110 Callahan Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
Hey, you found me! If you need to park, there is ample street parking and parking garages nearby. But, whatever mode of transportation you used to get here, a great starting point is on Shuter’s Hill on the grounds of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, located off of Callahan Drive. Walk up the steps and sidewalk and meet me in front of the George Washington face on the memorial’s entrance wall.
10 Russell Rd, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
Like Benjamin Franklin to Philadelphia and Alexander Hamilton to New York City, Alexandria has always been known as Washington’s hometown. With his home Mount Vernon just eight miles south of here, more than 140 locations in present-day Alexandria are linked with him. It was he who put Alexandria on the map – literally. As a 17 year old surveyor, he helped lay out its streets, surveyed its lots, and drew its first map in the 1750s. He maintained a townhouse, received his mail, purchased his supplies, sold his goods to market, and established the first public school. He was one of the town’s early trustees, a depositor and patron of the Bank of Alexandria, worshipped at Christ Church, and organizer of the first volunteer fire company. Like many of the Founding Fathers, Washington was a member of the fraternal order of Freemasons even serving as First Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge of Masons No. 22, which makes its present home inside the 333-foot tall George Washington Masonic National Memorial you see towering on the hill. Dedicated in 1932, the 200th Anniversary of his birth, the lighthouse-like structure marked a collaboration of Masons across the country who sought to honor their fellow Mason and his views on government, religion, and freedom. The Replica Lodge Room preserves and presents valued Washington relics now owned by the Masons, including his bedchamber clock frozen to the time of 10:20 pm, the moment of his death on December 14, 1799 and the ivory handled trowel his used to lay the cornerstone of the US Capitol Building on September 18, 1793. Memorial Hall has a 17-foot bronze statue of Washington sculpted by Bryant Baker and dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in 1950. Murals by Allyn Cox depicting highlights from Washington’s life surround the room. The memorial’s upper levels feature numerous rooms and displays. The Royal Arch Room contains a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, as well as Egyptian and Hebraic Art. The Assembly Room showcases dioramas of events in George’s life. The Tall Cedars of Lebanon Room features a model of King Solomon’s Temple, and the Children’s Room shows a miniature moving Shriners parade accompanied by music. The George Washington Museum features artifacts from Mount Vernon personally donated by family descendants including the 1732 Family Bible. An outdoor observation deck on the very top offers stunning 360-degree views of Old Town and the surrounding region. Lastly, you have noticed the massive concrete sculpture with the letter “G.” Designed in 1999 by Donald Robey to mark the 200th anniversary of George’s death, the “G” in the Masonic emblem is said to stand for devotion to God and also for their interest in geometry. Surrounding the “G” are a square and compass, two essential tools for a stonemason. The square, originally used to check two faces of rock for accurate shape symbolizes “squaring” a person’s behavior in the presence of God and humanity. The compass is said to remind a man to keep himself in check, and not to overindulge in life’s vices. Now, let us proceed to our next destination. As go you back down the sidewalk and steps, hang a left to head over to the sidewalk along King Street.
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
You may have casually walked by, jogged by, or driven by sandstone markers similar to this one throughout the DC area without thinking about what they are or the significance of why they’re there. At first blush, they look like gravestones, but they are actually the oldest federal monuments in the United States – the Boundary Stones. After Congress passed the Residence Act of 1790, President Washington was granted the power to choose a 100 square mile location for the new nation’s capital along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The state of Maryland ceded 70 square miles, whereas Virginia ceded the remaining 30, which included most of Old Town Alexandria. Thus, D.C. was originally diamond-shaped, 10 miles by 10 miles, until 1846, when the Virginia portion pulled out, primarily due to wanting to preserve its state’s rights at the time, namely slavery. To demarcate the boundaries of the capital city, surveyor Andrew Ellicott and an African-American astronomer and scientist Benjamin Banneker set in place 40 sandstone markers, each one placed a mile apart along the edges of the square. On one side of the stones, the state “Virginia” or “Maryland” is inscribed and the other side says "Jurisdiction of the United States," because D.C. didn't yet have its name yet. Also inscribed is the year of placement – either 1791 or 1792. Remarkably 36 of the originals still remain in their place, each surrounded by iron fences erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution back in 1915. However, three of them (including the one in front of you) are replicas, and one is marked by a plaque. Construction projects may have been the most likely culprit for the loss of those four stones. Five of the stones are in Alexandria proper, but other areas where one can find the rest include Falls Church, VA, Arlington, VA and along Eastern, Western, and Southern Avenues which all run through DC as well as Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. Present-day stone locations range from a lighthouse along the Potomac River, outside an elementary school, neighborhood parks, homeowners’ yards (most are willing to show off, so ask politely), and even at a McDonald’s parking lot. After you’re done observing, turn around and walk down Russell Road and make a left on King Street. I’ll wait for you at the intersection of King Street and Sunset Drive next to Sunset Mini Park.
6 Sunset Dr, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA
Good, you've caught up with me. We'll be walking 10 blocks down King Street to get to our next George Washington-related stop. I'll stop a couple of times to clear up a few common myths about the man, ones that you've probably heard growing up or while you were in school. Also, should you need a food or drink break, there are a number of restaurants, eateries, and cafes you can stop into. Proceed down King Street and I'll wait for you at the corner of King Street and Harvard Street.
King St and Harvard St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
The first mythical story about George Washington I’ll clear up with you is the very popular story that supposedly happened when Washington was a young boy living with his parents. Legend has it that Washington was gifted a hatchet by his father, Augustine Washington. The enthusiastic Washington then used the hatchet to chop down a cherry tree on his father’s plantation. Not afraid to take responsibility for his actions, Washington confessed to his misdeed when asked by his father. Amazed by Washington’s desire to own up to his actions, his father hugged him. The story goes on to say that, Washington’s father was filled with real pride for his son, telling everyone about how remarkable his son’s trustworthiness and integrity far outweighs a thousand cherry trees. Historians have done extensive research and it turns out that there was no hard evidence to support this. The question is: how did this story gain wide popularity even though it never existed? The answer lies in the biography written by a neighbor of the family, Mason Locke Weems. In his 1800 book titled: “The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington,” the book centered on the childhood and personal relationships Washington had with his close family members. The Cherry Tree incident was more of a lesson about honesty. Continue on King St and meet me at the intersection of King and Payne Streets.
1301 VA-7, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Another myth to clear up...for quite a long time, many came to believe that the first president of the United States had wooden teeth. Washington may have fought several battles for his country; however, he was woeful at keeping his teeth from falling off. Throughout his entire life, he suffered chronic tooth and gum problems ranging from toothaches to abscessed gums. By the time of his presidency, Washington had just one natural tooth left in his mouth. After serving for 8 years, Washington decided to take off his last remaining tooth in 1796. The dentures that Washington wore were in no way made out of wood. If you visit Mount Vernon, you can actually see a set of one his dentures made by dentist John Greenwood. It was actually a mixture of animal teeth, whale bone, hippo ivory, and lead. The dental health back then was not as refined at it is now, but even dentists of the late 1700s knew that wood did not make a good material for dentures. Wooden dentures are more likely to crack and be prone to damages caused by excessive moisture in the mouth. Washington’s dentures may have looked like they were made out of wood because they got discolored after years of usage. I hope you didn’t grossed out by that. Let’s keep walking down King St. until we arrive at the intersection with Alfred St.
116 S Alfred St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
109 S Alfred St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
George Washington - General, President, and first responder? According to local tradition, yes! Washington, like other Founding Fathers, served as volunteer firefighters and saw it as a way to fulfill one’s civic duty in community service. Alexandria lays claim to having the oldest fire engine company in the United States. The Friendship Engine Company was organized in 1774 by the town’s responsible citizens. Its members unanimously elected Washington as a charter member and an honorary captain. As token of appreciation, Washington presented the company with the city’s first fire engine, a small spouting or gallery engine purchased from Gibbs of Philadelphia for 80 shillings. “Washington’s Engine” as it came to be known, was considered the finest type of firefighting apparatus on the market at the time. Originally headquartered on Market Square, the company built the current structure you see in 1855. Buckets, bells, hoses, axes, and Friendship’s 1851 Rodgers Suction Hand Engine with its trademark clasped hands insignia are on view. However, the 1858 Prettyman Hose Reel carriage (made in Alexandria by coach maker and fellow Friendship member Robert F. Prettyman) is currently not on display as it is undergoing restoration. In the firehouse Meeting Room, ceremonial artifacts are exhibited such as helmets, capes, and other regalia. Throughout the year, history scavenger hunts, interactive experiences for kids, guided firefighting history tours, and festivals celebrating the company’s founding and its role in the community are offered. Proceed down S. Alfred St. for three blocks until you get to Wolfe St. Cross Wolfe St. and I’ll wait for you at the corner.
329 S Alfred St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
401 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
400 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
George Washington established in this three-story brick building the first permanent free school in northern Virginia. The Freemasons laid the cornerstone in 1785 with Revolutionary War surgeon Dr. William Brown being its first president. Each floor operated a separate school. The first floor was the English School that taught grammar, writing, arithmetic, and physical science to paying students. The Learned Language School was on the second floor which taught Latin and Greek. On the third floor was the Free School which provided cost-free education to girls, orphans, and other poor children. Washington was an original trustee and pledged an annual contribution of 50 pounds during his life for the purpose of education, clothing, and/or other basic needs. In his will, he bequeathed the equivalent of $4000, or 20 shares of stock he held in the Bank of Alexandria to the Academy. It would be one of three educational institutions he willed money to, the other two being Liberty Hall Academy (today Washington and Lee University) and a national university (today George Washington University). Prominent students of the Academy have included George’s nephews, George Steptoe and Lawrence Augustine Washington, Payne Todd Madison, the son of James and Dolley Madison, and the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. To continue, turn around and head back towards S. Washington St. and I’ll meet you at the corner.
400 S Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
118 N Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Before crossing, observe Washington Street for a moment. This makes up a portion of the greater George Washington Memorial Parkway or simply the “GW Parkway.” Dedicated on the bicentennial of his birth in 1932, the GW Parkway spans 25 miles and 7,600 acres through Virginia, Maryland, and DC preserving both historical and environmental sites along the Potomac River. It was conceived as both a way to enhance visitor accessibility to Mount Vernon while connecting and preserving over 25 sites associated with Washington’s life. It also was part of the actual route that Washington traveled on as he went to Philadelphia to take the Oath of Office as the First President of the United States in 1789. As the first federally funded parkway, it was envisioned to be a grand commemorative scenic drive between DC and Mount Vernon.
118 N Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
118 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
The land on which Christ Church was built was given by tobacco merchant John Alexander (for whom Alexandria is named). As one of two pre-Revolutionary War churches in Old Town, construction began in 1767 to serve the needs of the Church of England’s Fairfax parish in having new churches in present-day Falls Church and Alexandria, VA. James Parson agreed to oversee the work for 600 pounds, but failed to fulfill his contract, and it was finished in 1773 for an additional 200 pounds under the direction of town co-founder John Carlyle. George Washington was one of the twelve vestrymen chosen for the parish. He helped fund its construction and remained a member and contributor until his death, and his funeral service was conducted at Mount Vernon by the church’s rector, the Reverend Thomas Davis. Even his personal family Bible was presented to the parishioners by his adopted and Martha’s biological grandson, George Washington (“Washy”) Parke Custis in 1804. That treasured relic is still used during special occasions. The vestry books dating back to 1765 contain many interesting entries. Among them is one with the General’s signature showing that he purchased pew No. 5 for 36 pounds, 10 shillings. As was common practice, buying pews in the church ensured that entire families were able to sit together, and as a way to defray construction and maintenance costs. Surrounding the church are old tombs and gravestones with quaint and interesting inscriptions. It is estimated that as many as 1,000 people are interred in the churchyard, many who played important parts in the town’s early history. From here, leave the church grounds and use the crosswalk just outside the entrance arch. Cross Washington St and I’ll wait for you on the opposite side.
613 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
613 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
611 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
General Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee III, father of Civil War general Robert E. Lee moved from Westmoreland County, VA to this house in 1810 for the purpose of educating his children. A Captain in the Virginia Cavalry at 19 years old in 1776, his unit joined General Washington’s Continental Army. In 1778, he was promoted to Major and commanded a cavalry unit called “Lee’s Legion” which distinguished itself at the Battle of Paulus Hook, NJ. He was then promoted to Lt. Colonel in 1780 and fought under General Nathaniel Greene. During his service, his lighting quick raids against the British earned him the nickname “Light Horse Harry.” After the Revolution, Lee embarked on a public service career, becoming a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Congress, from 1785-1788, then served as Governor of Virginia from 1791-1794. While governor, he took command of troops alongside President Washington to quell the “Whiskey Rebellion” in Pennsylvania. While a Congressman, he penned the most famous eulogy in American history for his longtime friend, who passed away in 1799. In a powerful 3,500 word tribute he described Washington as, “First in war – first in peace – and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and enduring scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.” Since then, Lee’s famous quote has been reprinted in a variety of forms. You’re not far from the next point of interest. Simply walk two houses down to 607 Cameron.
607 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
This 8000 square-foot house was erected in 1803 by William Yeaton, who also designed the Washington Family Tomb at Mount Vernon where the General and Mrs. Washington rest today. In 1830, it was sold under a deed of trust and bought by Thomas Fairfax, 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron who used it as his winter residence. Thomas led the life of a country gentleman overseeing his 40,000 acres of land in Fairfax Count through his estates of Belvoir, Ash Grove, and Vaucluse. Thomas, along with his father Lord Bryan Fairfax, on December 11, 1799, were among the last guests at Mount Vernon before Washington passed away. His brother, Fernando, counted George and Martha as his godparents. The house was then occupied by his son, Dr. Orlando Fairfax, a prominent town physician, who owned it until the Union Army confiscated it during the Civil War. It remained in Fairfax hands until 1875. It was the Fairfax Family that Washington, in his youth, developed lifelong friendships with, and cemented social connections that would propel him to prominence as a soldier, professional surveyor, politician, and gentleman farmer throughout his adult life. I’ll touch more on his associations with the Fairfaxes when we visit another one of the family’s homes on Prince Street towards the end of this tour. Continue on Cameron, cross the street until you get to the next corner adjacent to the public parking lot.
201 N St Asaph St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
516 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Keep walking down Cameron St. until you reach the house with the bust of George Washington in the window and with a couple of historic plaques on the lower left hand corner.
508 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
138 N Royal St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
From the time of Alexandria’s founding, there has always been a tavern occupying this corner of Royal and Cameron Streets. Between 1749 and 1752, Charles and Anne Mason operated a tavern called Mason’s Ordinary. It was followed by Mary Hawkins who owned and ran her tavern on the spot where the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum stands. George Washington used the site as his military headquarters to recruit men for his Virginia militia during the French and Indian War. The two adjoining structures you are looking at were both built by entrepreneur John Wise. The shorter building to the left was the original tavern built in 1785. The taller building was built in 1792 as an addition that became known as the City Tavern and Hotel. In 1794, Wise leased the City Tavern to Englishman John Gadsby, who later took up and expanded the lease to include the older building, operating it as a coffeehouse. Under his ownership from 1796 to 1808, the tavern and hotel became a fashionable destination for Alexandria’s political, business, and social life even serving as a site for dances. Not only did Washington dine and socialize here, the guest list has included George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, The Marquis de Lafayette, and members of Virginia’s First Families (e.g. the Fitzhughs’, Byrds’, and Lees’). The first celebration of the adoption of the Constitution occurred at the tavern in 1788. Washington was present and wrote of the event to his friend Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. During his presidency in 1793, he made a foreign policy proclamation defining neutrality for the new nation during a July Fourth banquet inside. Also, he reviewed the local troops from the tavern steps and gave his final military command. In 1798 and 1799, the last two public celebrations of Washington’s Birthday during his lifetime were held here both on February 11th with the General and Mrs. Washington present. Since then, these have become known as the Birthnight Banquet and Ball held on the Saturday before Presidents’ Day each February. The popular event attracts visitors from all over the nation and sells out quickly. By the 1900’s, Gadsby’s had been renamed the City Hotel and Tavern and was no longer seen as the hotspot it had once been. Over the decades, the tavern closed and deteriorated. The city began plans to demolish the building, but it was saved in 1926 by the American Legion who repaired it and used it as their lodge. Today, Gadsby’s operates as both a museum preserving what it would have looked like during its heyday, and as a restaurant serving up menu items that would been served in Washington’s time including one of his favorites: canvasback duck, hominy, and Madeira wine. Afterwards, cross Cameron St and I’ll wait for you at the opposite corner.
200 N Royal St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
305 Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Now a completely restored three bedroom, three bathroom, 4000 square-foot private residence available as a rental on Vrbo.com, 305 Cameron holds several chapters of history. Nancy and William Duvall built the house around 1750. Upon Washington’s triumphant return home to Mount Vernon from Annapolis, MD after his hard-fought victory over the British in the eight-year Revolutionary War, Alexandrians honored him with a New Year’s Eve bash on December 31, 1783. The party was capped off with a 13 cannon salute at nearby Market Square (now home to City Hall). From 1798 to 1791, this became the residence of Charles Lee, the brother of Light Horse Harry Lee and uncle to Robert E. Lee. A naval officer during the Revolution, his political career began with his service as collector for the port of Alexandria (1789-1793), the appointment a favor from President Washington. Lee achieved more notable political experience in 1795 when President Washington tapped him to serve as the third United States Attorney General, which he remained until the end of second President John Adams’ administration in 1801. He was counsel to the plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison which established constitutionality through judicial review. After Lee’s time came the first headquarters of the Bank of Alexandria from 1793 to 1807. As the first financial institution authorized by the Virginia General Assembly, Washington was a depositor in the bank since its creation, and a stockholder from 1796 until his death. To get to the next site, continue on Cameron and cross Fairfax St. until you reach the corner building with a plaque with the word’s “Wise’s Tavern.”
N Fairfax St + Cameron St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
As one of the earliest buildings in Old Town, this three-story house has been known by several names, including the Dalton-Herbert House, Wise’s Tavern, and the Anne Lee Home. Construction of the building began in the mid-1770s by town co-founder and merchant John Dalton and finished after his death in 1777 by his son-in-law Thomas Herbert, for lease as a tavern. The tavern was operated by several keepers over the years under different names such as the Globe, the Bunch of Grapes, and Albert’s Tavern. But it was between 1788 and 1792 during the John Wise years – who also built Gadsby’s Tavern – that perhaps the largest public reception of its time was held here. Following the Constitutional Convention of May 1787 over which General Washington presided, he celebrated the ratification of the Constitution with a toast here in June 1788. By this time, Washington had returned back to the comforts of private life at Mount Vernon. However, all would change in 1789 when Congress sent word to Washington that he had unanimously won the presidency (a distinction that Washington still has to this day). On April 16, 1789 when Washington embarked on his journey to his inauguration as America’s First President in New York City, he made the first of his many stops at this site to be greeted by an ovation given in his honor by a huge crowd of townspeople who were inside and around the building. A farewell address, written by Light Horse Harry Lee, was provided by Mayor Dennis Ramsay in which he said, “Farewell – Go; and make a grateful people happy; a people who will be doubly grateful, when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.” Adept at farewells, Washington response to his fellow townsfolk moved them to tears. “Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence, while, from an aching heart, I bid you all, my affectionate Friends, and kind Neighbors, farewell!” He would arrive in New York by barge on April 30th for his inauguration in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street. In subsequent years, the brick structure served as private residences, and from 1916-1974, it was converted into the Anne Lee Memorial Home for the Aged providing housing for senior citizens. Today, it is an office building. Continue southbound to 207 Fairfax, the brick house immediately next door.
207 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
You are now looking at the oldest of Old Town’s residences still standing on its original lot. Scotsman John Dalton, who had the distinction of purchasing the first two lots at auction during Alexandria’s establishment in 1749, completed his residence in 1751. Dalton did all the basic man-about-town things of the time period: he was one of Alexandria’s founders and early trustees, a vestryman of Old Christ Church serving with General Washington, and business partner to fellow Scotsman and town co-founder John Carlyle providing supplies and equipment for the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. Washington was also a friend who stayed here on several occasions staying in the front room with the dormer windows. Dalton even served as one of Washington’s agents in selling his tobacco and wheat in the marketplace. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom, nearly 4000 square-foot home was bought recently for $1.8M. Another interesting connection between Dalton and the General: John’s great-great granddaughter was Ann Pamela Cunningham, who formed the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the country’s first historic preservation organization in 1858. Under her stewardship, she and this group of like-minded women preservationists from all over the country bought Mount Vernon from the last private owner, John Augustine Washington III for $200,000 and successfully saved the mansion. The Association still owns it to this day and is funded exclusively from private donations and visitor ticket sales. To continue, go southbound on Fairfax going past Wise’s Tavern once again and cross Cameron St. I’ll wait for you at the opposite corner.
135 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
121 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Scottish merchant John Carlyle purchased two centrally located lots during Alexandria’s founding in 1749. He married into the wealthy Fairfax Family of Belvoir and constructed this elegant stone mansion for his wife, Sarah Fairfax. The couple moved in in 1753. Carlyle was a man who wore many hats: town founder, original Trustee, a surveyor, a founding member of the Sun Fire Company, an undertaker for Christ Church and the Old Presbyterian House, a justice of the peace, and a merchant importing sugar, rum, and horses as well as exporting flour, grain, and wheat. Because of John and Sarah’s standing in Old Town, Carlyle House was a social and political center where grand dinners and other social events were commonplace. George Washington was a frequent guest whom Carlyle counted on as a trusted friend and business partner. He was even a relative through marriage as Carlyle’s wife was a sister of Anne Fairfax Washington, the wife of Lawrence Washington, George’s half-brother. However in 1755, Carlyle was forced to host a rather unwelcome group of guests. General Edward Braddock, the Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America has been sent to oversee the French and Indian War (the Seven Year’s War). When he arrived in Alexandria with 1200 troops, the general selected Carlyle House as his headquarters. During his three weeks in the home, Braddock summoned the colonial governors of Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts to meet here and formulate plans to finance and protect the western frontier against the encroachments of the French and Indians along the Ohio River. Carlyle, in a letter to his brother, called it “the grandest Congress held at my home ever known on the Continent.” In another letter, he even described his house guest as being “too fond of his passions, women, and wine…” and frequently “abused his house and furnishings.” George Washington joined Braddock’s staff as a young Colonel and was invited to meet this group to give them the benefit of his knowledge of the Ohio frontier and Indian warfare, but General Braddock stubbornly refused to be guided by his advice. In the campaign that followed, Braddock was killed by the Indians at the fierce battle of Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh). Washington, despite his uniform being shot through four times, survived unscathed and read the burial service when Braddock was buried along the side of a road (his remains were later found and is interred at Fort Duquesne). This meeting of Braddock and the governors with the war that followed was one of the first instances of friction between Britain and her American colonies as it would lead to the Stamp Act of 1765 and spark the concept of taxation without representation. Thus, a case can be made that the seeds of the American Revolution were planted here at Carlyle House. After Carlyle’s death in 1780, the house passed through a number of heirs before furniture maker James Green bought it in 1848. From that year to the 20th century, it served as a hotel, a field hospital for Union troops during the Civil War, and an apartment building. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority bought the property in 1970, restoring it to its 18th century splendor and opened it to the public for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. You are welcome to tour the mansion and gardens and experience a glimpse of early American life during the pre-Revolutionary War Era. Leaving the house grounds, make a left back onto Fairfax St. and meet me at the next corner where you’ll see an entrance to an alley on the left side.
113 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
209 Ramsey Alley, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
If anyone happens to be from St. Louis, Missouri on this walking tour, you may be familiar with this kind of structure as your hometown boasts the greatest concentration of these in the United States. For those who are unfamiliar, this is an example of a “Flounder House.” It is typically characterized as a two or three story home (or commercial building) with half of a gabled roof and a flat windowless side wall. In peoples’ eyes, the tall, right triangle roof line took on a shape of a flounder fish, which has a similar profile. This particular flounder structure dating back to 1800 once belonged to a longtime George Washington friend, Colonel Charles Simms. A Virginia lawyer-turned Continental Army officer in the Revolution, he served as a Lt. Colonel of the 6th Regiment of the Virginia Line and distinguished himself as the Battles of Fort Mifflin and Mercer. Along with General Washington, he was one of thousands of patriots who endured the dreaded winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, PA. After his service, he continued to practice law in Old Town and further his public service as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates as well as a delegate to the Virginia Convention in 1788, voting on adoption of the US Constitution. Col. Simms and General Washington continued to remain friends and business partners until Washington’s death, in which Simms served as one of six pallbearers. Like the General, Simms was a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati in 1783, an organization comprised of veteran officers (and their male descendants) of the Continental Army and their French counterparts. Also, Simms helped Washington establish the Potomac Company, which worked to develop the Potomac River through the creation of a canal system linking East and West. Like George, Simms was also a member of the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge No. 22. While Mayor of Alexandria during the War of 1812 in which the British burned Washington DC, Simms, not wanting the town to suffer the same fate, surrendered Alexandria to the British along with all shipping goods, merchandise, and ordinance stockpiles. While this cost the city immensely and Simms was initially censured, many came to realize the amount of lives and property that was spared because of his actions. Therefore, he would be exonerated and ushered Alexandria’s return to prosperity. To continue, head back up the alley to Fairfax St. and I’ll wait for you at the corner.
N Fairfax St + King St N, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Make a left on Fairfax St., walk past the gelato shop then turn left on King St. Walk down until you see the set of steps leading up to the Alexandria Visitors’ Center on your left side.
218 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Alexandria’s oldest home serves as the city’s visitor center. Reconstructed in 1956, the building was originally constructed downriver in the town of Dumfries, VA about 1724 and transported by barge to Old Town around 1752. William Ramsay, the house’s original owner, was a Scottish-born merchant and one of the city’s founders along with John Carlyle, John Dalton, John Pagan, and Lawrence Washington. He was also one of the first trustees and served as Alexandria’s first postmaster. In addition at various capacities, he was a census taker, a colonel in the militia, and Representative of the Safety Committee. William married Anne McCarty Ball, a maternal cousin of George Washington with whom he had a lifelong friendship. In all his patriotic ventures, he was aided by his wife, who by her unfailing efforts raised $75,000 for the Continental Army and worked unceasingly for the welfare of the orphan children of the revolutionary soldiers. This achievement alone gave her a sterling reputation in the growing port city. Washington was a frequent visitor and was entertained with many other distinguished guest who came to enjoy the Ramsays’ hospitality. When William died in 1785, Washington attended his funeral. His son, Dennis, born in 1756, was a captain with the Continental Army and was close friends with the General. Dennis and his family moved into the house after his father’s death, and served as Mayor in 1788. Like Colonel Simms, Dennis was another one of the honorary pallbearers at Washington’s funeral. Speaking of more Washington friends, neighbors, and business partners, two more established their residences on King St. Directly across where the Burke and Herbert Bank stands today (oldest bank in Virginia by the way), stood the residence of Lt. Col. John Fitzgerald, another wealthy Alexandria merchant who became a trusted aide-de-camp for his hometown friend during the Revolution. He saw action at the Battles of Princeton and Monmouth and was also part of the encampment at Valley Forge. After his military service, he was elected Mayor of Alexandria in 1783 and served on the City Council the following year. His continued friendship with General Washington after the war led to him becoming one of four directors in Washington’s post-war business venture, the Potomac Canal Company. Washington’s election to the presidency placed Fitzgerald in a new political role for Alexandria in that he was appointed Local Collector of Customs. Further down at 208 King St. (now a retail store) was the house of Colonel George Gilpin. Prior to the Revolution, Gilpin moved to Old Town where he spent the remainder of his life. He was commissioned as a Colonel of the Fairfax County Militia in 1775 and joined General Washington’s army at the Siege of Boston on Dorchester Heights. He also took part in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown as well as Valley Forge. After the war, Gilpin returned to Alexandria and held a number of positions that included city commissioner, judge, and postmaster. Like General Washington, Gilpin was a member of the local Masonic Lodge, a vestryman at Christ Church, and was involved with the Potomac Canal Company in which he surveyed the Potomac River and prepared a plan for the improvement of the channel for navigation. Col. Gilpin was another pallbearer at Washington’s funeral. Leaving the Ramsay House, walk back up King St, cross, and go up the corner steps to arrive at your next point of interest, Market Square.
301 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
From the beginnings of Alexandria’s history to the present, Market Square has been the established center of life for Alexandrians. After surveyors laid out the town, one public place and only one was permitted for the conduct of business. Here, a market house was built, a shingle-roofed shed, open sided at first, with stalls for shops. Since 1753, a farmer’s market has been held here every weekend, making it the country’s oldest continuously operating farmer’s market. Even Washington sent his produce, livestock, and unfortunately, slaves from Mount Vernon to be sold at the market. A sprawling complex of individual buildings also surrounded the square: the Fairfax County Courthouse, jail, the Friendship Fire Company, town assembly hall, and several taverns. Even a stocks, pillory, and whipping post courtesy of John Carlyle were added. It was on this open space where a young Colonel Washington reportedly drilled his Virginia militia during the French and Indian War (Seven Year’s War) in the 1750s. Washington, then 21 years old, was ordered by Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie to confront the French in the Ohio Country and issue an ultimatum not to encroach on British territories. His actions, which involved the killing of a French officer, sparked the conflict between Britain and France. The present-day garage entrance on Fairfax St. once stood Arell’s Tavern. It was in that tavern some 20 years later, was where Washington chaired a committee that discussed and adopted the Fairfax Resolves of 1774. It was a set of 24 resolutions written primarily by George Mason that rejected the British parliament’s claim of supreme authority over the American colonies, namely in response to the taxes slapped on the colonies. Mason also presented other influential ideas, such as consent of the governed, meaning that people must agree to their government and its laws in order for that government to have authority. Much of this document advanced the ideas subsequently found in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Today’s Market Square is a far cry from pre-20th century life. On the north side is Alexandria’s City Hall, built in 1871 to replace the fire-damaged 1817 Town Hall that previously stood. The south side (where you currently stand) contains the elevated brick plaza that was designed and installed during the urban renewal of the 1960’s. The farmer’s market operates on Saturdays with as many as 70 vendors offering an assortment of fruits, vegetables, pasta, art, and more. Also important gatherings such as the annual Scottish Christmas Walk in December and the nation’s oldest and largest George Washington Parade in February take place around here. Moving on, proceed back down the corner steps and wait for me at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets.
Alexandria, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
105 S Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
On this spot, Edward Stabler established his family’s business in 1792 and operated continuously in the same family for 141 years until 1933 when competition from synthetic drug companies, new food and drug regulations, and the Great Depression caused the business to go bankrupt. After the apothecary shut down, a Baltimore ice cream merchant named L. Manuel Hendler bought it at auction. The Landmarks Society of Alexandria was established and reopened the site as a museum in 1939. The museum boasts a remarkable collection of herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass, bottles, medical equipment, dental equipment and surgical instruments, many still at their original locations. Originally from Leesburg, VA, Stabler came to Old Town with his wife and children. He quickly established himself selling to a range of people both in Old Town and the surrounding area – on display are company ledgers showing purchases from Martha Washington who asked for “…a quart bottle of his best castor oil, and a bill for it. Mt Vernon, 1802” and from granddaughter Nelly Custis who requested, “…2 oz. borax, 2 boxes of Lee’s pills, 2 boxes such pills as Mrs. Robinson uses, prepared by Mr. Stabler.” Other noteworthy customers included the Fairfaxes’, Washington’s personal doctor James Craik, James Madison, James Monroe, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Robert E. Lee. Besides medicines, Stabler operated much like a CVS or Walgreen’s, selling farm and garden equipment, soaps, perfumes, cigars, artist supplies, combs, and brushes as well. By the end of the Civil War, the apothecary became a wholesaler to over 500 drug stores in the DC area, West Virginia and North Carolina and kept the largest stock of drugs in the area by the early 20th century. Edward’s eldest son, William succeeded him followed by William’s brother-in-law, John Leadbeater who then added his name to the business and remained in family hands until its closure. Feel free to go inside and experience this unique snapshot of America’s oldest apothecary. As you leave, continue onto Fairfax St. for two blocks, crossing Prince and Duke Streets, to your next point of interest on your right side.
321 S Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
The heritage of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House dates from the early 18th century. Scottish Presbyterians were among the earliest settlers of Northern Virginia and many were the founders of Alexandria. As one of two pre-Revolutionary War-Era churches in Old Town, the Meeting House was founded in 1772. At the time, only congregations of the Church of England (Anglicans) were allowed to use the term “church” prior to American Independence. The places of worship of non-Anglicans had to use another term, hence the name “meeting house.” The Meeting House was completed in 1775. In 1835, the old building was largely destroyed by fire, but fortunately was repaired within two years. Following the Revolution, the Meeting House flourished under Reverend James Muir, pastor from 1789 to 1820. Muir was active in many facets of Alexandria society and had many ties with General Washington. He served as chaplain in the Masonic Lodge and as President of the Alexandria Library Company. As a trustee of the Alexandria Academy, Muir wrote to Washington, a generous contributor to the Academy, apologizing for not having informed him of how his earlier donations benefitted the Academy and ensured that future gifts would be followed by detailed explanations of their use. Washington, although not a Presbyterian, also attended services here, including one conducted by Rev. Muir for the National Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer issued by President Adams in 1798. Faced with potential war with France, Adams declared citizens of all faiths to pray that “our country may be protected from all the dangers which threatened it.” Muir led the Masonic service at Mount Vernon upon Washington’s death. Then, because of bad weather on December 29, 1799, precluded walking to Washington’s own Christ Church, Muir preached a memorial service at the Meeting House. The Meeting House bell rang in mourning for four days and nights until he was interred at his estate. On Washington’s Birthday in 1800, a charity sermon preached here inaugurated what would become a nationwide annual birthday celebration of the Father of Our Country. Interestingly, as you walk back to the adjacent cemetery from Fairfax St., a number of Washington’s friends and fellow officers who served under him are interred. They include Dr. James Craik, Reverend Muir, John Carlyle, Colonel Dennis Ramsay, and the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War. From the Meeting House, backtrack onto Fairfax St. until you reach the corner of Fairfax and Duke Streets.
300 S Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Make a right on Duke St., cross, and walk down until you see the house with the address number 210 on your right side. You'll also notice a plaque on the front.
210 Duke St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
This stunning brick house was the residence of Scottish-born surgeon Dr. James Craik. Built in 1796, after George Washington encouraged him to move to Alexandria, Craik practiced medicine in the front of the home while residing in the rear and on the upper floors. By the time Craik settled in, he already established his place in history. He was Washington’s personal physician, the Surgeon-General of the Continental Army, and was with Washington at nearly every battle from Great Meadows in the French and Indian War to Yorktown in the Revolutionary War. It has been recorded that he tended to the dying General Braddock at Fort Duquesne, tended to the Marquis de Lafayette’s wounds at Brandywine, and was at the death bed of John Custis, son of Martha Custis at Yorktown. At the time of Washington’s death, Dr. Craik was one of three doctors at the president’s bedside, and many consider him to be ironically responsible for Washington’s death by allowing the General to bleed out (a common but becoming an outdated process at the time) to treat his throat infection, ultimately weakening him. He lost about 40% of his blood. George famously whispered to Craik, “Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.” James received the General’s desk and chair in his will. Craik continued to reside here until his death in 1820. Note the attached flounder house to the left of the Craik residence. This was lived in and may have been built in 1790 by George Coryell. You may not be familiar with the name, but it is also linked to Washington’s story. When the General embarked on his audacious 1776 Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River into Trenton, the event took place on ferries owned and operated by the Coryell Family. Turn around and walk back up Duke St. to the corner.
300 S Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
219 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
207 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
You are now about to walk through and see one of the most picturesque stretches of Old Town. The 200 block of Prince Street where we stand is known as Gentry Row. It was named for the predominantly wealthy merchants who resided in these late 18th century Georgian and Federal style rowhouses. 209 Prince was the home of Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick, who came to Alexandria from Philadelphia in 1783. He was an eminent physician and a public health officer of Alexandria during an outbreak of yellow fever and smallpox. Under General Lighthorse Harry Lee, he commanded a troop of cavalry sent to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. As one of the founders of freemasonry, he succeeded Washington as Worshipful Master of the Alexandria Lodge, and he assisted in the Masonic ceremony of laying the US Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793. He was called by Dr. Craik as consulting physician at Washington’s deathbed. The President contracted a throat infection called “Quinsy” (today known as epiglottitis) after inspecting his Mount Vernon fields for a prolonged period outside in freezing weather. The resulting infection caused his throat to swell, making it hard to breathe. Diagnosing his condition, Dr. Dick recommended a new procedure called a tracheotomy to restore breathing, but Dr. Craik overrode his decision for the more primitive practice of “bloodletting” whereby lancets were used to puncture flesh and allow for blood to come out. Unfortunately the loss of blood sped up the death process with the General passing away at 10:20pm on December 14, 1799. He was 67 years old. According to an old custom, Dr. Dick stopped the hands of George’s bedchamber clock at that time. The clock was later presented to the Masonic Lodge and is now housed at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial as one of their most prized possessions. Elisha presided over the Masonic funeral service of Washington at Mount Vernon four days later. An amusing Dr. Dick story often told in Old Town involves the discovery of a peculiar dinner invitation authored by Dick in a treasure trunk inside a house attic. It was addressed to a friend, Philip Wanton who lived up the street. Written in rhyme, it says: If you can eat a good fat duck Come up with us and take pot luck, Of whitebacks we have got a pair So plump, so round, so fat, & fair A London Alderman would fight Through pies and tarts to get one bite. Moreover, we have beef or pork That you may use your knife and fork. Come up precisely at two o’clock The door shall open at your knock. The day tho’ wet, the streets tho’ muddy To keep out the cold we'll have some toddy. And if, perchance, you should get sick, You'll have at hand Yours E. C. Dick This invitation is on exhibit at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary. Now head immediately next door to 207 Prince St.
207 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
The land on which this house was built was purchased by Colonel William Fairfax at an auction sale of lots, held at the first meeting of the Alexandria Trustees on July 13, 1749. Colonel Fairfax, who came to Virginia to supervise the vast Northern Neck estate of his cousin Lord Thomas Fairfax of Belvoir, completed the house in 1752. The following year, it was deeded to his son George Fairfax and his wife Sally. George’s sister, Anne, married Lawrence Washington and settled at Mount Vernon. Although the death of George Washington’s father early on in his life proved difficult for him, it was through his half-brother and Colonel Fairfax that the young George cemented friendships and social connections the propelled him to prominence as a surveyor, soldier, gentleman farmer, and politician. Washington studied surveying under George Fairfax and in 1748 accompanied him on a journey to the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley to survey the landholdings of Lord Thomas Fairfax. By age 17, he became a professional surveyor, considered to be one of the most prestigious occupations in the colonies. Also this early experience in Western lands qualified Washington to grow his landholdings, which led to an increase in both wealth and influence. It also qualified him for his early military assignments. George Fairfax was one of the first Trustees of Alexandria. He represented Fairfax County in the House of Burgesses and took an active role in town affairs, until 1773 when he and his wife went to England to settle an inheritance suit. The Fairfaxes left Washington with power of attorney to oversee their interests in Virginia which he did until his appointment as General of the Continental Army two years later. When Revolution began, the Fairfaxes, being loyalists, remained in England and never returned to America. Fast forward to the 20th century…this was the first home restored in Old Town when Gay Montague Moore and her husband Charles Beaty Moore purchased it in 1929. The couple helped pioneer the preservation movement in America, and were widely credited with starting the movement in Old Town. In the 1940’s, Mrs. Moore published her history of Alexandria and established the first annual tour of historic Old Town houses, which included this one. Proceed on Prince Street until you reach the next block, a cobblestone and tree-lined beauty.
111 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
Considered Old Town’s most photogenic street, the 100 block of Prince St. between Union and Lee Streets is known as Captain’s Row. The block draws its name from the sea captains who docked their ships at the Alexandria wharves and built their Federal-style rowhomes at the foot of the street. Most of the original houses on the north side were built by Captain John Harper and the south side by Colonel George Gilpin, both friends of General Washington. Originally from Philadelphia, Harper moved to Old Town and set up shop as a flour and wheat dealer. During the Revolution, he supplied various military accessories to several Virginia military companies. His son, William served under Washington. At the time of his death, Harper left the houses on this block to his children (He had 29! 20 with his first wife and 9 with his second). In addition to being a merchant, builder, surveyor, and military officer, Gilpin was Old Town’s Harbor Master and owned a warehouse on Union Street. He’s credited with surveying and overseeing the recutting of the slope and backfilling much of the riverfront to expand Alexandria’s shoreline. Even after Harper and Gilpin, most houses continued to be owned and rented out by sailors and sea captains. These days, they’re million-dollar homes. As with the cobblestones, local folklore says these were brought over from England as ballast on ships and were laid out by captured Hessians, German mercenaries hired to fight for the British during the Revolution. Sorry to tell you, this is not the case. The street was not paved until 1795, over a decade after the war ended after the town council authorized a lottery to pay for the paving. Most of the stones were actually pulled from the Potomac River. Once you finish admiring and taking selfies of this historic block, continue on Prince St crossing Union St. Head down another block until you arrive at Strand St.
1 Prince St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
2 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
The landscape of today’s waterfront gives the impression that this area has always been a perfect spot to unwind whether it’s strolling on the trails, admiring the art inside the Torpedo Factory, al fresco dining, boating on the Potomac, listening to live music, or celebrating Founder’s Day or Independence Day. Yet this peaceful setting hides the history of a thriving port, one that Washington would have been familiar with. Docks, warehouses, wharves, and factories brought prosperity with the Potomac River being the lifeblood of the city’s wealth and energy. It was this 385 mile long river that permeated Washington’s entire life. As a teenager, he surveyed Lord Fairfax’s lands traveling west along the Potomac and then up into the Ohio Valley. He would traverse the same region in his twenties during his French and Indian War campaigns. He was impressed with what he saw and never forgot it. Prior to the Revolution, he amassed more than 20,000 of the 70,000 acres he would eventually own in the Western frontier as reward for his surveying work and military service. Furthermore, his Mount Vernon estate lay along the Potomac and he devoted much time between the end of the Revolution and his presidential election to a plan to use the Potomac to improve travel to the interior of the nation and specifically to use it as a “golden highway” to open the Ohio Valley and enable its vast raw materials to be shipped to eastern cities and seaports. This would not only benefit the Potomac region but it would increase trade and prosperity and keep the states economically and politically unified. In 1785, he organized the Potomac Company and was elected its first president. Two of his wartime aides, John Fitzgerald and George Gilpin were named co-directors. The company was tasked with developing a series of roads, canals, and locks to link the Potomac and Ohio Rivers to enhance navigability and speed up the transport of materials and people between East and West. Ultimately, the company cleared channels and built canals and locks to bypass the rapids and gorges at Little Falls, Maryland and Great Falls, Virginia which were engineering marvels for its time. Washington’s vision merged with another post-war dreams of his – bringing the Nation’s Capital to the Potomac. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, plans were submitted to have such a city be created. Great emphasis was laid on the importance of a site that would place the seat of government far enough inland to afford protection from potential hostile attacks. But it was also deemed essential to select a place that would offer a means of communication with the Western frontier (the Ohio), which was of great interest to Washington. Finally in 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act which granted Washington that responsibility of establishing the permanent capital that ultimately became Washington, DC. With Washington’s passing in 1799, he did not see the completion of the capital city as well as the Potomac Company improvements in 1802. For a time, the company increased trade with boats shipping cargoes of flour, pig iron, beef, pork, tobacco, and even cast iron stoves. Unfortunately rising debts, bad weather, and labor shortages led to failure and was eventually taken over in 1828 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Company, only to be rendered obsolete by the railroads. However, Washington’s vision for a strong nation shaped the development of inland navigation and opened up the interior of the United States. We can say it all started right here in Old Town Alexandria. You’ve reached the conclusion of George Washington’s Old Town Alexandria tour. We’ve certainly covered a lot of ground today and I hope you enjoyed learning about Alexandria’s most famous resident and the mark he left here in this historic community. Feel free to explore more of the waterfront and its adjacent streets. Once again, my name is Christian Mirasol. I appreciate you taking this adventure with me and I look forward to exploring more of the DC area with you. Cheers!