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This Week in Historic Alexandria 9.27.16 | Newsletter | City of Alexandria


Fawcett HouseLast week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced 23 Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) grants, totaling $6.42 million, to support projects that will help shield 7,037 acres of at-risk land in the Commonwealth from development. VLCF grants are used by private land trusts, local governments and state agencies to protect and acquire significant lands in the following categories: farmland, forestry, historic resources, natural areas, and parks and open space. “These grant recipients include a great cross-section of important conservation opportunities, and I am very pleased with the choices made by the VLCF board,” said Governor McAuliffe.

The largest grant announced was for the City of Alexandria, awarded $900,000 towards the acquisition of the historic Fawcett-Dick-Murray House, one of the oldest and most authentic structures in the city, located at 517 Prince Street in Old Town.  The pre-Revolutionary dwelling, was built about 1772 by blacksmith Patrick Murray as part of a livery complex which included barns, outbuildings and the residential structure which housed Murray’s family and livery workers, some of whom are believed to have been enslaved and housed on the second floor.  Later the building was used by George Washington’s personal physician, Elisha Cullen Dick.  Although only the house and multiple, three-seat privies remains from the original site, these structures are in remarkably unaltered condition, with early cabinetry, surface finishes and gas lighting fixtures in the residence still intact.

The opportunity to preserve the structure came about when the current owner volunteered to donate his equity in the property to the City in return for satisfying the remaining mortgage and real estate transfer expenses, enabling the property to be acquired at about half the market value.  Once acquired and prepared for public use, the house will be operated by the Office of Historic Alexandria as a museum and education center.  OHA currently operates eight city-owned and operated museums and period buildings, including a historic apothecary, firehouse and tavern. The Fawcett-Dick-Murray House will be the first domestic residence interpreted in OHA’s collection of museums, which is one of only eight municipal museum systems accredited in the United States by the American Alliance of Museums.

Although the recent grant announcement will provide significant resources toward the acquisition of the historic property, OHA will still need to raise about $350,000 to complete the transaction.  A fund-raising development plan to support such an effort will be announced shortly.

Ballroom DanceMonday, September 26 – 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, clickhere. 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.Wednesday, September 28 – Lecture: Making Arlandria Home
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
The breakdown of structural racism combined with American Cold War policies created major demographic changes in Alexandria by the mid-to-late 20th century. One neighborhood in particular, Arlandria, saw multiple changes, shifting from mostly white-only housing to becoming home to immigrants from all over the world. This talk explores the forces that led to these population shifts, their impact on Alexandria, and the experiences of immigrants who made Arlandria their home from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.  Alexandria Historical Society members free; Non-members $5. 7:30 p.m. For more information, please visithttps://alexandriahistoricalsociety.wildapricot.org/ or call 703.746.4994.

Bob and JeanneThursday, September 29 – Fall Concert at the Lloyd House 
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Pack a picnic and blanket or purchase food and beverage on site. Enjoy maritime music of Bob Zentz and Jeanne MacDougal. The concerts are free and open to the public. Tours of historic Lloyd House will be available during the event. Free! 5 to 7 p.m., rain or shine! For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Saturday, October 1 – Civil War Soldiers Fighting in Style 
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
Interpreters dressed in several major types of Civil War uniforms will describe the evolution, symbolism and styles of military clothing of the time. A tour of some uniform jackets and clothing accessories on exhibit from the Fort Ward collection will also be featured. Free! This ninety minute program will be presented twice, in the morning at 10 a.m., and again in the afternoon at 2 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4848,

The AthenaumNow on Exhibit through November 6 – Athenaeum Invitational: Oh! The Joy! 
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
The Athenaeum Invitational celebrates the arts. It is an annual theme-based event featuring works of both specially invited artists and works selected through a call for submission. The 2016 theme asks artists to select on a moment of pure joy–inspired by the Lewis and Clark expedition. 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.

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 to 4 p.m. For further information please visit www.carlylehouse.org or call 703.549.2997.

The LyceumNow 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.

Freedmen 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.

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

Ramsay House

On September 27, 1950, the demolition of one of Alexandria earliest homes, the Ramsay House at King and North Fairfax Streets, was delayed for two weeks to support the National Lumberman’s Association’s efforts to raise funds for restoration.  Fortunately, the preservation effort was successful and the dilapidated former home of one of Alexandria’s founding families was fully restored to eventually serve as the City’s official tourism and visitor center, a use which it still serves today.
On Sale Now

Civil War Nurse

Margaret Irwin had long heard family stories about an ancestor who had learned nursing from Florence Nightingale. In 1955, her mother showed her Anne Reading’s handwritten journal for the first time and, fifty years later, she had it published. “The Journal of Anne Reading” documents this amazing woman’s early training and work in the Crimea with Nightingale, her later service in the Mansion House Hospital here in Alexandria during the Civil War, and some of her life after the war. On Wednesday, October 5, at 7:30 p.m., Margaret Irwin will discuss Anne’s life dressed as a Civil War nurse, and will sign copies of her book following the program. Tickets are priced at $5 per person and reservations are required.  For more information, please call 703.746.4994.

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