Albert H. Small

October 15, 1925 ~ October 3, 2021 (age 95)


Albert H. Small, D.C. real estate developer and philanthropist, dies at 95

Albert H. Small, real estate developer and philanthropist, who helped shape the residential housing and commercial building landscape across the Washington, DC metropolitan region, peacefully passed away on October 3, 2021, at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was less than two weeks shy of his 96th birthday.


Mr. Small was born in Washington, DC, and raised in this city by his parents, Albert and Lillian Small. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School and the University of Virginia, where he received a degree in chemical engineering. Mr. Small also served as a second lieutenant in the United States Navy during WWII. After completing his bachelor’s degree and military service, Mr. Small co-founded Southern Engineering Corporation in 1950, which developed over 12,000 apartment units and 2,000 single-family homes (including one of the region’s premier condominium developments – Parc Somerset) in numerous award-winning communities across the mid-Atlantic region. Mr. Small also developed more than one million square feet of commercial office space in downtown Washington, DC and Greenbelt, Maryland.


While real estate development dominated most of his professional life, Mr. Small possessed an enduring passion for learning about American political history and examining the architectural foundations of the nation’s capital. In this spirit, Mr. Small devoted a considerable amount of time during his evenings and weekends, meticulously researching, cataloguing, and assembling a comprehensive collection of American historical documents, books, manuscripts, and maps.      As a civic-minded philanthropist, who sought to share his appreciation of American history with future generations, Mr. Small endeavored to donate his extensive collection of presidential documents (including an original, Declaration of Independence) to the University of Virginia, where he established the Albert and Shirley Small - Special Collections Library. In a similar vein, Mr. Small donated his voluminous collection of rare maps, engravings, and documents on Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia to the George Washington University, where he established The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. Additionally, Mr. Small developed a deep-seated interest in memorializing one of the foundational events of the 20th Century, the D-Day Campaign in 1944, which he felt had a profound impact on the world we know today. His vision culminated in the establishment of the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute, a multi-purpose educational institution for teenagers and high school teachers to thoroughly study the significance of D-Day and visit the beaches of Normandy to observe first-hand, the heroic sacrifices made by thousands of young American soldiers.


While, his commitment to preserving and disseminating knowledge of our nation’s history remained central to his philanthropic vision, Mr. Small actively sought to further these values by serving on the boards of several institutions and organizations, including, the Aspen Institute, U.S. State Department Rooms, University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, the Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra, National Museum of the American Indian, the National Archives Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Historical Society of Washington, the Tudor Place Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress, and the Life Guard Society of Mount Vernon. In conjunction with his close involvement with these institutions, Mr. Small actively participated in various national organizations, including the Young President’s Organization, the Chief Executives Organization, the National Association of Homebuilders and the Urban Land Institute. Ultimately, as a tribute to his life-long commitment to deepening the nation’s understanding of its political and architectural history, Mr. Small was awarded The National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2009. Similarly, in recognition of his long-standing public service, Mr. Small was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service in 2016, by The George Washington University and on October 1, 2021, he was named at the university’s 200th Anniversary Monumental Alumni Award Ceremony.


When he was not building homes, collecting historical manuscripts, and supporting the growth of academic and public institutions, Mr. Small could be found playing tennis or golf with friends most weekends at Woodmont Country Club. While, not on the courts or fairways, Mr. Small could be found tending to his diverse array of flowers and vegetable plants in his backyard garden. Mr. Small also had a penchant for classic/vintage cars, which prompted him to take his children and grandchildren on annual road trips to auto shows and donating his vast toy car collection to the Smithsonian Institute. Finally, regardless of the season, Mr. Small was particularly fond of spending quality time with his family and friends - skiing, photographing and enjoying the natural beauty of Aspen, Colorado.


Mr. Small is survived by his beloved wife of 69 years, Shirley Schwalb Small; children, Susan (Gerald), Albert, Jr. (Tina) and James (Anayansie); grandchildren, Robert (Marissa), Stephen, Albert, Benjamin, Isabella, and Gabriella; niece, Patricia Alper Cohn (David); nephew, Richard Alper (Kate); and brother-in-law, Jacob Schwalb (Sandra). Mr. Small was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Lillian, and his beloved sister, Carolyn Small Alper.


A private, graveside funeral service will be held on October 6, 2021.  A special memorial service honoring Albert H. Small will be held at a future date. lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia; The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum; and The Albert H. Small Normandy Institute.

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Albert H. Small Normandy Institute (George Washington University)
801 22nd Street, NW - Phillips Hall - Suite #300, Washington DC 20004

The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum
1319 F St. NW, Suite 810, Washington DC 20004

UVA Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library
PO Box 400110, Charlottesville VA 22904-4110

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