This Week in Historic Alexandria | News Release | City of Alexandria

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On March 13, 1847, Alexandria was officially retroceded from Washington, D.C. back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  In 1801, the national capital was officially designated on lands donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, with the small seaport communities of Georgetown, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia included within the diamond-shaped, 100 mile square boundary of the new city.  But development of Federal government buildings was restricted almost exclusively to the east side of the Potomac River, and Alexandria’s formerly robust economy slowly stagnated, with residents complaining about their reduced influence in the planned metropolis.  Further complicating the issue were concerns about laws and policies in the District, including slavery, that were evolving differently from the established view in Southern states that threatened to isolate Alexandria further from its immediate surroundings.   Finally, Congress agreed with Alexandrians that the former lands of the Old Dominion should be returned to the Commonwealth as Alexandria County.


What’s New in Historic Alexandria?


To supplement the recent PBS series, Mercy Street, two new exhibits at Office of Historic Alexandria museums trace life in Alexandria during the Civil War:

Learn the story of the fine hotel industry in Alexandria and how it quickly changed after the Civil War began. The City Hotel (today part of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum at 134 North Royal Street) was the only major hotel in Alexandria to remain open during the entirety of the war.  The two other fine hotels in town, Mansion House and Marshall House, had closed. Guests will discover how tavern keeper Samuel Heflebower was able to remain in business as he catered to the new customers in town.

To learn more about the surgical procedures and medical equipment used in the PBS series, Mercy Street, come to Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road, and see a variety of medical tools, instruments, equipment and images from the Museum’s Civil War collection.  A number of surgical instruments are displayed in a new exhibit, “Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier,”  that relate to some of the procedures already depicted in Mercy Street, such as:  a trephine used to drill into the skull, a surgeon’s amputation kit, a tourniquet, a tenaculum used to tie off arteries, suture needles, a forceps and scalpels.  Several examples of medicine tins are included which held contents like chloroform for anesthesia, cholera mix for digestive illnesses, and quinine to relieve fevers and other ailments.  Examples of small pocket surgical kits and a surgeon’s field case are included, as well as arm and leg splints and a crutch.

Images and information related to some of Alexandria’s Union Army hospitals are also on view, such as an original albumen photograph by Andrew J. Russell of the Mansion House Hospital, where the story Mercy Street is set, a period envelope with an engraving of the Lyceum Hospital on the cover, and photographs of other hospital facilities like the Fairfax Seminary and Wolfe Street Hospitals.  The exhibit continues through 2016, and is accompanied by a brochure on medical care for the Civil War soldier.



Monday, March 7 – Lecture: Women of Alexandria, from Antebellum to the 20th Century
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
Alexandria spent four years as an occupied city. During that time, daily life became quite different for residents who remained in the city, and in many cases, the war changed the course of women’s lives. Women of Alexandria, from Antebellum to the 20th Century will illuminate an important side of the city’s history that has been under-investigated: the effect of the Civil War on the lives of Alexandria’s women. Free! 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.orgor call 703.548.0035. 

This program generously supported by a grant from Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Wednesday, March 9 – Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Regular monthly meeting.  Free! 8 a.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Thursday, March 10 – Speak, Sister: Alexandrian Women’s Songs and Stories of the Civil War
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
Local actors will read from diaries and letters of women who lived in Alexandria during the Civil War, and award-winning bluegrass band Dead Men’s Hollow will play songs of the Civil War.
Tickets are priced at $20 per person. 7:30 p.m. For more information, please visitwww.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Thursday, March 10 – Fort Ward Interpretive Plan Committee
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Regular monthly meeting.  Free! 7:30 p.m.
For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Thursday, March 10 – USAF Band Spring Chamber Series at the Lyceum
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
An Evening of Music for Woodwind Ensembles featuring the Chamber Trio. Concert is free and open to the public, no reserved seats, first-come, first seated. 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. For more information, please visit http://www.usafband.af.mil/or call 703.746.4994.

Scottish Social and tasting Friday, March 11 – Alexandria Sister City Scottish Social and Tasting
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Join the Alexandria Sister Cities Committee for its 3rd annual Scottish Social and Tasting! The program includes a discussion, tasting instructions, and a Q&A led by a Scotch whisky convener/expert. In addition to the tasting, dinner, wine and other beverages will be provided. Proceeds from the fundraiser aid the Sister Cities Committee mission to support the educational and cultural exchanges between Alexandria, Virginia and her Sister Cities of Dundee, Scotland and Helsingborg, Sweden. Tickets are priced at $40 per person.  6 to 9:30 p.m. Please visit https://alexandriasistercities.wordpress.com  or on Facebook for more info.

Saturday, March 12 – Her Story: Women in Action for Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies 
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Celebrate women and learn about issues important to women and girls in your community at this special event!  Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and their accompanying adults will participate in hands-on activities, talk with a panel of Girl Scouts and discover how scouting empowered them, and add their own future goals to a timeline of Juliette Gordon Low’s story.

This program is geared toward Girl Scout Brownies and older Girl Scout Daisies, ages 6 and up.  Girls and adults will be divided into small groups to visit activity stations during this program; larger troops may be subdivided into different groups.  Participants will be asked to bring supplies to support the Alexandria Domestic Violence Safehouse; a list of suggested items will be provided before the event. Tickets are priced at $6 for Scouts $6 for Adults. 3 to 4:15 p.m.  For more information, please contact The Lyceum’s Education Coordinator at 703.746.4994.

Sunday, March 13 – The Architecture of Carlyle House: Behind the Scenes Tour
Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 North Fairfax Street
Have you ever wondered why Carlyle House is built of stone and not brick? Or why it is the only house in Alexandria that is set back from the street? Or what changes subsequent owners made to the house after John Carlyle’s death? Join us for a specialized tour highlighting the architectural history of the only stone mansion in Alexandria. The tour will be led by the Site Manager and will last about an hour. Tickets for the general public are $10; $5 for Friends of Carlyle House. Tickets are priced at $10 per person. Reservations and prepayment are required and can be madeonline. 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information, please visit www.carlylehouse.org or call 703. 549.2997.

Sunday, March 13 – The Washington Group Cultural Fund Music Series 
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Musical series continues with an afternoon of music devoted to the work of composer Boris Skalsky. The concert will feature both new and past works, including the premier of a cello quartet jointly commissioned by the Shevchenko Scientific Society, USA and the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. Performers will include New York and Washington-based musicians – among them, percussionist John Hadfield and experimental avant-garde guitarist Anthony Pirog – as well as the composer’s mother, Zdanna Krawciw-Skalsky, who will join Mr. Skalsky onstage in a performance of his Piano Suite for Piano Four-Hands. Suggested donation $30; students free; unreserved seating. 3 p.m. Reception to meet the artists immediately following the performance. 3:00 pm.   For more information, please email: twgculturalfund@gmail.com or call 703.746.4994.

Monday, March 14 – 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! Class fee is $15 per session, Basic or Advanced Techniques, attend both sessions for best results. To register for either or both sessions, click here. Basic Techniques class is 7 to 7:45 p.m.  Advanced Techniques is 7:45 to 8:30 p.m. Free practice session from 8:30 to 9 p.m. To register, click here. For more information, please visit garystephans@me.com or call 703.505.5998.

Monday, March 14 – Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee
Alexandria City Hall, Sister Cities Conference Room 1102, 301 King Street 
Regular monthly meeting.  Free! 7 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Now on Exhibit – Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier  
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
See “What’s New” segment above. Free! Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.   For more information, please call 703.746.4848 or visitwww.fortward.org.

Now on Exhibit – Hotel vs. Hospital
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
See “What’s New” segment above. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Mansion House HospitalNow on Exhibit – Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital
Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 North Fairfax Street
Come see the site that inspired Mercy Street, the new PBS’ series inspired by real events that took place at Carlyle House. The six-episode program revolves around the doctors, nurses, and patients of Mansion House Hospital, a former luxury hotel owned by James Green, a prominent Alexandria businessman who resided in Carlyle House.

James Green purchased Carlyle House and the adjacent Bank of Alexandria in 1848. While living in Carlyle House with his family, he converted the Bank Building into the successful Mansion House Hotel. The hotel thrived, and Green expanded it in the 1850s. In November of 1861, the Union Army took over both the hotel and the mansion, turning the hotel into a hospital and the house into doctor and officer housing. The new exhibit recreates the days of Union occupation and tells the true stories of those who lived and worked here during the war. This is where Mercy Street really happened.  Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. –to 4 p.m. For further information please visit www.carlylehouse.org or call 703.549.2997.

Now on Exhibit – The Lyceum:  175 Years of Local History
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
This new exhibition highlights the history of The Lyceum, 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.

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.

Open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.   For more information call 703.746.4994, or see www.alexandriahistory.org.

Wings from ChainsNow on Exhibit – Wings from Chains
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Wings from Chains is an open call competition inviting artists to consider women’s roles and responsibilities in society – yesterday, today, and tomorrow – and to explore the transformation from oppression to liberation, shame to pride, and drudgery into art. 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 am 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 visit www.leefendallhouse.org or call 703.548.1789


Commerative Corner

BHMembersASPBHThe Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage (ASPBH) is currently seeking teachers for educational staff support, and volunteers willing to serve on the planning committee who can lend assistance with event logistics. For more information, please contact the Event Chair Tracye Funn on 202-624-9082.

Since 1980, the ASPBH has sought to continue its mission to identify, preserve and educate the overall Alexandria community of its illustrious black heritage by:

• Preserving, collections and promoting the early history and impressive contributions of the black community of Alexandria
• Financial support and volunteer services for the daily operations of the Alexandria Black History Museum
• Over twenty years inspiring a diverse group of local children via the Martin Luther King Jr. poster exhibition

For more information about ASPBH programs and events, please visit the website at www.alexblackhistory.org or by visiting the Alexandria Black History Museum.


On Sale Now

GadbysMadisonTalkOn Sunday, March 20, at 3 p.m. join President James Madison as he discusses and engages guests about political and personal issues of 1816.Tickets are priced at $15 per person, $10 for high school or college students. Advanced registration is recommended. For more information please visit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum website or call 703.746.4242.


City Museums and Historic Sites

Other Historic Sites and Resources



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