This Week in Historic Alexandria (2.24.17) | News Release | City of Alexandria

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-40-15-pmWhat’s New in Historic Alexandria

Costumes of PBS' Mercy StreetAs season two of PBS’ Mercy Street nears its finale on Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET, the Office of Historic Alexandria and Visit Alexandria are pleased to announce a new exhibition, The Costumes of PBS’ Mercy Street, on display at The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum February 17 through September 1, 2017. Fans of the show are invited to view four original costumes worn in seasons one and two by Josh Radnor (Dr. Jedediah Foster), AnnaSophia Robb (Alice Green), Hannah James (Emma Green), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Mary Phinney) created by costume designer Amy Andrews Harrell. Also on display are sketches of the costumes, series images of the actors in the costumes, and historical artifacts such as furniture from the Green furniture factory and medical supplies from the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.

“We are very excited to display four costumes from PBS’ Mercy Street, two from season one and two from season two, at The Lyceum,” said Gretchen Bulova, deputy director for the Office of Historic Alexandria. “This is the only exhibition of the show’s costumes outside of the filming location in Petersburg, Virginia. In addition to this exhibition, the museums in Historic Alexandria are offering special programs and unique experiences based on the themes of Mercy Street that dive deeper into Alexandria’s Civil War history.”

Mercy Street, PBS’ first original American drama in a decade, is inspired by real events of Civil War Alexandria. Alexandria celebrates the national spotlight on its history by presenting this new exhibition as well as more than 50 visitor experiences in 2017. Fans are invited to visit the city’s historic sites to enjoy new exhibits and events inspired by the series, with several that focus on Civil War-era cultural customs including food, fashion and music. Uncover the real people behind the characters on the show, the realities of Civil War medicine, the changing roles for women, and the breakthrough experience of enslaved African-Americans claiming their freedom.
“It’s a rare treat to have a production of this quality done about your community’s history,” said Jim Mackay, director of The Lyceum. “To have costumes from the show on view is even more remarkable. For any fans of the show, Civil War history, or any other aspect of local history, this is a very unique opportunity.”

The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum is located at 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314. To learn more about The Lyceum, visit alexandriava.gov/Lyceum or call 703-746-4994.

Learn about more Alexandria experiences inspired by PBS’ Mercy Street at www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com/mercystreet.


Tuesday, February 21 – Historic Alexandria Resources Commission 
Lloyd House, 220 North Washington Street
Regular monthly meeting.Free! 7:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

Goerge washingtonWednesday, February 22 – Lecture: George Washington, America’s Foremost Entrepreneur
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
The United States was conceived in business, founded on business, and operated as a business—all because of the entrepreneurial mind of the greatest American businessman of any generation: George Washington. Using Washington’s extensive but often overlooked financial papers, Edward G. Lengel, Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association, chronicles the fascinating and inspiring story of how this self-educated man built the Mount Vernon estate into a vast, multilayered enterprise and prudently managed meager resources to win the war of independence. Lengel’s book, First Entrepreneur, will transform how Americans think about George Washington and how his success in commercial enterprise influenced and guided the emerging nation. Book signing to follow lecture. Tickets are priced at $12 per person or $10 for Society members and volunteers.. 7:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Thursday, February 23 – Lecture: Starving the South
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “an army marches on its stomach,” referring to the critical role of food supplies in war. Feeding armies in the field, especially when they are far removed from their base, has always posed logistical problems for commanders even in modern times. Despite the widespread use of railroads during the Civil War, the issue remained. From the first shot fired at Fort Sumter until the end of the war four years later, food played a crucial role in specific battles, military campaigns and civilian life throughout the Civil War. Why did the South—the preeminent agricultural region of the nation in 1860—suffer from hunger during the Civil War? How did the North with its much larger urban population and smaller (proportionally) number of farmers feed its armies and civilians abundantly throughout the war and still export massive agricultural surpluses to Europe? What role did food play in the outcome of the Civil War, and how did American food change as a result of the war?

Andrew F. Smith has taught food history at the New School University in New York City for twenty years. He is the author or editor of thirty-one books, including Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War (St. Martin’s 2011), and the Oxford Encyclopedia on Food and Drink in America (2013). Tickets are priced $10 per person and may be purchased online or in advance at The Lyceum. Reservations are strongly encouraged, as space is limited. 7:30 p.m. For more information call 703.746.4994, or visit www.alexandriahistory.org.

Folklorist Diana Baird N'DiayeSaturday, February 25 – Free Workshop: The Will to Adorn
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
African American traditions of dress and body adornment are creative expressions that reveal ideas, values, skills, and knowledge rooted on the African continent and in the American experience. Do you style your own hair? Embellish your sneakers? Design clothing or jewelry? Collect hats? Take selfies with your family and friends in the latest styles? Wear graphic T-shirts expressing your points of view? Then you may have the “will to adorn.”

Folklorist Diana Baird N’Diaye of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage guides audiences through an exciting journey of discovery about how we make meaning through what we choose to wear, how we groom our hair, and how we refashion and adorn our bodies. Working with Dr. N’Diaye will be folklorist and educator Paddy Bowman of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education.

As Director of the Smithsonian’s Will to Adorn Project, Dr. N’Diaye links young people with community artisans of style in several cities, gathering stories of African Americans’ diverse identities expressed through attire and adornment. Join us for a lively and intriguing presentation that will engage people of all ages. Free! 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.   For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

Saturday, February 25 – Civil War Winter Drill Day 
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
Reenactors from the 3rd U.S. Regular Infantry, Company K, will interpret the military life of the Union soldier at Civil War Winter Drill Day at Fort Ward on Saturday, February 25. Members will present drill demonstrations, explain the unit’s uniform and equipment, and talk about the popular field of Civil War reenacting. Snow date is March 4. The program is free with no advance registration required. 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4848 or visit www.fortward.org.

Washington Revels Jubilee VoicesSaturday, February 25 – The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices Concert
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble is committed to the preservation of African-American history and traditions–presenting songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, as expressed through a cappella music, drama and dance. Inaugurated in 2010, the group now performs regularly at heritage sites throughout the Washington DC area, singing, sharing, and learning the stories of the people in those communities.  This program focuses on African American Civil War music inspired by the PBS TV show Mercy Street.  Admission is  $5 per person. 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

Sunday, February 26 – Opening Reception: The Handprint Workshop
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Please join us for the opening reception of The Handprint Workshop: Twenty Years of Partnership in Print. Free! 4 p.m. . For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Shield of EarthNow on Exhibit – Shield of Earth:  Defending the Heart of the Union 
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
This new exhibition that features objects, photographs and documents from the Fort Ward Museum collection related to the Defenses of Washington.  The exhibition covers both the formidable task of building the defense system, which made the Federal capital one of the most protected cities in the world, and some of the men who were assigned to duty in the Washington area.   Highlights of the exhibition include military passes issued by Provost Marshal’s Office, construction tools, and original photographs of some of Washington’s defenders, including a profile of Francis E. Brainerd, a soldier in the 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery who was stationed at Fort O’Rourke, not far from the present-day site of the Huntington Metro Station.  Items related to how the forts protected Washington’s vital transportation resources are also featured, such as a ship’s lantern, rail section from the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and colored lithograph of Soldier’s Rest in Alexandria.  Several original drawings of forts by soldiers stationed at those sites are on view, and a construction report dated February 1865 details work projects such as completion of new officers’ quarters at Fort Ward.  Other unique items featured are a sketch showing where President Lincoln came under fire during the Battle of Fort Stevens, a field desk belonging to an officer in the 107th New York Infantry, and an 1862 map of the Defenses of Washington published by the engineer E.G. Arnold.   The exhibition will continue through 2017. 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 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.

Before the Spirits are Swept AwayNow on Exhibit – Before the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings 
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
This exhibition, featuring 20 of Sherry Sanabria’s African American historic site paintings, is made possible by the Sanabria family, who generously donated 23 of her paintings to the Alexandria Black History Museum. Sherry, who had a studio at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, passed away in 2014.  Her family has made it their mission to find homes for her paintings where they will be appreciated and preserved. This incredible donation permits museum staff to use the paintings to explore slavery, interpretation, and preservation of African American sites in Virginia. These paintings are part of Sanabria’s “Sites of Conscience” series, which has as its focus African American heritage, prisons, concentration camps, and mental hospitals. The Sites of Conscience series takes viewers to places of horror, places of pain and suffering, places we want to forget, but never should.

Robert Sanabria, Sherry’s husband, feels this series “… demonstrates the widespread practice of bondage in the American South and the determination of the enslaved to survive and maintain their connection with their creator. It is especially fortuitous to have these works together where they will be valued and available for the appreciation of generations to come….” 
Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 4 p.m., Sunday and Monday: Closed.  Free, but donations are appreciated. 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 2017-02-24 at 2.54.02 PM.pngOn February 25, 1975, the City of Alexandria established America’s first Archaeological Commission, to recommend policies for the protection and documentation of underground cultural resources in the municipality.  The City’s urban renewal and redevelopment process in the mid-1960’s involved the demolition of dozens of historic buildings, most directly fronting street sidewalks, and their replacement by larger buildings, often set back from the street in what were formerly backyards or open areas.  As construction progressed, the remains of 18th and 19th century privies, outbuildings and refuse middens were soon identified across multiple blocks and thousands of artifacts unearthed.   Initially, the Smithsonian Institute stepped in to provide emergency archaeological services, but within several years permanent archaeologists were added to City staff .


On Sale Now

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-2-54-15-pmOn Saturday, March 11, the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society proudly presents the Best Bib & Tucker Ball 2017: Cherry Blossom Ball! For a night of unforgettable reverie, come join Doc Scantlin’s Imperial Palms Orchestra and the dazzling songstress, Chou Chou, for dancing and entertainment. Delight in koto music from Sachiko Smith. Enjoy sumptuous cuisine, copious libations, and a fabulous silent auction. $150 per person. Additional sponsorship levels available. For tickets and more information, please visit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.


City Museums and Historic Sites

Other Historic Sites and Resources


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