House came a renewed appreciation for the heritage of Presbyterians in Alexandria.  One of the earliest committees formed by the new congregation was the “Memorials and Gifts Committee,” which not only took responsibility for receiving contributions to assist in resuscitating the Meeting House congregation, but also for ensuring that the congregation’s heritage was brought back to life and respected.  The congregation organized numerous activities over the years, peaking during the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Independence in 1976.  Preparations for these national bicentennial celebrations included the Rev. Dr. William R. Sengel’s writing of the remarkable book, Can These Bones Live? Pastoral Reflections on the Old Presbyterian Meeting house of Alexandria, Virginia Through its First Two Hundred Years (1973). 

By the late 1980s, the “Memorials and Gifts Committee” had become known as the “Archives, Memorials, and Historic Preservation Committee.”  The Committee as it exists today emerged in 1995, when the existing “Archives, Memorials and Historic Preservation Committee” divided to create a separate “History and Archives Committee” and a “Memorials Committee.”  A significant advance occurred in 2006, when the Committee was able to establish a dedicated space for the Meeting House Archive (described more fully in the companion article about the Archive).

In 2009, the History and Archives Committee spearheaded the construction of a museum-quality display case in the Nancy Vance Sennewald Library in Elliot House.  It has since housed numerous exhibits.  Most have focused on historical aspects of the Meeting House, although the display case is available for use by all of the congregation’s Ministries.  The image shows a display installed by the Service & Justice Ministry in July 2015.  Other projects the Committee has undertaken over the past several years include: starting an oral history program (2009), installing a plaque in the churchyard burial ground in memory of all those interred there (2009), acquiring the records of Second Presbyterian Church after it closed (2009), arranging for the appraisal (2010) and subsequent conservation (2012) of the portrait of Dr. Muir, helping to arrange for an Historic Organ Citation for the Erben Organ (2012), conducting a thorough inventory of the fine arts holdings of the Meeting House (2012), presenting an Adult Ed series on Meeting House history (2012), and assisting in preparations for events commemorating the roles of Alexandrians in the War of 1812 (2015).

The History and Archives Committee meets regularly in the Archives Room in Flounder House on the first Monday of every month, except during the summer.  Its continuing mission is to

  • Preserve, archive, and catalogue important papers and artifacts of the Meeting House;
  • Conduct research to expand our knowledge and understanding of the Meeting House and its role in the Alexandria and Presbyterian communities;
  • Maintain a comprehensive and accurate historical record of the Meeting House that includes its congregation, clergy, and facilities;
  • Prepare materials for, and assist in organizing, events and special projects that relate to the history of the Meeting House; and
  • Assist in making the historical papers and artifacts of the Meeting House accessible to researchers.

Any member of the congregation who is interested in the history of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House is welcome to join the History and Archives Committee.  Please contact the committee chair—currently Don Dahmann, —for additional information.

Updated by the History and Archives Committee, 16 November 2015.


Last Published: February 8, 2016 10:51 AM
Old Presbyterian Meeting House 323 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 703-549-6670