This Week in Historic Alexandria (9.20.17) | News Release | City of Alexandria

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This Week in Alexandria History


On September 19, 1953, Federal agencies approved the transfer of land at Alexandria’s Jones Point for park purposes.  Used earlier in the 20th century by the Virginia Shipbuilding Company for the construction of World War I military vessels, the parcel was acquired in the 1930’s by children’s author, Valrie McMahan, who planned to build a theme park on the property, known as the “Children’s Capital of the Nation” based on her Baseball Twins series of books, seen here. But soon after McMahan started construction, the U.S. military condemned the property for a secret military communications installation.


Tuesday, September 19 – 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.

photo: Jane Austen BallThursday, September 21 – Jane Austen Dance Class
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
In preparation for the Jane Austen Ball on September 23 (sorry, Ball tickets are now sold out), learn 18th-century English country dancing from expert dance instructors. Tickets are priced at $12 per person and are available online. 7:30 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

Saturday, September 23 – Boutique Car Show
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
For orphan cars, and co-sponsored by Packards Virginia and The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum. Orphan cars are any marque of vehicle built by an out-of-business manufacturer. Free! 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4994.

Cancelled: Saturday, September 23 – Lecture: Plantations of Virginia
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
Southern plantations are an American icon, symbolizing our nation’s complicated relationship with the past. Both glorified for their grandeur and denounced for their central role in an early American economy based on slavery, Virginia’s plantations still fascinate us. Local authors Jai Williams and Charlene Giannetti explore the hidden stories of these historic icons in their new book, Plantations of Virginia. Visiting 40 plantations throughout the state, the authors interviewed mansion guides to dig deeper and uncover little known accounts of life in these palatial homes. Williams lends her talents as a professional photographer to provide stunning pictures to accompany the stories. She will also share her views as an African American photographer working in the south and photographing the grand plantations of slave holders. Free! 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4356

photo: Firefighting History TourSaturday, September 23 – Firefighting History Walking Tour.
Friendship Firehouse Museum, 107 South Alfred Street
Mark Fire Prevention Week and explore Alexandria’s firefighting history on the “Blazing a Trail: Alexandria’s Firefighting History” tour. Participants learn about volunteer firefighting in early Alexandria, three devastating fires, and the five volunteer fire companies. The tour begins at the historic Friendship Firehouse, goes east on Prince Street, and returns to Friendship via King Street. For ages 10 and older. Tickets are priced at $6 for adults, $4 ages 10-17, and reservations are required, as space is limited. For more information, please call 703.746.4994, or 703.746.3891.

Saturday, September 23 – Bourbon in the Basement
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614Oronoco Street
Join us at the Lee-Fendall House for our annual fundraiser. This year we are celebrating the house’s Prohibition history and raising money to preserve our historic foundations. Enjoy 1920s drinks and jazz music, win great prizes in our silent auction, and celebrate Alexandria’s past. Attire is creative cocktail, with 1920s period clothing encouraged. Tickets are $50 for general admission, which opens at 7 PM, or join us at 6 PM for a VIP reception in the basement! Current Lee-Fendall House Museum Members may purchase VIP tickets for the price of general admission. All guests must be 21 years or older to attend. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. For more information, please call 703.548.1789.

Saturday, September 23 – Jane Austen Ball
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Sorry, this event is SOLD OUT!  For more information, please call 703.746.4242.

photo: US Navy Concert BandSunday, September 24 – United States Navy Concert Band
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
The United States Navy Band Chamber Group from Washington, DC, is the Navy’s premier musical organization. This chamber music recital series will feature traditional and contemporary music. Free! 1 p.m. A large turnout is expected so please RSVP at admin@nvfaa.org. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

Sunday, September 24 – Artists Reception: Glow
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street 
Join us for the artist’s reception of the Third Annual Athenaeum Invitational: Glow. Free! 4 p.m. For more information, please visit www.nvfaa.org or call 703.548.0035.

photo: alleyMonday, September 25 – Lecture: What’s in That Alley? Inventorying Old Town
The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Presentation by Mike Commisso, Cultural Resources Program Manager, National Mall and Memorial Parks, National Park Service and Chair, Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission.

Alleys within the City of Alexandria play a significant role in defining the character, the landscape, and social history of the city. Yet, the alleys are an overlooked asset in city planning, development, and historic research. Many alleys have been demolished for development or incorporated into adjacent lots. The intent of this inventory of public and private alleys was to assist the city in addressing these and other issues and to provide the baseline documentation that is needed to effectively manage the historic resources for the future. Please join us to learn about this community-led survey project and to recognize the volunteers who contributed to this important study. Free! 6:30 p.m. reception and 7 p.m. lecture. For more information, please call 703.746.4554.

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 – 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

photo: Black History MuseumNow 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.


On Sale Now


The labor of African Americans – both free and enslaved – was critical to Alexandria’s development as an important port city in the 18th and 19th centuries. On Saturday, October 7 at 10 a.m. or 12 noon, join this interactive 60 to 75-minute tour exploring urban slavery at Gadsby’s Tavern. Known for his work in the early hospitality industry, John Gadsby relied on the capital, labor, and ingenuity of enslaved people of African descent for his businesses in Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. But what does hospitality mean when the labor is being done by people held in bondage? How does enslaved labor change how we think of hospitality? What was the cost to the people compelled to work at Gadsby’s? Participants will explore how the nuances of urban slavery complicate and expand our understanding of slavery in America through the stories, experiences, and archival traces of those enslaved by John Gadsby.  Tickets are priced at $15 per person, and are on sale now.

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