Virginia Historical Society
Connecting people to America’s past through the unparalleled story of Virginia.
By collecting, preserving, and interpreting the Commonwealth’s history, we link past with present and inspire future generations.
The Virginia Historical Society was founded in 1831. Like most of the nation's older historical societies, it has always been a private organization; one that derives virtually all its support from membership and endowment. At the organizational meeting in 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall was elected its first president, and former president James Madison was elected its first honorary member. During the early years, between 1831 and 1861, the Society acquired valuable books, manuscripts, museum objects, and natural history specimens for its collections. From time to time, it published the texts of historic documents and the addresses delivered at its annual meetings. It was hampered, however, by having virtually no endowment and no permanent home.
The neoclassical structure that houses the library and headquarters of the Virginia Historical Society was built in five stages over a period of years from 1912 to 2006.
The first part, completed in 1913, was built by the Confederate Memorial Association as a shrine to the Confederate dead and as a repository for the records of the Lost Cause. In 1946, the Confederate Memorial Association merged with the Virginia Historical Society.
Virginia House was completed a few months before the stock market crash of 1929.
Alexander and Virginia Weddell's home, situated on a hillside overlooking the historic James River in Richmond, was constructed from the materials of a sixteenth-century English manor house. Now owned and operated by the Virginia Historical Society as a museum, the house has been preserved much as it was when the Weddells resided there.