The Lyceum: Alexandria's History Museum
201 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA, USA
alexandriava.gov/Lyceum - (703)-746-4994
The Lyceum: Alexandria's History Museum Reviews
The Lyceum Sep 17, 2012
This Greek Revival building opened its doors in 1839 to house the Alexandria Lyceum, founded by the Quaker educator Benjamin Hallowell, and the Alexandria Library Company. The first floor contained a reading room and a changing exhibition space while the second floor formed a large lecture hall (former president John Quincy Adams was the most famous speaker to give a talk), all open to the public. When the Union army occupied Alexandria in the opening days of the Civil War, the building was converted into a military hospital. Southern sympathizers who planned on joining the Confederate army secretly gathered outside the Lyceum and quietly marched out of Alexandria on the night of May 24, 1861, many never to return.
After the war the Lyceum became an apartment building and then an office complex in the 1940s. Plans to demolish the aging structure in the late 1960s were shelved when the city bought and renovated it. In 1985 the Lyceum reopened as the history museum of Alexandria.
I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Lyceum. Three hundred years of history are packed into the two rooms on the first floor, which means that a lot of interesting stuff is skipped over. There are just so many other historical buildings in the city that often focus on specific time periods, such as the early republic at Gadsby's Tavern, that the Lyceum seems rather diminished in comparison. The second floor is still used for lectures rather than exhibition space and can be rented for wedding receptions (the fate of many an old building). There is a new addition to the structure that has nice modern bathrooms, the ubiquitous gift shop, and a temporary exhibition space that featured Alexandria during the Civil War at the time of my visit. I can't recommend anyone going out of their to see the Lyceum, but if you are in the area it's worth a short walk over. There is a $2 entrance fee.
Part of the list Civil War
Part of the list Northern Virginia Day Trips
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