The opening of Simpson field in 1953 was a big deal for baseball fans, the Simpson family, and the youths of Alexandria.
It was a major feat in the 50 years of philanthropic measures the four Simpson generations have completed, and a big step in an internal social engine that keeps Alexandria heading in the right direction. The field is just one of many building ventures that the Simpsons were recognized this week by the Alexandria Community Trust for its First Annual Legacy of Giving Award.”
Simpson Field, which still stands today on Monroe Avenue, was packed with familiar faces that day when the first pitch was thrown out.
We got the announcer from the Senators to announce the game, said Don Simpson, Jr., now the president of Simpson Development referring to the now defunct Washington Senators.
Simpson Construction got together with Virginia Concrete and built the field that has remained a mainstay in the Alexandria Little League through the years. Shep Shepardson, owner of Virginia Concrete had some Major League connections, and invited Bob Feller, a Major League Hall of Famer from the Cleveland Indians, to throw out the first pitch. Feller returned 50 years later in 2003 to throw out the first pitch again.
They saw the need to help the youth of the city, Simpson said. Simpson Construction and Virginia Concrete still sponsor teams in Alexandria Little League.
The Simpsons were really the catalyst, for community building, said Jonelle Wallmeyer, director for ACT. I think theyre a great role model.”
The Legacy of Giving Award handed out April 24 kicks off a three-day event that includes the Generations of Giving Gala, The Business Philanthropy Summit and the Community Service Day, which the City is giving a day off to city workers to participate in key volunteer projects.
ACT is part of the larger Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, which includes the Montgomery County Community Foundation, the Prince Georges County Community Foundation, and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
CFNCR focuses on education and youth development, employment and workforce development, regional collaboration, crisis preparedness and leadership development.
Roots of community building
The Simpsons leadership in Alexandria began on a dairy farm near the present day Beacon Mall where Simpsons grandfather was born and with his five brothers, started the four generations of Simpson family that have contributed to the development of Alexandria. The community is important, thats what my grandfather taught, Simpson said.
Through the years, Simpson Development built the Alexandria Hospital, the United Way, Lindsay Cadillac showrooms, including the SmartCar showroom, and much of the interior of the George Washington Masonic Temple back in the day. In the coming months, another Simpson building in the Carlyle section is scheduled to open.
But building in those days around Alexandria was also about building relationships, and many of those relationships still stand today. Whenever there was a building going up, the Simpsonsrelied on the Fannons for their heating, Dwyer Plumbing to put the plumbing in, and Southern Iron for the building structure. We all worked together, Simpson said, when we hit hard times, wed all be together.
Not only did the Simpson family build the hospital, my kids were born there, I was born there, its needed, he said. When the hospital opened, President Johnson came, he said It was part of Johnsons urban renewal program, as was the revitalization of King Street in the historic district, which Simpson Construction also helped build.