This Week in Historic Alexandria (8.24.17) | News Release | City of Alexandria

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This Week in Alexandria History

On August 92, 1795, the Alexandria Council purchased land on the western edge of the city, along South Payne Street, to create the Penny Hill Cemetery, a burial ground for indigent paupers and the poor. Years later, Freedmen who died during the first two years of the Civil War (1861-1863) are thought to have been buried at Penny Hill, prior to establishment of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery. Unfortunately, most tombstones at the early burial ground have deteriorated or vanished. Today, only eleven scattered grave stones remain.

What’s New in Historic Alexandria

The fiscal year for 2017 ended for the City of Alexandria on June 30 and although all numbers are not yet confirmed, it was clearly a record-breaking year for the Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA.)  OHA facilities and programs were attended by nearly 210,000 visitors, an increase of over 15,000 guests from 2016, and web visits to www.alexandriava.gov/historic were nearly double that number.  Surveys indicated that 96% of visitors felt they had gained real value from their visit to OHA facilities, and similar results were achieved in the delivery of on-time public records requests and the administration of development review projects in Alexandria that adhere to regulations protecting archaeological and historic sites of importance.  OHA volunteers logged 17,524 hours of donated time to the department, valued at a savings of $533,461 in labor costs to city taxpayers.  Including the value of volunteer labor, the department also developed $2,027,414 in non-general fund (taxpayer) support, with grants, gifts, donations, retail and site rental revenues in support of the department’s budget of $3,127,308. This year marked the department’s highest percentage ever in sustaining the OHA general fund budget, at the rate of nearly 65%.


photo: Meredith BarberThursday, August 24 –  Lecture: History of the Athenaeum with Meredith Barber
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Meredith Barber is a local historian and undergraduate at William and Mary. Through research at the National Archives, she has discovered previously unknown history during the Athenaeum’s Civil War era including its employment as a logistics center by the Union Army. Tickets are priced at $5 per person for non-members. Free for NVFAA members, please RSVP at admin@nvfaa.org. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.Saturday, August 26 –  Lecture: Historically African American Leisure 
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street 
From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, African Americans in the Washington, D.C. area sought leisure destinations where they could relax without the burden of racial oppression. Local picnic parks such as Eureka and Madre’s were accessible by streetcars. Black-owned steamboats ferried passengers seeking sun and sand to places like Collingwood Beach, and African American families settled into quiet beach-side communities along the Western Shore of Maryland. Author and public historian Patsy M. Fletcher reveals the history behind Washington’s forgotten era of African American leisure.

Patsy Fletcher is a consultant in the field of historic preservation and community development through her company Training, Historical Research and Economic Development (THREAD, LLC). As a preservationist, she has aided in documenting and publishing histories of wards in the District. As a historian, she has contributed to the documentary Master Builders of the Nation’s Capital as well as The Economics of Historic Preservation and the Biographical Dictionary of African American Architects, 1865-1945. Free! The event is appropriate for all ages. 11 a.m.  For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

photo: Lee-Fendall HouseSaturday, August 26 –  Guided House Tour: Under the Same Roof- Enslaved and Free Servants at the Lee-Fendall House
Lee-Fendall House. 614 Oronoco Street
A guided house tour will explore the Lee-Fendall House from the perspective of the people who lived and worked in the house as domestic servants both before and after the Civil War. The tour will last approximately one hour and will feature areas of the house not normally open to public view. Tickets are $8 in advance through Eventbrite, or $10 the day of the tour. FREE for Lee-Fendall House Members! 2 p.m. For more information, please visit www.leefendallhouse.org or call 703.548.1789.

Sunday, August 27 – Gadsby’s Tavern Museum’s Family Tours
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Treat your family to special “Family Tours” led by Junior Docents grades 4-7. Tours included a hands-on activity and the opportunity for children to connect with history through peer tour guides. Admission: $5 adults, $3 children ages 5 to 12, and 4 and under are free. No advance registration required. 2 to 5 p.m. Family tours begin June 25 and end Labor Day weekend. For more information, call 703.746.4242.

Sunday, August 27 – In Concert: Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association Annual Chamber Music Series featuring West Shore Piano Trio with Heather Haughn, violin; Diana Flesner, cello; Jay DeWire, piano. Music by Mendelssohn, Bernstein, and Brahms. Donations graciously accepted – suggested donation $10. 3 to 4:30 p.m. For more information call 703.799.8229 or visit wmpamusic.org.

photo: figurative paintingNow on Exhibit through September 17 – Seduction | Leslie Nolan
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Leslie Nolan’s abstract figurative paintings depict what is felt rather than what is seen. Ambiguity and uncertainty are powerful forces rendered eloquently with bold color and energetic brush work. 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 – Relics to be Removed
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Discover a series of contemporary artistic installations by Baltimore artists Stewart Watson and Lauren Frances Adams tucked in among the historic spaces. Centennial of the Everyday reflects their research on the history of women, enslaved peoples, and nameless citizens whose stories are often overshadowed by other more famous figures from our region.  Using traditional materials but with modern techniques, the artist team illuminate the domestic material culture of the past. This project is part of the Time & Place initiative, which explores the intersection of contemporary art with Alexandria’s rich and multifaceted history and is a partnership of the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts with the Office of Historic Alexandria.  Open during regular museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday and Monday, 1 to 5 p.m., and part of regular museum admission: $5 adults, $3 child ages 5 to12. For more information, call 703.746.4242.

Now on Exhibit – Centennial of the Everyday
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Many are familiar with the historic ballroom at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, yet the woodwork is a copy; the original is located at Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City. Relics to be Removed explores the 1917 removal of the historic ballroom and places this decision into a national context. Learn and connect with the story through photos, text and recreated, touchable pieces.  Open during regular museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday and Monday, 1 to 5 p.m., and part of regular museum admission: $5 adults, $3 child ages 5 to12. For more information, call 703.746.4242.

photo: Costumes of Mercy StreetNow on Exhibit – Costumes of Mercy Street
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
This new exhibition highlights several costumes worn by characters in the PBS series Mercy Street, set in Civil War era AlexandriaOpen Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. 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 – Alexandrians Fight the Great War
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
This new exhibition traces the experiences of local people during the first World War. The homes, hospitals, factories and shipyards of wartime Alexandria come back to life through the use of rare images, archival and modern-day video clips, quotes from participants, original objects including weapons, period music, and scale models. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.   For more information call 703.746.4994, or visit

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



In preparation for the Jane Austen Ball at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum on September 23, on three preceding Thursdays, September 7, 14 and 21, learn 18th-century English country dancing from expert dance instructors. Classes are priced at $12 per class or $30 for the series of three, and reservations can be made online.

City Museums and Historic Sites

Other Historic Sites and Resources

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