This Week in Historic Alexandria | Newsletter | City of Alexandria

This Week in Historic Alexandria
The Office of Historic Alexandria is pleased to announce the unofficial start of the holiday season with the unveiling of the 2015 Historic Alexandria Holiday Ornament, showcasing Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site, and current availability of tickets for the popular Candlelight House Tours!

In honor of the close of Alexandria’s Civil War Sesquicentennial activities in 2015, Fort Ward Museum was selected as the focus of this year’s ornament, as it offers an excellent introduction to the Civil War Defenses of Washington through exhibits, programs, and the preserved Union fort which features the authentically reconstructed Northwest bastion. The Museum is patterned after a Union Army headquarters building that existed in the defense system, imitating a board and batten style with decorative trim that was typical of the era. The Museum’s fine collection features more than 4,000 objects from the Civil War period, including items that interpret the Defenses of Washington, Civil War Alexandria, and military life at Fort Ward. To purchase this beautiful ornament, with a sparkling filigree design surrounding a three-dimensional depiction of the decorated  headquarters at the price of $18 each, please click here. Select Historic Alexandria ornaments from past years are also available at the same online site while they last.

Candlelight TourOnce your tree is decorated, enjoy Alexandria’s heritage by participating in three centuries of holiday cheer! Historic Alexandria Candlelight Tours, the city’s premier historic holiday event, blends history, food, and drink through special tastings, seasonal decorations, period music and tours highlighting festive traditions. Tour Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Carlyle House, The Lloyd House and Lee-Fendall House. Special seasonal libations may be purchased along the tour! Tour any time from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 12, or 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, December 13. Please allow 1.5 – 2 hours to tour all four sites. The sites may be visited in any order and stationed guides will be present at each location. A free shuttle will be provided running in a continuous loop between the sites. Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (ages 65 and older) and active military members, and $5 for children (ages 6-17) and can be purchased online. Additional adult beverages will be available for purchase at select sites.

Monday, November 9 – Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee 
City Hall, 301 King St., Sister Cities Conference Room 1101
Regular monthly meeting, Free! 7 p.m. Please call 703.746.4554 for more information.

Monday, November 9 – Gary Stephans’ Art of Ballroom Dance
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Fun classes to learn to dance or improve your dancing skills: fox trot, waltz, tango, swing, salsa, merengue, rumba, cha-cha, and samba. All level of dancers are welcome, with or without a partner. Discover little techniques that most people never learn about and become a relaxed and proficient social dancer in these small, personalized dance lessons! Tickets are available for each sessiononline as follows: Basic Techniques, $15 per person, 7 to 7:45 p.m.; Advanced Techniques, $15 per person, 7:45 to 8:30 p.m.; attend both sessions for best results! Free practice session from 8:30 to 9 pm. For more information, please visit or call 703.505.5998.

Wednesday, November 11 – Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Regular monthly meeting. Free! 8 a.m. Please call 703.746.4554 for more information.United States Colored TrropWednesday, November 11 – “The Story of the United States Colored Troops” Veterans Day Lecture
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
“I am Bound for Freedom’s Light: The Story of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War” is the inspiring story of African American efforts to fight for the Union in the War Between the States.
Join author and historian C.R. Gibbs as he relates how black attempts to fight were initially shunned, how the press of war forced many generals, congressmen, and even President Lincoln to finally change their minds. These “men of African descent” wrote a new chapter in the chronicle of American military heroism with their courage, sacrifice, and resolve. Free! 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Street parking is available For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

Russkie MusikantiThursday, November 12 – Second Thursday Live: Russkie Musikanti
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Russkie Musikanti is an ensemble of the Washington Balalaika Society. They perform on authentic Russian folk instruments, bringing the music of Russia and Eastern Europe to the broader community. Tickets are priced at $15 per person. 7 p.m. For more information, please or call 703.548.0035.

Thursday, November 12 – Treaty of Ghent Ball Dance Class
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street, Suite 327
In preparation for the Treaty of Ghent Ball on November 14, learn 18th-century English country dancing from expert dance instructors. Tickets are priced at $12 per class. Reservations are recommended.  7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Please call 703-746-4399 for more information.

ThanksgivingSaturday, November 14 – Lecture : “Thanksgiving from 1621 to the Present”
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street 
This program explores the political, social, economic, and cultural traditions that have made Thanksgiving the truly American holiday that it is. Attendees will learn how Thanksgiving has transformed itself over time from the celebration of Harvest Home as practiced by the Plimoth Plantation settlers in 1621, and discover how the holiday has been influenced by prominent figures such as George Washington, women’s magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. They’ll learn that not only have the reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving changed over time, but so has the food! The presentation will be followed by samples of Thanksgiving food from four centuries: a 17th c. Native American stew, 18th c. Thanksgiving cakes, 19th c. Cranberry Tarts, and 20th c. Pumpkin Tarts.

Please Note: Joyce White is certified in food handling by ServSafe (via the National Restaurant Association) and is insured through the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP). All prepared food served in A Taste of History programs is cooked and prepared by Joyce in accordance with food handling safety standards but cooked in a home kitchen, not a commercial kitchen. Foods are prepared where potential allergens, such wheat, gluten, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, and many other food products, are processed.

Tickets are priced at $15 per person, $5 for Lee-Fendall House members. 1 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.548.1789.

Saturday, November 14 – Cooking Up the Past: Thanksgiving Edition
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street 
Sorry, this program is now sold out!

Saturday, November 14 – Treaty of Ghent Banquet & Ball
Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant (main Dining Room), 134 North Royal Street
Join us for a special evening in the year 1815 as the United States & Great Britain officially end its aggressions. Peace is now at hand! Enjoy a period-inspired banquet and program in Triplett’s Hotel with President & Mrs. Madison as well as members of his cabinet. Then move to the Ballroom for a festive evening of dancing. Black tie or 1815 attire encouraged.  Tickets can be purchased online and are priced from $45 to $145 per person, depending upon seating arrangements. The reception & banquet begins at 5:30 p.m. and the ball at 8 p.m. For more information, please or call 703.746.4242.

Monday, November 16 – Alexandria Sister Cities Committee
City Hall, 301 King St., Sister Cities Conference Room 1101
Regular monthly meeting, Free! 7 p.m. Please call 703.746.4554 for more information.

Mike McConnellNow on Exhibit  – Mike McConnell
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Mike McConnell was a successful commercial illustrator who recently dedicated himself to fine art. His work is complex, fun, and often witty. This exhibit is generously sponsored by TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty. Free! Open Thursday through Sunday, 12 Noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please 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 more information, please 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

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This Week in Historic Alexandria


On November 13, 1873, the Alexandria City Council granted permission to the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company, created in 1845 by inventor Samuel Morse, to run its lines through Alexandria providing instant communication for the first time from New York all the way to  Richmond.  Morse was a well-respected American painter, who in 1825 was commissioned to do a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette in Washington, D.C.  Halfway through completing the artwork he received word that his wife was seriously ill at their home in New Haven, Connecticut.  He left for New England at once, only to find her dead and buried upon his arrival.  Thereafter he decided to commit his endeavors to creating a device which could convey important communication instantaneously, without reliance on the daily mail.  After witnessing a series of electro-magnetic experiments, he later developed the concept of the single-wire telegraph and the Morse code system of telegraphy.
On Sale Now

Pres. James Madison

On Saturday, November 21 at 7 p.m., Celebrate Virginia Cider Week (November 13 through 22)  in style at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. This event is hosted by the Museum in partnership with the Alexandria-Caen Sister Cities Committee and includes cider tastings, music, and light refreshments. During the course of the evening, learn more about the growing Virginia cider industry and its connection to the historic tavern and the Caen region of France, all while enjoying ciders from Albemarle, Blue Bee Cider, Cobbler Mountain Cellars, Corcoran, and Foggy Ridge Cideries. While Virginia wineries have made headlines the past few years, Virginia cider is beginning to move into the spotlight, with sales up 200% from 2014 to 2015. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called the cider industry the “new shining star” and sees it as one of the cornerstones in the private sector “to build a new Virginia economy.” Tickets to this event are priced at $45 per person, and are available now.  For a full list of Virginia Cider Week events, including dozens of activities in Alexandria, please

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