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This Week in Historic Alexandria 4.26.16 | Newsletter | City of Alexandria

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

On April 25, 1752, the Fairfax County Courthouse was moved from an area near present day Tysons Corner, to the Alexandria Town Hall at the corner of Cameron and North Fairfax Streets.  At the time, Alexandria was the county seat of Fairfax County and the move consolidated government operations at that strategic corner, making it the most important intersection in Northern Virginia.
On Sale Now
Attics and Alleys Tour

On each Saturday morning during the month of May, you can find out what mysteries lie 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. Tickets are priced at $35 per person and includes free passes to return to the Museums for regular tours. Tours begin at 9 a.m. and end 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.


Sarah A. GrayRecently, Alexandria Black History Museum Director Audrey Davis was invited to the Library of Virginia in Richmond to receive an award that honored Sarah A. Gray, of the legendary Parker-Gray School. A teacher and principal for more than thirty years, Sarah A. Gray had a profound influence on the education of African Americans in Alexandria, and was honored as one of the Library’s Virginia Women of 2016. Although no known photograph of Gray exists, she is included on their poster and represented in the Library publication The Broadside. The staff of the library discovered new information about her life and the following the text is contained on her exhibition panel.  One new discovery is that she ran founded a contraband school called the Excelsior School in Alexandria:

Sarah A. Gray (ca. 1847–January 8, 1893) was born free in Alexandria. Unlike most African Americans who were denied an education under slavery, she attended a Catholic school for girls near Baltimore during the 1850s. When the Civil War broke out, many enslaved men, women, and children escaped to Alexandria, which soon came under the control of the U.S. Army. Determined to help the former slaves, known as contrabands, Gray and a colleague founded a school in October 1861 and held classes throughout the war. In 1867 Gray established the Excelsior School, where she taught reading, writing, math, and geography, and also trained her female pupils in needlework as a way for them to earn a living.

In 1870 Virginia created its first statewide system of public schools, which were racially segregated by law. Gray became a teacher at Alexandria’s school for African American girls. The school board named her principal of Hallowell School in 1883. Striving to provide a high-quality education for her students, she traveled north to study new teaching methodologies. At a time when most public schools in Virginia focused on primary grades, Hallowell began adding high school classes for its advanced students. Gray suffered poor health in the last years of her life and retired a few months before her death. When a new school for African Americans opened in 1920, the city honored Gray’s service by naming it the Parker-Gray School, for Sarah A. Gray and John F. Parker, another local African American educator.

Tuesday, April 26 – Alexandria Assembly Dance Rehearsal
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum’s performance dance group, the Alexandria Assembly, meets most Tuesday nights for practice and instruction. Monthly donations accepted. Prerequisite: dancers must have participated in one of the Museum’s Thursday night dance class series. Free! 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

18c. FoodwaysWednesday, April 27 – Lecture: History of 18c. Foodways
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
Ever wonder why the food displayed in Gadsby’s Tavern Museum’s taproom looks so fresh? Do you think it looks good enough to eat but wonder what it is? Ellen Donald, who has been working on the museum’s faux food project, will examine the layers of this project, from selecting the new menu to how and by whom food would historically be prepared. Tickets are priced at $12 per person. 7:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Wednesday, April 27 – Alexandria Historical Society’s History Awards 
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
This year’s winner of the T. Michael Miller History Award is George K. Combs, retired Branch Manager at Special Collections, Barrett Branch Library. The keynote speaker is City of Alexandria Archaeologist, Benjamin Skolnik, who will discuss the 18th-century ship discovered along Alexandria’s waterfront last December, its excavation, recovery and our preservation efforts. In addition, four outstanding students from each of Alexandria’s high schools will receive awards. Free! 7:30 p.m. For more information, please contactalexandriahistoricalsociety@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 28 – Preservation Happy Hour
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
Join fellow preservationists for conversation and good cheer to informally discuss preservation in Alexandria and to kick off a series of events to celebrate Preservation50 locally. Cash bar and tavern fare available for purchase. Free! 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Civil War Ball Dance ClassThursday, April 28 – Civil War Ball Dance Classes
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
In preparation for the Civil War Ball on April 30th, learn the waltz, polka, Virginia Reel and more from an expert dance master.  Tickets are available at $12 per person, per class, or $30 per person for the series of three sessions. Reservations are recommended. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Saturday, April 30 – Into the Wild: Eclipse Chamber Orchestra
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
MusiciansCarole Bean and Michelle Lundy will delight their audience with a concert featuring flute and harp.  Free admission, but a $20 donation is suggested. Reserve seating is available with a donation made at least 48 hours in advance. 3 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, please visitwww.eclipseco.org or call 703.635.2770.

Tasteful Suite ConcertSaturday, April 30 – Tasteful Suite Concert
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Featuring the works of Barber, Beethoven, Mozart, and Lundegård – music about food, saxophonist Anders Lundegård, pianist Elizabeth Hill and voice Bennett Barsk. Tasteful Reception to follow. Admission is $25 at the door and $20 online. 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.classicalsaxophonist.com or call 703.244.3710.

Saturday, April 30 – 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. 8 to 11 p.m.  For more information, please visit gadsbys.tavern@alexandriava.govor call 703.746.4242.

Sunday, May 1 – Opening Reception: A Gap Frame of Mind 
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Join us for the opening reception of A Gap Frame of Mind, featuring works by Judith Seligson
Free! 4 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Exhibit through April 30 – Oils and Encaustics
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Featuring the work of Georgia Nassikas.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
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.

City HotelNow 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.

Lee Fendall HouseNow 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.

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