History of Century House

Located at 607 Prince St. in Old Town Alexandria, Va., Century House, the SAME headquarters building, was constructed sometime around 1846. It was built as a Victorian town home and was occupied as a private dwelling for several years. Sometime afterwards, Dr. George Klipstein assumed ownership of Century House and practiced medicine in the house until he was 85 years old. Century House actually was a full-fledged medical treatment facility, acclaimed by some to be the only hospital in existence during the early stages of the Civil War.

During Dr. Klipstein’s ownership, the interior of Century House was converted from a town home to a hospital. Dr. Klipstein had his private office to the left of the foyer—now the office of the SAME Executive Director—and the large room to the right—then most likely a dining room, now the SAME conference room—was converted to an operating room. The second floor, which presently houses the Department of Membership and the Department of Conferences and Education, was the recovery room. Dr. Klipstein and his wife, Naomi, lived on the third floor, now home to the Department of Communications and Marketing and the Department of Finance. Historical records indicate there was a morgue on the first floor, and the deceased were carried to a twin carriage house at the rear of the building from which horse carriages delivered the remains to their resting places.

Dr. Klipstein himself passed on in 1929 and left the property to his wife. When she died in 1962, the property passed to various relatives and commercial endeavors. In 1972, the property was purchased by the Thomas and Sewell law firm, which totally renovated the buildings and restored the original décor insofar as possible. All facilities were upgraded accordingly.

The SAME headquarters gets its name from its previous owners, who coined “Century House” because the property was well more than 100 years old. At the time of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, Century House was one of about a dozen town homes selected by the City of Alexandria for an open house walking tour. SAME purchased Century House in October 1980, relocating its headquarters from Washington, D.C.

The Century House Fund was launched initially as a short-term campaign through Oct. 31, 2006, to raise funds for the restoration of Century House’s main conference room and foyer. Since then, the fund's goal has been expanded to include ongoing improvements and renovations such as expansion of office space and the rehabilitation of the building’s exterior façade and windows.

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