What’s New in Historic Alexandria
The City of Alexandria has acquired the historic Murray-Dick-Fawcett House in Old Town. The property, at 517 Prince St., is one of the earliest homes in the city and possibly the least-altered 18th century home in Northern Virginia.
No City funds were used to purchase the $1.25 million property. The City used grants from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation ($900,000) and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation ($350,000), along with an equity donation by the home’s former owner, to acquire the site.
The 0.3-acre lot, which contains the 245-year-old timber frame and brick dwelling, and a small garden, was one of the few buildings in existence in the area during the American Revolution. The house has been recognized by local historians as a “fascinating microcosm of the complete single family dwelling, containing in addition to the usual living, dining and bedrooms, a kitchen; a necessary (bathroom); rooms for slaves or servants; and storage rooms, all under one roof.”
The property is to be used in perpetuity as a historic vest-pocket park and garden, creating new open space in Old Town and preserving this nationally significant architectural and cultural resource for residents and visitors. The former owner has tenancy in the house for his lifetime, with public access for special events throughout the year. In the future, the house will be operated by the Office of Historic Alexandria as an educational center focused on domestic life in Alexandria during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This Week in Historic Alexandria
On May 4, 1869 Gen. Robert E. Lee, former commander of the Confederate forces from 1861 to 1865, was welcomed back to Alexandria by friends and well-wishers at the Mansion House Hotel on North Fairfax Street. After the Civil War, Lee rejected the calls for a sustained insurgency against Northern forces, and promoted the reunification of the country as one. He accepted a post as President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) where he used his pulpit to espouse unification. He encouraged Northern men to attend the school, where they were welcomed as “gentlemen.” As the years went by, his popularity in the North grew, and President Ulysses S. Grant even invited him to the White House in 1869, a visit that culminated in a rare sojourn to his former hometown.
Saturday, May 6 – Attics & Alleys Tour
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
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.
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. Tickets are priced at $35 per person and are available online. Tickets include free passes to return to the Museums for regular tours. 9 a.m. to 12 noon. For more information, please visit http://www.gadsbystavernmuseum.us or call 703.746.4242.
Saturday, May 6 – Java Jolt Lecture: Lost Alexandria
Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 105 North Union Street, Suite # 327
Jay Roberts discusses his new book, Lost Alexandria: An Illustrated History of Sixteen Destroyed Homes in and Around Alexandria, Virginia. Join the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology for a Java Jolt lecture with the author, followed by a book signing. The presentation at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum is free and open to all, but reservations are requested. Free! 10 a.m. For more information, please visit contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703.746.4399.
Saturday, May 6 – Write Like a Woman Networking Workshop: Led by KaNikki Jakarta
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
A networking workshop for women writers that uplifts and inspires through writing. Each workshop focuses on different writing styles and allows the participants to enhance their writing styles and share pieces for listening or critiques. For novice and professional writers. The second in a series. Newcomers welcome. Free! 1:30 p.m. RSVP at email@example.com. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.
Sunday, May 7 – Choral Arts Society of Washington: Sing We and Chant It
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Performers of this high quality rarely visit Old Town. Celebrate spring at the historic Athenaeum! Join Scott Tucker, the conductor of the Choral Arts Chamber Singers for Music for Chamber Voices. Tickets are priced at $40 per person and are available online. Reception 4:30 p.m., performance 5 p.m. Wine and cheese will be served. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.
Monday, May 8 – Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee
Alexandria City Hall, Sister Cities Conference Room 1101, 301 King Street
Regular monthly meeting.Free! 7 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.
Now on Exhibit through May 14- Natural Attraction: Virginia Plants and Pollinators
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
To celebrate Historic Garden Week in Virginia, the Gallery will be filled with native plants and their pollinators. Members of the Botanic Art Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR), as selected by juror Susan Frei Nathan, will depict horticulture native to this region. Deana Marion provides an intimate, almost microscopic look at Virginia bees. 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 – 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.
Now 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.
On Sale Now
Virginia was a very different place during the 18th and early 19th centuries, dotted with thousands of farms big and small, many small towns, and very few places that even approached the term “city.” It was the most populous of the original 13 colonies, however, and we were led to independence by Virginia’s most famous native son. George Washington’s Virginia is a lecture and book-signing delivered by Dr. John Maass, on Tuesday May 9, at The Lyceum — Alexandria’s History Museum. Co-sponsored by Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and The Lyceum, the program will be a tour of Colonial, Revolutionary, and Early Republic-era Virginia as known by, lived in, traveled across, and fought over by George Washington. Dr. Maass describes the stories and locations within the state associated with Washington, America’s most famous Founding Father, from his birthplace along the lower Potomac River to his last years as the master of Mount Vernon. Along the way, he offers an exploration of Washington’s life and deeds in Virginia, as well as a detailed guide to the historic and scenic sites associated with him.
Dr. John Maass is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. and an adjunct professor of history at Norwich University. He is the author of North Carolina and the French and Indian War: The Spreading Flames of War; Defending a New Nation, 1783-1811; and The Road to Yorktown. He received a BA in history from Washington and Lee University and a PhD in Early US History from the Ohio State University. Tickets priced at $10 per person are now on sale and may be purchased online. Proceeds from the lecture will benefit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and The Lyceum.
City Museums and Historic Sites
- Office of Historic Alexandria
- Alexandria Archaeology Museum
- Alexandria Black History Museum
- Archives and Records Center
- Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site
- Friendship Firehouse
- Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
- The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum
- Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Other Historic Sites and Resources
- Alexandria Library Special Collections
- Alexandria Historical Society
- Christ Church
- Carlyle House Historic Park
- Freedom House Museum
- Historic Alexandria Foundation
- Lee-Fendall House
- Old Presbyterian Meeting House