About Town / News

This Week in Historic Alexandria 3.22.16 | Newsletter | City of Alexandria



This Week in Historic Alexandria
City Museums and
Historic Sites
Other Historic Sites and Resources
This Week in Historic Alexandria

On March 26, 1839, the Alexandria Lyceum Company and the Alexandria Library Company formally announced plans to join together in sharing a new Greek Revival-style building at 201 S. Washington Street. Alexandria’s Lyceum was modeled after the American lyceum (ly-SEE-um) movement which began in the 1820s with Josiah Holbrook, who admired various institutions in England that had been established for public education. While still a novel concept in the United States at that time, public education was rapidly gaining support through the efforts of men like Josiah Holbrook and Horace Mann.

In 1826, the first American lyceum opened in Milbury, Massachusetts, and the rocky soil of New England proved to be very fertile ground for this endeavor. Soon there were lyceums throughout the region, which benefited from numerous cities and towns as well as good transportation systems for both traveling lecturers and their listeners.

The situation was different in the South, however, where a more dispersed populace and a tradition of private schooling were among the obstacles to attracting audiences to the few early lyceums. Only in the cities did southern lyceum organizers meet with much success. In 1838, a Quaker teacher named Benjamin Hallowell and six other prominent Alexandrians formed The Alexandria Lyceum and began to offer a series of lectures and debates on a variety of topics. Typically held in Hallowell’s school, the lectures most often concerned biology and philosophy, subjects which never failed to engage Alexandrians at this period. Discussions of politics and religion were expressly barred, since they frequently led to heated arguments.

On Sale Now
Chris Foard MSN RN

On Tuesday, March 29, join Chris Foard MSN, RN (The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing) for an in-depth lecture on the diverse practices of male and female Civil War nurses. Discussion will include an important but largely neglected aspect of Civil War nursing – the roles and responsibilities of nurses in relation to current practices of today. This lecture is based on historical analysis from letters, documents, books and diaries from The Foard Collection of Civil War Nursing.

This lecture is part of Alexandria’s citywide programming being done in conjunction with the launch of the PBS television series, “Mercy Street,” which premiered on January 17th, and highlighted the roles of women during the Civil War. “Mercy Street” is the first American-based production in over a decade and highlights a cast of many talented actors. Inspired by events and people who worked and were treated at the Mansion House Hospital (located at the site of present day Carlyle House), this timeless drama has been compared to a Civil War version of “ER.” Carlyle House currently has an exhibit on display entitled “’Who These Wounded Are:’ The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital.”

Tickets are priced at $10 per person, and reservations are recommended. This event is co-sponsored by Carlyle House Historic Park (NOVA Parks) and The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum (Office of Historic Alexandria) and will take place at 201 S. Washington Street, Alexandria. For more information, call 703-549-2997 or visitwww.novaparks.com.


Civil War HospitalThe Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit
Mercy Street Uncovered: Archaeology in Alexandria at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum located on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, 105 N. Union Street, Suite #327.  The exhibit will highlight stories associated with Alexandria’s unusual role in the American Civil War, and the recently aired PBS series Mercy Street, which is now in the process of shooting its second season here in Virginia.  The new exhibit at the Archaeology Museum is family friendly and promotes learning through primary documents, artifacts and the important role of archaeological investigation, including:

  • Civil War Hospitals
    Discover what archaeology can tell us about Civil War hospitals in Alexandria.
  • Confederate Spy Loose in Alexandria! Rose O’Neal Greenhow and the Secret War for Washington
    Examine Mrs. Greenhow’s original secret maps and coded message concerning Shuter’s Hill and Fort Ellsworth and try your hand at deciphering her message.
  • Just for Kids: Artifact Hunt
    Identify artifacts that bring Alexandria’s past to life!

So head on down to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, and while you’re there, don’t miss seeing the 13,000 year old “Clovis Point” the oldest artifact associated with human habitation of Alexandria!

Monday, March 21 – Public Records Advisory Commission
Alexandria City Hall, Sister Cities Conference Room 1102, 301 King Street 
Regular monthly meeting.  Free! 7:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4753.Lecture: Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation's CapitalWednesday, March 23 – Lecture- Woodward & Lothrop:A Store Worthy of the Nation’s Capital
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Michael Lisicky is a nationally-recognized department store historian, lecturer, and author. His books have received critical acclaim in such major newspapers as the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Globe, the Washington Times, and the Baltimore Sun. His book Gimbels Has It! was cited as “one of the freshest reads of 2011” by National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program. At The Lyceum on March 23, Mr. Lisicky will share his thoughts and research on his latest book, Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation’s Capital.Mr. Lisicky has given lectures at such locations as the New York Public Library, the Boston Public Library, New York Fashion Week, the D.C. Public Library, and at the 2011 Wanamaker Organ Centennial Week celebration in Philadelphia. He also served as a historical consultant for the Oscar-nominated film Carol, and has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on National Public Radio and CBS’s Sunday Morning television program. Mr. Lisicky resides in Baltimore, where he is also an oboist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
The program is offered by the Alexandria Historical Society, and is free to members; $5 for non-members. 7:30 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served, and books will be available for signing and purchase after the program. For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

Thursday, March 24 – USAF Band Spring Chamber Series at The Lyceum 
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Music for Clarinet featuring Master Sgts. Blake Arrington and Ani Berberian joined by a joint service clarinet quartet. Free and open to the public, no reserved seats, first-come, first seated. 7:30 to 9 p.m. For more information, please visit http://www.usafband.af.mil.

Easter Egg HuntFriday, Saturday, Sunday, March 25 to 27 – Easter Egg Hunt
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street
Sorry, all three sessions for this popular event are SOLD OUT!

Monday, March 28 – 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.

Oils and EncausticsNow on Exhibit – Oils and Encaustics 
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
In her wax and oil paintings, artist Georgia Nassikas explores the intersection of the abstract and the representational. She focuses on the elemental lines, shapes, and colors that define at core of the natural world. The resulting calm luminous quality of her compositions urge inner reflection and outward preservation of earth’s beautiful balance. Over the past decade, in parallel with her organic beekeeping and gardening, she has refined her use of the ancient art of encaustic painting, prevalent in ancient Greece, Egypt, and Italy. She heats and mixes wax from her honeybees with natural pigments and damar cystals. Painting from a hot palette, she manipulates her multi-layered surfaces through marking, scoring, scraping, and burning. These paintings on wood panels present a surface tension and figurative complexity different from the traditional flow of oil as a medium. 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 – Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier  
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
Come 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.

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 visit www.fortward.org.

Now on Exhibit – Hotel vs. Hospital
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
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 (transformed into a massive Civil War hospital) and Marshall House (site of the first Northern and Southern deaths due to violence in the Civil War), had closed. Guests will discover how tavern keeper Samuel Heflebower was able to remain in business as he catered to the new customers arriving in Alexandria.
For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Now 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.

Journey To be Free: Alexandria Freedmen's CemeteryNow 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.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: