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This Week in Historic Alexandria | Alexandria eNews | City of Alexandria

This Week in Historic Alexandria

Gadsby's TavernGadsby’s Tavern Museum has now reopened for tours after being closed for almost 5 months. This past winter, multiple frozen pipes burst causing damage throughout the museum complex. Major issues have been addressed including drying the buildings, repairing the sprinkler system, and re-plastering. The final step of repainting will be completed this fall when humidity conditions are more consistent, but this summer will be a great opportunity to witness a “work in progress” restoration and to the learn about the complex disaster recovery steps taken by historic site museums.  Hours of the Museum are Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday and Monday: 1 – 5 p.m. Guided tours start at a quarter after the hour and a quarter before the hour and last approximately 30 minutes. The last tour each day begins at 4:45 p.m.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Gadsby’s Tavern was the center of social and political life in Alexandria and the new Federal City of Washington.  The tavern served as the premier gathering place for residents – including George Washington – and visitors to eat, drink, learn, and influence history. Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is located at 134 North Royal Street in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. For more information, call 703.746.4242 or visit www.gadsbystavern.org.


Wednesday, May 27 – History Book Reading for Children: “Sarah’s Stories” 
Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 North Fairfax Street
Bring the little ones to Carlyle House for “Sarah’s Stories” a monthly program featuring educator-led readings of 18th century history-themed books for children ages 3-6 and their guardians. Guardians are expected to stay throughout the duration of the program. Reservations are recommended as space is limited.  There is a $3 fee per child, free to Friends of Carlyle House members. Tours of the museum are not included. 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. For reservations or additional information, please call 703.549.2997.

Julia WilburWednesday, May 27 – Alexandria Historical Society Lecture: Julia Wilbur 
The Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street
Join the members of the Alexandria Historical Society for a lecture by historian Paula Whitacre on Julia Wilbur and her role as an aid worker in Civil War Alexandria. Free! 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.alexandriahistorical.org call 703.746.4994.

Thursday, May 28 – Lafayette Ball Dance Classes
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street.
In preparation for the Lafayette Ball on June 13, learn 18th century English country dancing from expert dance instructors.  Classes are priced at $12 per person, $30 for the series (May 28, June 4, & June 11), and registration may be booked online. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit www.gadsbystavern.org  or call 703.746.4399.

Fiery RunThursday, May 28 – Concert: Fiery Run
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Fiery Run is an acoustic, folk-rock trio out of the northern Shenandoah Valley, featuring Heidi Budwash, Mark Clay and Ted Seely. Fiery Run performs both original songs and old favorites.Tickets are priced at $15 per person. 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.orgor call 703.548.0035.

Saturday, May 30 – Attics & Alleys Tour
Old Town
Find out what mysteries lay behind the closed doors of four of Alexandria’s historic sites! Attics and Alleys is a three-hour walking tour featuring the rarely seen spaces of four sites—the Lee-Fendall House, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, and Carlyle House Historic Park—revealing the remnants of stories otherwise hidden. This behind-the-scenes access is in honor of National Preservation Month. Tickets are limited and advance reservations are required.

Tours begin at 9 a.m. and ends around noon. Choose from starting at the Lee-Fendall House (614 Oronoco Street) or Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (134 N. Royal Street). Tour includes stairs, access to confined spaces, and walking over many city blocks, including through alleys. Walking shoes required; tour will be held rain or shine. Photography welcome.  Tickets are priced at $35 per person and include free passes to return to the Museums for regular tours. 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information please call 703.746.4242

Saturday, May 30 – Lee-Fendall House to Close at 2 p.m. Today
Lee-Fendall House, 614 Oronoco Street
Due to a private event, the Lee-Fendall House will close early at 2 p.m. today.

Family Dig DaySaturday, May 30 – Family Dig Days at Shuter’s Hill
101 Callahan Drive, on the Grounds of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial
This event is presented in three parts, beginning with an introduction to the history and archaeology of the Shuter’s Hill Site, followed by a site tour, and finally gathering around the screens to sift through excavated soil collecting artifacts. The bags of artifacts will be sent to the laboratory in the Museum for processing. All necessary equipment will be furnished, but please wear comfortable clothes, boots or sturdy shoes (no sandals), and bring a water bottle.

Due to the popularity of this event, Dig Days fill quickly and participants may sign up for only one session per season. Fee is $5 per person, fee is non-refundable, space is limited and reservations are required. Individuals and families are welcome, but children under sixteen years of age must be accompanied by a participating adult. Reservations may be made with receipt of the full non-refundable payment for your selected session. Sessions may be filled already, so please contact staff by e-mail or phone to check availability before mailing your payment to: Family Dig Days; Alexandria Archaeology; 105 N. Union Street; Alexandria, VA 22314. Upon receipt of full payment slots are secured and confirmation and additional information will be emailed. 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.  For more information, please e-mailarchaeology@alexandriava.gov or call 703.746.4399.

Saturday, May 30 – Hands-on History Tent: Savor the Flavor: The Food of the 18th- Century
Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 North Fairfax Street
Bring your appetite for learning as you travel back in time to the 18th-century for Carlyle House’s Annual Hands-on –History Tent! Children and their families are invited to explore the history of Colonial food through various crafts and hands-on activities. Activities include open hearth cooking demonstrations, ice cream making, butter making, and discovering an 18th-century kitchen. There will also be a bake sale with 18th-century treats available for purchase for $1. All proceeds from the bake sale will benefit the education programs at Carlyle House. This event is designed for children ages 3-12 but all are welcome! Free, but donations greatly appreciated (suggested donation $1). Tent opens at 12 noon. For reservations or additional information, please call 703.549.2997.

Sunday, May 31 – Civil War Sunday
Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 105 North Union Street, #327
Explore the Civil War in Alexandria with Civil War Sundays.  See an original May 26, 1861, edition of The New-York Tribunedetailing Colonel Elmer Ellsworth’s death in Alexandria, a Peeps diorama illustrating Ellsworth’s death, a TimeTravelers Passport exhibit featuring the Civil War drummer boy, a diorama of a heating system constructed in Alexandria to warm Civil War hospital tents during the winter of 1861, a cocked and loaded Wickham musket discarded in a privy during the 1860s, and an exhibit on a Lee Street archaeological site during the Civil War. Free!  1 to 5 p.m.  For more information, please visitwww.alexandriaarchaeology.org or call 703.746.4399.

Sunday, May 31 – Lafayette Day in Alexandria and Open Houses 
Old Town
Get ready for the arrival of the French frigate  Civil War, an exact replica of the vessel that brought the Revolutionary War hero, the  Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1780!  Although the ship will visit the Port City from June 10 to 12, start off the celebration early with free tours of local museums and a visit with Lafayette himself! The day of adventure begins on Market Square at 1 p.m. with the launch of Tides of Revolution: The Hermione Game, a virtual, web-based game providing a first-person experience of fun! Then head out to tour the Alexandria museums open for free:

  • Carlyle House Historic Park
  • Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
  • Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
  • Alexandria Archaeology Museum
  • The Lyceum, Alexandria History Museum
  • Friendship Firehouse Museum
  • Alexandria Black History Museum
  • Lee-Fendall House Museum

Along the way, learn about Lafayette, the Washington-Rochambeau Trail, and the American Revolution.  A complimentary shuttle will be available to transport visitors to The Lyceum, Alexandria Black History Museum, and Lee-Fendall House Museum. Lafayette will be visiting with guests to Alexandria throughout the day. Free! 1 to 5 p.m. For more information on Lafayette Day and the upcoming L’Hermione visit, click here.

Sunday, May 31 – Rara Avis Gallery Talk: The Winged Bestiary
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Langley Spurlock and Martin Tarrat’s folio—The Winged Bestiary, an Abecedarium of Feathered Nonsense—includes Scarts, Urks, Ockers, the Wall Street Ninnybot, and the rare Barcafungle. There are 35 unique avians, imagined and real, funny and sad. Each illustration is combined with a couplet of a winged nature and arranged according to a unique 35-letter alphabet. Free! 3 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Pres. Kames MadisonSunday, May 31 – Presidential Salon with James Madison
Gadsbys’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Sorry, this event had been cancelled.  Those who have pre-purchased tickets to the event should contact museum staff at 703.746.4242.

Sunday, May 31 – Concert: A Brahms-Schumann Soirée
The Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street
Enjoy beautiful Chamber Music with Violin, Clarinet, Cello and Piano, The Ensemble da Camera of Washington – Ricardo Cyncynates (violin), Claire Eichhorn (clarinet), Anna Balakerskaia (piano), and cello. Works by Brahms and Schumann. Free, but donations greatly appreciated.  5 to 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.edcwashington.com.

On Exhibit through May 31 – Rara Avis / Beverly Ress, Langley Spurlock + Martin Tarrat
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
This is an exhibition of bird-centric works created by Beverly Ress, Langley Spurlock and Martin Tarrat. The large gallery will feature the meticulously drawn, then deconstructed, or sculpturally altered birds on paper by Ress. Demonstrating her technical skill, mastery of detail, and keen eye for dichotomy, most of these works were created while she was immersed in a residency at DC’s Natural History Museum’s Bird Division of Vertebrate Zoology. The rear galleries will be devoted to the collaborative work of artist, Spurlock and poet, Tarrat. Their folio—The Winged Bestiary, an Abcedarium of Feathered Nonsense—includes Scarts, Urks, Ockers, the Wall Street Ninnybot, and the rare Barcafungle. There are 35 unique avians, imagined and real, funny and sad. Each illustration is combined with a couplet of a winged nature and arranged according to a unique 35-letter alphabet. Free! Open Thursday through Sunday, 12 Noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Now on Exhibit – Journey to Be Free: Alexandria Freedmen’s Cemetery 
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
A new exhibit tracing the 150-year history of the long-forgotten Freedmen’s Cemetery, its rediscovery and how the new Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial was created at the site.  Free, but donations are appreciated. Tuesday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday and Monday: Closed.  For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

Now on Exhibit – Their Fates Intertwined: The Lees of Alexandria in the War of 1812 
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street 
A new exhibit on the experiences of the Lee family in Alexandria during the War of 1812 examines the contributions of Alexandria’s citizens during the conflict that led to the writing of our national anthem through the lives of this iconic Virginia family. For further information, please visit www.leefendallhouse.org or call 703.548.1789.

Now on Exhibit – Fifty Years of Collecting: An Anniversary Exhibit of Objects from the Fort Ward Collection 
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Fort Ward Museum & Historic Park, this new exhibition offers a glimpse into the growth and holdings of the Museum’s fine Civil War collection.The exhibit features some rare items related to the Defenses of Washington, such as an 1862 panoramic drawing of Fort Albany by the soldier-artist William Lydston, a folding camp chair that belonged to an officer in the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, and a Lambley’s portable copying machine used by an officer from the 57th Massachusetts Infantry.   Objects that interpret the Union occupation of Alexandria, such as a proclamation declaring martial law in the city, are also featured.  Examples of newly acquired objects are a field desk with personal belongings owned by a captain in the 107th New York Infantry, and a John Rogers statuary group, “Uncle Ned’s School,” which aimed to portray the efforts of newly freed African Americans to better their lives through education in the postwar years.

Fort Ward is the best preserved of the extensive network of Union forts and batteries known as the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Free! Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.   For more information, please call 703.746.4848, or visit www.fortward.org.


L' HermioneOn June 13, celebrate America’s Revolutionary War victory, which may never have been possible with the steadfast support of France and the Marquis de Lafayette! Dance the night away after the French frigate L’Hermonie leaves Alexandria and heads to its next stop in Baltimore as it travels up the East Coast. This revolutionary-era (1770s) period ball at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum will feature a variety of English country dances, live music, and seasonal desserts. Period costume optional, “after-five” attire encouraged.  Tickets are priced at $45 per person.  For more information please call 703.746.4242.


Map of Alexandria CanalOn May 26, 1830, The United States Congress granted a charter to the Alexandria Canal Company to construct a canal connecting Alexandria to the Georgetown. The purpose of the canal was to increase economic opportunities in Alexandria with emerging markets to the west. At the time, Alexandria merchants proposed the new water course to connect the southwest corner of Washington D.C., of which Alexandria was then a part, to the newly built Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  Within three years after approval of the charter, construction on the canal locks and the Aqueduct Bridge began so the boats from the C & O canal could cross the Potomac River directly to Alexandria without stopping at Georgetown to unload their cargo.  A decade later, construction was complete but by the 1880’s the canal was considered obsolete and ultimately abandoned.

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