This Week in Historic Alexandria (10.31.16) | Newsletter | City of Alexandria


What’s New in Historic Alexandria

A recent acquisition by The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum is the handsome mantel clock seen here, inscribed on the back as the creation of Mordecai Miller (1764-1832), an Alexandria clockmaker and silversmith who, with his son Robert (1798-1874), were prominent artisans in the 500 block of King Street during the early 19th century.  The careful observer will notice the elegant simplicity of the clockface, and the magnificent engraving on the rear that includes the name of the clock maker and the town where it was crafted.

Miller Clock photo 1 Miller Clock photo 2

Mordecai Miller came to Alexandria from Pennsylvania by 1791 with his wife, the former Rebecca Hartshorne, and his skilled craftsmanship quickly enabled him to become one of the wealthiest merchants in the town. As Quakers, Mordecai and his son were avid abolitionists who were intensely active in easing the plight of Alexandria’s black population well before the Civil War.  Their work to house and settle free blacks and efforts to emancipate enslaved African Americans  during the period resulted in the creation of one of the first black neighborhoods in the southeast corner of Alexandria. The area around S. Royal and Wilkes Streets eventually became known as “Hayti” after the Caribbean island where Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave rebellion in November 1791.




screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-49-03-amWednesday, November 2 – Lecture-The Historical Apothecary Compendium
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Join medical toxicologist and amateur apothecary historian Dr. Daniel Goldstein as he discusses his research method and adventures while writing his recently published book The Historical Apothecary Compendium.

The Historical Apothecary Compendium is a comprehensive, illustrated handbook intended for collectors of apothecary bottles and other pharmaceutical and medical paraphernalia, covering artifacts likely to appear in North America and the United Kingdom from early Colonial times through approximately 1920. The book contains by far the largest compendium of terms used on apothecary bottles and other wares, comprising over 10,000 entries. Tickets are priced at $10 per person. &:30 to 9 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.3852.

Thursday, November 3 – Veterans Ball Dance Class 
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street 
In preparation for the Veterans Ball on November 12, learn 18th-century English country dancing from expert dance instructors. Tickets are priced per person at $12 per class. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.  For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Friendship FirehouseSaturday, November 5 – Special Docent-Led Tour of Friendship Firehouse
Friendship Firehouse Museum, 107 South Alfred Street
Volunteers, concerned for the well-being of Alexandria, formed the Friendship Fire Company in 1774. Come for an in-depth guided tour, before public hours, of Friendship’s firehouse and learn about the company’s firefighting procedures and equipment, as well as the different roles the organization played in serving the community. Best for ages 10 and up. Tickets are priced at $5 for adults; $4 for ages 10-17; reservations are required, as space is limited. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  For more information, please call 703.746.4994 (weekdays); 703.746.3891 (weekends).

Saturday, November 5 – Behind the Scenes Tour: Carlyle House
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, reservations and prepayment are required in advance. 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  For further information please visit www.carlylehouse.org or call 703.549.2997.

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 artifacts related to the evolution of medical techniques during the Civil War. 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.

Carlyle HouseNow 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.

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 visit www.alexandriahistory.org.

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.


This Week in Historic Alexandria

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-50-09-amOn November 1, 1923, the cornerstone was laid for the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.  President Calvin Coolidge attended the event that heralded the ten year construction project atop Shuter’s Hill. Built on a pay-as-you-go basis, with no money borrowed to finance construction, the Memorial was completed for the Bicentennial of the birth of George Washington in 1932.


On Sale Now

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-11-50-49-amOn Saturday, November 12, raise a glass to freedom and toast our Revolutionary War veterans at the Veterans Ball to be held at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Enjoy live music, English country dancing, cash bar, dessert collation, and a special recognition of  veteran service. 1780s period attire (military or civilian) or cocktail attire welcome.  Tickets are priced at $45 per person, and advance reservations are required.

City Museums and Historic Sites

Other Historic Sites and Resources


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