The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) and its branches are dedicated to preserving and promoting the state's irreplaceable historic structures, landscapes, collections, communities and archaeological sites. The APVA was officially formed in 1889. In 2003, the APVA changed its name to Preservation Virginia (PV).
The origins of the APVA can be traced to the Catharine Memorial Society, an organization which was formed in honor of Cynthia Beverley Tucker Washington Coleman's (1832-1908) daughter who died 1883, at approximately 11 years old.
The following narrative illustrates Cynthia B. T. W. Coleman's role in founding the APVA. From History Colonial Capital Branch Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities by Walter J. Miller (pages ix - x):
"Preservation is in the Air: Catharine Memorial Society
The history of the branch as well as of the APVA begins with a brief mention of the Catharine Memorial Society. The following background material is taken from The First Restoration in Williamsburg by Jeanette S. Kelly, written for the Colonial Capital Branch, APVA in 1933. Miss Kelly served as recording secretary of the branch, 1923-1926.
On February 9, 1884, Mrs. Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman called together a group of children, the playmates of her daughter Catharine, who had died a few months before, and in order to keep in touch with these children she formed with them a society called the "Catharine Memorial Society." For a number of years the society met regularly at Mrs. Coleman's and, with the assistance of Mis Estelle Smith, Mrs. Helen Leigh, Miss Alice Smith and other young ladies were taught to sew and carry on such charitable projects as a Junior Branch of the King's Daughters might do. But Mrs. Coleman's interest in history and tradition had been awakened prior to this date, and in 1886 the work of the Catharine Memorial Society was turned into new channels and the great task of assisting in the repair of Bruton Parish Church and restoring the tombs and the walls of the church yard was begun.
The money for the work was raised by the sale of small articles made by the children, and by gifts of money from individuals whose interest was roused by an article in the Southern Churchman of August 5, 1887, written by Mrs. C. B. T. Coleman, and by gifts sent in response to many personal letters written by her and other ladies who were members of the Catharine Memorial Society.
The successful undertakings of the Catharine Memorial Society became a stimulus to interest in the historical possessions in Williamsburg and in other parts of the state, not only among dwellers in the city itself but throughout Virginia and beyond. Expansion was natural and necessary, and in 1889 steps were taken to form a larger association whose object, to quote from Mrs. Coleman's notebook[,] was to "preserve just such records of the past as are attracting the interest and attention elsewhere. Not only are the monuments and tombs to be repaired but buildings in which stirring deeds have been enacted, and where they have been destroyed to mark the spot on which they stood."
On January 4, 1889, a group of ladies and gentlemen met at Mrs. Coleman's home to discuss the organization of a society that was called the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Mrs. Fitzhugh Lee, wife of the governor, was elected president; the central group was in Richmond with Branches in various places, of which the Colonial Capitol Branch in Williamsburg was the first."
Material in the Special Collections Research Center