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This Week in Historic Alexandria | Newsletter | City of Alexandria

This Week in Historic Alexandria
City Museums and
Historic Sites
Other Historic Sites and Resources
This Week in Historic Alexandria
George Washington, 1722

On January 23, 1866 an act was passed by City Council to establish a paid City Fire Department for Alexandria. For over a century, fire was a constant threat to Alexandria and even one forgotten candle could develop into a major conflagration involving dozens of homes and businesses.  For decades the city had been served by a number of small, volunteer companies including the Friendship, Hydraulion, Relief, Sun and others, but the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 severely disrupted the volunteer companies as local men signed up for enlistment or fled the area.  Responsibility for subduing fire in the city was left to the Union military government which by 1863 had largely destroyed existing firefighting equipment through misuse and neglect.  When the war ended, city fathers realized that it would be almost impossible to recreate a reliable volunteer system, and firefighting was accepted as a municipal responsibility.

Over the coming months the Alexandria Fire Department and Office of Historic Alexandria will celebrate the 100 anniversary of the AFD with a wide variety of events and activities.  Of course, these commemorative programs will be highlighted in this e-newsletter each week as they occur.

On Sale Now
Gadsby's Tavern

On Sunday, February 7, take a break from the chill of winter and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Gadsby’s Tavern! Choose from a variety of 18th-century desserts while you sip John Gadsby’s special blend of tea or take a cup of American Heritage Chocolate. Historic guest Martha Washington will catch you up on the latest Alexandria news during the tea. Seatings at 3 and 3:15 p.m. Arrive early for the 2:15 or 2:45 p.m. FREE tour before your tea. Tickets are priced at $35 per person.  For more information please call 703.746.4242.
South CornerA new exhibit, The Lyceum:  175 Years of Local History is now featured at The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum.  This exhibition highlights The Lyceum’s history, as well as its role today as a place for exploring Alexandria’s past.

On view in the museum’s Coldsmith Gallery, the historical objects and images featured represent The Lyceum, the community at work, and commemorations and celebrations.  Throughout the exhibition, visitors are invited to “be the curator” and think about why the various artifacts are in museum’s collection, and about how these tangible representatives of the past help tell the story of Alexandria’s history.

Built by the Alexandria Lyceum and Library Company as a venue for educational pursuits, The Lyceum building opened in 1839.  The Lyceum Company offered the public lectures, debates and concerts.  This organization was founded by a group of educated civic leaders including Quaker schoolmaster Benjamin Hallowell, who is profiled in the exhibition.   Among his many avocations, Hallowell collected specimens from nature, historical artifacts, and other items of interest that he exhibited in The Lyceum.  Surviving specimens and his catalog of the collection are on view, as well as a journal of his lectures written in his own hand.

Museum visitors can also explore artifacts relating to commemorating or celebrating something important in someone’s life, or that serve as a memento representing an organization, business, or event.  For example, five World War II service medals from a local soldier are on view, as well as a china pitcher promoting William Henry Harrison’s campaign for the presidency, and a colorful hand-worked quilt commemorating the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976.

The Lyceum:  175 Years of Local History includes a variety of items providing a glimpse into different types of work in Alexandria since the community was founded in the 18th century.  Objects range from circa 1796 wares marked by Alexandria silversmith Adam Lynn, a circa 1880 dresser manufactured by James F. Muir and Brothers, to a collage of original photographs – circa 1970 — documenting the Alexandria, Barcroft & Washington Rapid Transit Company.

The Lyceum:  175 Years of Local History will be on view through 2016.  The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum is located at 201 South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria.  Hours are Monday through Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays 1-5 p.m.   For more information call 703.746.4994, or seewww.alexandriahistory.org.

Tuesday, January 19 – Historic Alexandria Resources Commission
Lloyd House, 220 Washington Street
Regular monthly meeting. Free! 7:30 to 9 p.m. Please call 703.746.4554 for more information.Wednesday, January 20 – Alexandria Archaeological Commission
Torpedo Factory Art Center, 220 North Union Street, Suite 327
Regular monthly meeting. Free! 7 to 9 p.m. Please call 703.746.4399 for more information.Thursday, January 21 – Civil War Ball Dance Classes
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
In preparation for the Civil War Ball on the 23rd, learn the waltz, polka, Virginia Reel and more from an expert dance master. Tickets are priced at $12 per class or $30 for the series (January 7, 14, 21). Reservations are recommended.7:30 to 9:30. Please call 703.746.4242 for more information.Thursday, January 21 –  Lecture: Women. Work and Family: A French View
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
A few decades after Simone de Beauvoir’s Le D​euxième Sexe, and following Sheryl Sandberg’sLean In and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, join us for a lecture discussingthe eternal dilemma that women face and sometimes feel they have to choose between: work or family. Has the Stay-at-Home Mom versus Working Mom debate become a never-ending war between women? Is it an issue specific to the US or not?

Sarah Diligenti, Executive Director of Alliance Française of​ Washington DC, is the guest-speaker for this event organized by the Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee. A $5 donation is requested at the door. 7 p.m. RSVP online at womenworkfamily.eventbrite.com. Wine and dessert reception to follow.

​The Alexandria-​Caen Sister City Committee promotes educational and cultural experiences between the cities of Caen in Normandy (France) and Alexandria. ACSCC activities include student and intern exchange programs, D‐Day commemoration events, adult French language lessons and children’s French story times.

Saturday, January 23 –Lee Birthdays Observance: The General’s Tour
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street 
In observance of the January birthdays of Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee and his son, Robert E. Lee, the Lee-Fendall House will offer a guided walking tour of Lee family homes in Alexandria’s Historic Old Town. The tour will highlight locations and stories associated with both men’s lives in Alexandria, their home for many years. The tour will last approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are available in advance for $10 through the museum’s Online Store, or for $15 at the door, but are FREE for Members! Tour space is limited, so the purchase of tickets in advance is highly recommended. 1 p.m. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes. For more information, please visitwww.leefendallhouse.org or call 703.548.1789.

Saturday, January 23 – Civil War Ball 
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Enjoy an evening from the 1860s in the historic Gadsby’s Tavern ballroom at the Civil War Ball. The evening will include live music, dance instruction, and period desserts. Period attire, either civilian or military, is encouraged. Tickets are priced at $45 per person and advance reservations are required. Please call 703.746.4242 for more information.

Medical HeroismMonday, January 25 – Lecture: Medical Heroism in Alexandria
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
During the Civil War, Alexandria became a Union occupied logistics and medical center. In that time, the Athenaeum was briefly employed as a Union hospital and later as the Headquarters of the Union Commissary General. Alexandria Historian Tom Schultz of DC Military Tours will discuss the heroism and challenges that Alexandria doctors and nurses experienced in ministering to the wounded, and the advances in women’s rights and medical science as a result of their efforts. Tickets are priced at $10 per person.  7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Now on Exhibit – Notes on the State of Virginia
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Suzanne Stryk’s works are a series of assemblages inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s book Notes on the State of Virginia. She travelled the state and visited places he described, met with local guides, and created these works based on her reflections. The work is both artistically excellent and appealing to anyone interested in the history and ecology of Virginia. 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 more information, please visitwww.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.

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