Thirty Nashville women founded the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA) in 1951 to “acquire, restore, and preserve Tennessee's historic buildings and landmarks.” On November 8, 1951, approximately one hundred charter members attended the first official APTA meeting at the Noel Hotel in Nashville, where they heard an address by Dr. Robert H. White and elected Mrs. Allan Van Ness as the first president.
A chartered nonprofit Tennessee corporation, APTA “promotes and encourages active participation in the preservation of Tennessee's rich historic, cultural, architectural and archaeological heritage through restoration, education, advocacy, and statewide cooperation.” A statewide board of directors governs the association, and chapter presidents serve ex officio on the board.
In 1982 APTA established an endowment fund to provide grants to chapters for restoration work and educational programs. An independent board of trustees administers the fund. An APTA Board of Trust must approve new chapters when real property is involved as well as the purchase or sale of real property.
Membership in APTA is open to anyone interested in preserving Tennessee's cultural heritage. Membership may be through a local chapter or directly with APTA headquarters in Nashville. APTA membership fees support historic preservation and entitle members to free admission at all APTA sites, a newsletter, APTA-sponsored tours, and an annual membership meeting at Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. Membership through a local chapter brings additional benefits established by that chapter.
The APTA sites are: Belle Meade Plantation (1807), which serves as statewide APTA headquarters, administered by the Nashville Chapter; The Athenaeum Rectory (1835) in Columbia, Maury County Chapter; Buchanan Log House (1800-1810), Donelson-Hermitage Chapter; Ramsey House Plantation (1795-97), Knoxville Chapter; Glenmore Mansion (1868-69), Glenmore Chapter, Jefferson City; Crockett Tavern Museum (1796, authentic log cabin replica), Hamblen County Chapter, Morristown; Fort Blount (1796, proposed reconstruction), Fort Blount Chapter, Gainesboro; Rachel K. Burrow Museum (1905), Historic Post Office (1900) and Log Cabin, Arlington Chapter; The Pillars (1826-29) and Little Courthouse (1824), Hardeman County Chapter, Bolivar; Hannum-Wirt-Rhea House (1832), Somerville, Fayette County Chapter; and Woodruff-Fontaine House (1870) and Goyer-Lee House (1871), Memphis Chapter. Four other chapters in Bedford, Hawkins, Rutherford, and Sullivan Counties promote local heritage programs in their communities but do not currently maintain sites.
A board of directors with the responsibility for preserving, maintaining, and interpreting the site governs each APTA chapter. Volunteers and employed staff members mount seasonal exhibits and hold fund-raising events. Chapters provide numerous educational programs designed to reach people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to help them learn more about the way their ancestors lived.