Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (September 2009)|
The Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia (AOI) is the oldest civic organization in Washington, D.C., representing long-term citizens of the city. The association is dedicated to the District's history and heritage as well as promoting ideas to improve the future of Washington for its residents.
It was founded by a number of the District's earliest residents, including Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, Peter Force and J. Carroll Brent together with 28 other prominent Washingtonians, on December 7, 1865 — a time of great changes to the city and its population following the American Civil War. The AOI predates the merger of the District of Columbia's separate political entities into a single government (see Washington County, D.C.). Originally members had to be at least 50 years old and have resided in the District for 40 years. Currently, AOI members must be at least 40 years old and must have lived, worked, or operated a business in the District for at least 20 years or be descended from someone who meets these qualifications. Persons not meeting these qualifications may become Associate Members (all privileges except cannot hold office).
The association became incorporated in 1903. From 1911 until its demolition in 1956 the AOI met in the Old Union Engine House at 19th and H Streets, N.W. Over the years the AOI has supported many important civic initiatives including construction of the District Building, the installation of modern city street lighting, and the adoption of Washington's flag in 1938. The AOI opposed a new flag design in 2002. In support of both the L'Enfant and McMillan Plans, they have campaigned for the reopening of closed streets, including Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and provide testimony at planning hearings when either of the major plans are threatened. On January 29, 2005, a statue of Alexander Robey Shepherd (territorial governor from 1873 to 1874) was returned to downtown Washington due to the association's efforts. The AOI has commissioned a biographical, commemorative plaque to be placed at the base of the statue (located on the NE corner of the John A. Wilson (District) Building) sometime in 2010.
On July 4, 1920, the AOI invited members of a parallel African-American orgranization, The Association of the Oldest Inhabitants (Colored), Incorporated to a joint meeting to recognize the District of Columbia's fallen veterans of the Great War (1917-1918, World War I). While the AOI (Colored), Inc., was incorporated in 1914 and remained an active, vibrant organization well into the 1970s, many of its records have not been located and the active AOI has made it their mission to help locate and preserve the records of their parallel organization.
- An Invitiation to Join The Association of The Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia pamphlet (c. 2002).