The Old Dominion Boat Club will remain a local institution


By LaDonna Hale Curzon Member, Old Dominion 
Boat Club
(File Photo) 

To the editor:

Thanks to the Alexandria City Council, this community must say goodbye to one of its oldest landmarks: the Old Dominion Boat Club’s clubhouse. One of the oldest boat clubs in the country, this group, established in 1880, proudly calls 1 King Street its home.

Last month, the club’s members were forced — under threat of eminent domain — to vote to sell this highly sought real estate to the city in exchange for another location and $5 million. Despite winning every legal battle in court against the city for 40 years, including at the level of the state Supreme Court, the city’s ace up its sleeve — eminent domain — forced the club to fold.

The Alexandria City Council has tarnished its sterling reputation for preservation by doing so. The boat club has been anchored in Alexandria for 134 years. The boat club is, in fact, older than two other famous local landmarks: the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at the other end of King Street and the Torpedo Factory located next door to the clubhouse.

The boat club introduced rowing to Alexandria and now the high school is recognized internationally as a crew powerhouse. The high school’s boathouse and rowing facility, another landmark, is the pride of the city.

One has to wonder why Alexandria’s city councilors prefer to spend $5 million plus the millions they shelled out to buy the Beachcomber property, which is where the boat club will relocate, when the city is in the throes of financial distress to the point where critical services are in serious jeopardy. A public plaza is more important than city services? Really? Why doesn’t the city council ask taxpayers and residents before they blow their money on decades of litigation and, eventually, a plaza?

Although the clubhouse will be moving, the group’s presence in Alexandria is not going anywhere. The club will continue supporting charitable causes as it has done since its inception. The boat club will continue to financially support Alexandria’s police officers, T.C. Williams’ rowing program, boat safety programs, veterans, The Salvation Army, cancer lymphoma research, local parades and the ever popular lighted boat parade that draws thousands of holiday shoppers to Old Town.

And the club’s nearly 800 members and their guests will continue to shop and dine in Old Town, supporting local businesses.

The club may be moving, but it will remain an active and loyal member of the Old Town community for at least another 134 years.




  1. The ODBC is another casualty in the war against venerable institutions by over controlling bureaucracies. It is highly suspicious that the Club was bullied into settling on threat of eminent domain for the ostensible purpose of creating a patch of “green space”, especially since there has also been endless talk of having anywhere from two to three small hotels that will cover up green space and block the vista of the coming casinos at National Harbor along the riverfront. The only winners in this contest are the vengeful losers in the City Attorney’s office, the planners trying to justify their existence, and the developers who want to use the City’s power to further their own ends. It is a bitter shame and a disservice to the public which the citizen voters of Alexandria should remember in the next election cycle.

  2. I Totally Agree. Taking this property, when it is has been owned by the club for more than 90 years is against all preservation ideas and rules that the city prides itself on. Shame on everyone who is part of this travesty.

  3. As a former resident of Old Town and a proud former member of the ODBC, I remain astounded at the arrogance of the City Council, the strident incompetence of the City Attorney and the seemingly endless bungling of the Alexandria Planning Department under the “she who must be obeyed” direction of Ms. Hammer.

    The stranglehold that the Democratic Party has on the reins of local government is not healthy for a community under any circumstance, and I would say the same thing if the Republicans controlled the Council. This group of ‘leaders’ doesn’t appear to listen, much less care, what their citizens might think about what they are doing, . This is dangerous, but I have the sense our esteemed council members are too used to doing what they want and betting on the West End to always bail them out. If there is a day of reckoning, I think many of them will be amazed that the citizens actually do think and are concerned about the way the city is governed.

    The Boat Club situation is just one of a series of issues where lip service is paid to the concerns of residents, but is dismissed because the ‘professionals’ like our city attorney and planning director have drunk the kool-aid dispensed by the Mayor and his cronies.

    We have moved west, but I fear for a city I lived in and loved for over 20 years. I don’t think we are being served well by our elected officials, and the fact that that is a common complaint these days doesn’t make it less true. Good luck dear old Alexandria……….