Albert H. Small Donates Historic Letter to University

The 220-year-old letter, written by George Washington, will be part of The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection.

December 10, 2012

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A 220-year-old letter written by George Washington is being donated to the George Washington University by collector Albert H. Small. The letter, kept out of public view for decades by a private collector in New York until it was auctioned Friday at Christie’s, was written about the architect of the nation’s capital Pierre Charles L’Enfant.

“I am delighted to be able to secure this important piece of Washington history and donate it to the George Washington University,” said Mr. Small. “Dated November 30, 1792, the letter gives insight into George Washington’s perspective and feelings about Pierre L’Enfant. It will be an important part of my Washingtoniana collection.”

Purchased for $240,000, the letter will join the rest of the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, which is part of a new museum being built at 21st and G streets on the Foggy Bottom Campus. George Washington wrote the letter to David Stuart—a member of the commission charged with designing a federal capital city— to discuss the selection of the city’s eventual architect, Pierre Charles L’Enfant.

“Mr. Small’s purchase of this remarkable letter for the Washingtoniana collection he has donated to our university brings an important piece of history home to the District of Columbia,” said GW President Steven Knapp. “His generous act will benefit generations of scholars, students and interested citizens.”

In February 2011, Mr. Small donated his Washingtoniana collection to the university to help establish the new museum. The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection is an unparalleled treasure trove of rare maps, drawings, letters, documents, lithographs and books relating to the history and evolution of the city of Washington and the nation’s capital. It will be permanently displayed on the university’s campus in the 156-year-old Woodhull House, which will be renamed the Historic Woodhull House, Home of the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. The Woodhull House will be part of the university’s new museum which includes dedicated galleries and increased exhibition space for The Textile Museum and the university’s art collections.

Mr. Small, a third-generation Washingtonian, is co-founder and president of Southern Engineering Corporation. Mr. Small is a longtime supporter of the humanities and has served on many prominent civic and cultural boards. He received the 2009 National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama, and the 2011 President’s Medal from the George Washington University.  His collections are housed at the University of Virginia, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and soon in the George Washington University Museum.  

For more information on the new museum visit