By Megan Ritter
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Get your flapper dresses and fedoras ready and brush up on your Charleston steps! It’s time to support the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden as their annual fundraiser, Sips & Secrets: A Speakeasy Night, returns on Saturday, September 14.
The evening pays homage to the house’s Prohibition past, when from 1903 to 1934 it was home to the Downham family, Alexandria’s liquor dealers. While the museum’s staff has been unable to prove it conclusively, it is widely believed that Robert Downham entered the bootlegging business after Prohibition shut down his shop. “For a long time, the early 20th century history of the house has been overlooked, but it was such a transformative period. This event is a fun way to bring a fascinating part of our past to light,” said Amanda Roper, manager of education and public programs.
The night will feature live jazz and ragtime from Tony Gudell and the Foggy Bottom Whomp-Stompers, and a dance performance and Charleston contest led by local dance troop Fidgety Feet. Attendees are encouraged to wear their 1920s best, enjoy a photo booth and our roving photographer, and to enter the costume contest for best flapper or mobster style. Prizes for both dance and costume contests have been generously provided by Port City Brewing Company.
The evening will feature 1920s-inspired cocktails. Popular choices in past years included gin fizz punch, whiskey sours, and champagne cocktails along with beer and wine, appetizers provided by Rocklands Barbecue, and desserts from the Firehook Bakery. A VIP reception will precede the event, with special opportunities to tour the house, view an exhibition on 1920s fashion, and enjoy specialty cocktails.
The evening will include a silent auction featuring exciting prizes: an antique sterling silver hip flask from The Antique Guild; gift baskets provided by local favorites like The Old Town Shop and Spice & Tea Exchange; a collection of Alexandria’s annual keepsake Christmas ornaments supplied by the Office of Historic Alexandria; an Anthony Rendon-signed baseball thanks to the Washington Nationals; and much more.
Sips & Secrets is the museum’s largest annual fundraiser. It enables the staff to continue interpreting 200 years of local history through stories of the people who lived and worked on the property from 1785 to 1969. The museum offers house and walking tours, lectures, student and youth programs, and special events, while carrying out curatorial and preservation work to maintain the 235-year-old structure as a living historical property.
Presenting sponsors of Sips & Secrets: A Speakeasy Night are heritage liquor brands Belle Vodka and Old Forester bourbon; other event sponsors are The Zebra Press; ALX Community; Lorraine Barclay Nordlinger, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty; Redmon, Peyton, & Braswell; The Getaway Driver; and Kelly Newton Jeffers.
Sponsorship opportunities are still available, and those interested should contact Megan Ritter, event chair, at (410) 259-9273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, Sips & Secrets welcomed more than 120 attendees. This will be its fourth year. “We’ve been excited to see this event grow over the years, as it’s developed into an important fundraising source to support our mission,” said John Christiansen, executive director.
Tickets are available now at leefendallhouse.eventbrite.com. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy what has been called the Party of the Year while supporting historic preservation in Alexandria!