Seaport in Virginia - George Washington's Alexandria
by Gay Montague Moore
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Transcriber's note:

Characters immediately after a caret (^) were superscripts in the original.



George Washington's Alexandria



Drawings by Worth Bailey

Photographs by Walter Wilcox

The University Press of Virginia Charlottesville

The University Press of Virginia

Copyright (C) 1949 by The Rector and the Visitors of the University of Virginia

Second printing 1972

ISBN: 0-8139-0183-9 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-188711

Printed in the United States of America





Twenty years ago on a hot and sultry July afternoon, my husband and I started to Mount Vernon to spend the day. On our return to Washington, we lazily drove through the old and historic town of Alexandria—and bought a house!

The town at once became of vital interest to us. We spent months and years going through every vacant building into which we could force an entrance. Our setter dogs could point an empty doorway as well as a covey of quail, and seemed as curious about the interiors as we were ourselves. I became obsessed with a desire to know the age of these buildings and something of those early Alexandrians who had lived in them.

Old maps and records littered my desk. Out of the past appeared clerks on high stools wielding quill pens and inscribing beautiful script for me to transpose into the story of one of America's most romantic and historic towns. It has been impossible to write about every house in Alexandria—even about every historic house. I tried to recall the old town as a whole. A succession of hatters, joiners, ships' carpenters, silversmiths, peruke makers, brewers, bakers, sea captains, merchants, doctors and gentlemen, schoolteachers, dentists, artisans, artists and actors, began to fill my empty houses. Ships, sail lofts, ropewalks, horses, pigs, and fire engines took their proper places, and the town lived again as of yore—in my imagination.

Everywhere I turned I found General Washington: as a little boy on his brother Lawrence's barge bringing Mount Vernon tobacco to the Hunting Creek warehouse; on horseback riding to the village of Belle Haven; as an embryo surveyor carrying the chain to plot the streets and lots. He was dancing at the balls, visiting the young ladies, drilling the militia, racing horses, launching vessels, engaging workmen, dining at this house or that, importing asses, horses, and dogs, running for office, sitting as justice; sponsoring the Friendship Fire Company, a free school, the Alexandria Canal, or other civic enterprises. He was pewholder of Christ Church and master of the Masonic lodge. To town he came to collect his mail, to cast his ballot, to have his silver or his carriage repaired, to sell his tobacco or his wheat, to join the citizenry in celebrating Independence. His closest friends and daily companions were Alexandrians. The dwellings, wharves, and warehouses of the town were as familiar to him as his Mount Vernon farm.

In Alexandria Washington took command of his first troops. From the steps of Gadsby's Tavern he received his last military review, a display of his neighbors' martial spirit in a salute from the town's militia. An Alexandrian closed his eyes, and Alexandrians carried his pall.

Washington belongs to Alexandria as Alexandria belongs to him. This is George Washington's Alexandria.


Alexandria, Virginia September 1949







1: William Ramsay: Romulus of Alexandria 52

2: John Carlyle and His House 62

3: The Married Houses 71

4: The Fairfaxes of Belvoir and Alexandria 77

5: The George William Fairfax House 87

6: John Gadsby and His Famous Tavern 99

7: The Michael Swope House 112

8: Dr. William Brown and His Dwelling 119

9: The Peruke Shop 127

10: Historic Christ Church 131

11: The Presbyterian Meetinghouse 139

12: Presenting The Sun Fire Company 147

13: Captain John Harper and His Houses 156

14: Dr. Elisha C. Dick and the Fawcett House 162

15: The Benjamin Dulany House 173

16: Dr. James Craik and His Dwelling 184

17: Alexandria's Old Apothecary Shop 195

18: Spring Gardens 197

19: William Fitzhugh and Robert E. Lee 202

20: George Washington's Tenements 210

21: The Georgian Cottage 217

22: The Vowell-Snowden House 222

23: The Edmund Jennings Lee House 225

EPILOGUE: Washington in Glory—America in Tears 230



24: The Yeaton-Fairfax House 232

25: The Lafayette-Lawrason-Cazenove House 239

26: Enter the Quaker Pedagogue: Benjamin Hallowell 247

27: The Alexandria Lyceum 254

28: The Sea Captain's Daughter and Her House 259

Acknowledgments 263

Chapter References 265

Bibliography 272

Index 275


CHAPTER 1: Ramsay house. After restoration plans by Milton L. Grigg.

CHAPTER 2: Keystone from Carlyle House, basement level.

CHAPTER 3: John Dalton's frame house. Hypothetical restoration with false front removed.

CHAPTER 4: Fairfax coat of arms. From Belvoir fireback. Preserved in the Mount Vernon collection.

CHAPTER 5: George William Fairfax house, south facade.

CHAPTER 6: John Gadsby's famous hostelry and tavern sign, "Bunch of Grapes."

CHAPTER 7: Michael Swope house, showing flounder type ells.

CHAPTER 8: Dr. William Brown house, west facade.

CHAPTER 9: Peruke shop. Hypothetical restoration with false front removed. Showing an Alexandria alley house adjoining.

CHAPTER 10: Christ Church through open gates of churchyard.

CHAPTER 11: Presbyterian meetinghouse before fire of 1835 and subsequent enlargement. From an old print.

CHAPTER 12: Fire engine of Friendship Fire Company, said to have been presented by George Washington. This old rotary type pumper is preserved in the Maryland Building at Druid Hill Park, Baltimore.

CHAPTER 13: Ship model, believed to represent the Lexington owned and commanded by Captain James MacKenzie, who presented it to the Alexandria Library Association.

CHAPTER 14: Fawcett house, south facade.

CHAPTER 15: Benjamin Dulany house, south facade.

CHAPTER 16: Dr. James Craik house, north facade.

CHAPTER 17: Old Apothecary Shop Museum and adjoining antique shop.

CHAPTER 18: Spring Gardens, north facade.

CHAPTER 19: Robert E. Lee house, south facade.

CHAPTER 20: George Washington's tenements, appearance before remodeling.

CHAPTER 21: Flounder house of the type said to have been the nucleus of the Georgian Cottage. Example shown (demolished 1944) stood on the grounds of the Alexandria Hospital.

CHAPTER 22: Vowell-Snowden house, east facade.

CHAPTER 23: Edmund I. Lee house, showing wisteria-covered gallery.

EPILOGUE MEMORIAL MOTIF, incorporating swords used on Washington's casket, owned by Alexandria-Washington Lodge of Masons.

CHAPTER 24: Yeaton-Fairfax house, south facade.

CHAPTER 25: Lafayette-Lawrason-Cazenove house and doorway detail.

CHAPTER 26: Alexandria Boarding School (1834) of Professor Hallowell. From an old print.

CHAPTER 27: Alexandria Lyceum, classic portico.

CHAPTER 28: Wax flowers under glass dome, made by Melissa Hussey Wood.


An Account of the First Century of The Seaport of Alexandria


In the middle of the seventeenth century when the English King, Charles II, was generously settling Virginia land upon loyal subjects, what is now the port of Alexandria was part of six thousand acres granted by the Royal Governor, Sir William Berkeley, in the name of His Majesty, to Robert Howsing. The grant was made in 1669 as a reward for bringing into the colony one hundred and twenty persons "to inhabit."

Howsing did not want this land but John Alexander did. He had surveyed the tract and knew its worth. Howsing doubtless thought himself well out of it when Alexander paid six hundredweight of tobacco and took it off his hands within a month.[1]

The growth and development of the colony of Virginia into a great agricultural population occupied in the cultivation of tobacco was not at all what the London Company had in mind. It visualized a colony of towns. But the possibilities offered by the great rivers emptying into Chesapeake Bay and the development of the tobacco trade were responsible for a civilization unique to Englishmen. True that the establishment of towns as trading centers was a recognized need—generally agitated by the Burgesses and planters from interested motives—but little came of it. Planters whose lands and domiciles lined the Virginia waterways found the direct trade with English ships a facile, if expensive, convenience. It was so easy to dispose of a cargo of tobacco and receive at one's door in return delivery of a neat London sofa, greatcoat, or a coach and harness. So instead of towns, great tobacco warehouses were built at convenient centers where tobacco was collected, inspected, and shipped. Such a warehouse was established by act of Assembly in 1730 and 1732[2] at the mouth of Great Hunting Creek, where it empties into the Potomac River, on the land of Hugh West, Sr. (a member of the Alexander clan) and where there was already a ferry to the Maryland side of the river. Almost immediately a little village grew up—a group of small houses and a school—known then as Belle Haven.

Tobacco was currency in the colony, tendered as such, and it constituted the first wealth. Salaries and fees were paid in tobacco, fines were levied in tobacco; it was the medium of exchange in England as well as in Virginia. When the colonists wrote the word, they used a capital T!

His Majesty's government of the New World was much occupied with the cultivation, housing, and transportation of this natural weed. The importance attached to tobacco is best illustrated by a most extraordinary law. When Englishmen, whose homes are their castles, permitted the right of search of citizens' private dwellings, some idea of the value of this commodity may be realized. The Burgesses resolved early "that any Justice of Peace who shall know or be informed of any Package of Tobacco of less than——weight made up for shipping off, shall have power to enter any suspected House, and by night or by day and so search for, and finding any such Package, to seize and destroy the same; and moreover the Person in whose Possession the same shall be found, shall be liable to a Penalty."[3] Inspectors of tobacco held their appointments under the King; theirs was the responsibility of watching the crop, estimating its yield and weight, maintaining the standard of quality and inspecting the packing. Moreover, no tobacco could be "bought or sold, but by Inspector's Notes, under a Penalty both upon the Buyer and Seller."[4]

In 1742 the Burgesses, lower house of Virginia's Parliament, in session at Williamsburg, became exercised about the tobacco trade and "Resolved, That an humble address of this house be presented to His Majesty, and a Petition to the Parliament of Great Britain; representing the distressed state and decay of our Tobacco Trade, occasioned by the Restraint on our Export; which must, if not speedily remedied, destroy our Staple; and there being no other expedient left for Preservation of this Valuable Branch of the British Commerce, to beseech His Majesty and His Parliament, to take the same into Consideration; and that His Majesty may be graciously pleased to grant unto his subjects of this Colony, a Free Export of their Tobacco to Foreign Markets directly, under such Limitations, as to His Majesty's Wisdom, shall appear Necessary."[5]

From 1742 a series of petitions from the inhabitants of Prince William and Fairfax[6] counties, asking authority from the Assembly at Williamsburg to erect towns in the county, were presented to the Burgesses. Several years passed before any notice was taken of these requests.

At a General Assembly, begun and held at the College in Williamsburg on Tuesday, November 1, 1748 (sixteen years after the establishment of the warehouse at Hunting Creek) in the twenty-second year of the reign of George II, a petition was presented from "the inhabitants of Fairfax in Behalf of Themselves and others praying that a Town may be established at Hunting Creek Ware House on Potomack River."[7] On Tuesday, April 11, 1749, a bill for establishing a town at Hunting Creek Warehouse, in Fairfax County, was read for the first time.

The bill went through the regular proceedings and was referred to Messrs. Ludwell, Woodbridge, Hedgeman, Lawrence Washington, Richard Osborne, William Waller, and Thomas Harrison. On April 22, the ingrossed bill was read the third time, and it was "resolved that the Bill do pass. Ordered, that Mr. Washington do carry the Bill to the Council for their concurrence."[8] On May 2, 1749 the bill came back from the Council (the upper house) with additional amendments to which the Council desired the house's concurrence. Washington was again sent up to the Council with the approved amendments, and on Thursday, May 11, 1749, Governor Gooch commanded the immediate attendance of the house in the Council chamber. The Speaker, with the house, went up accordingly; and the Governor was pleased to give his assent to the bill "for erecting a town at Hunting Creek Ware House, in the County of Fairfax."[9]

The act stated that such a town "would be commodious for trade and navigation, and tend greatly to the best advantage of frontier inhabitants."[10] Within four months after passage of the act, sixty acres of land belonging to Philip Alexander, John Alexander, and Hugh West, "situate, lying and being on the South side of Potomac River, about the mouth of Great Hunting Creek, and in the County of Fairfax, shall be surveyed and laid out by the surveyor of the said County ... and vested in the Right Honorable Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the Honorable William Fairfax, Esq., George Fairfax, Richard Osborne, Lawrence Washington, William Ramsay, John Carlyle, John Pagan, Gerard Alexander, and Hugh West, of the said County of Fairfax, Gentlemen, and Philip Alexander of the County of Stafford, Gentleman, and their successors in trust for the several purposes hereinafter mentioned."[11]

These same gentlemen were "constituted and appointed directors and trustees, for designing, building ... the town"[12] and the trustees and directors or any six of them were to have the power to "Meet as often as they shall think necessary, and shall lay out the said sixty acres into lots and streets not exceeding half an acre of ground in each lot; and also set apart such portions of the said land for a market place, and public landing as to them shall seem convenient; and when the said town shall be so laid out, the said directors and trustees shall have full power and authority to sell all the said lots, by public sale or auction, from time to time, to the highest bidder so as no person shall have more than two lots."[13] The money arising from the sale was to be paid to the two Alexanders and to Hugh West, the proprietors.

It was further enacted that purchasers of every lot or lots should "within two years next after the date of the conveyance for the same, erect, build and finish on each lot so conveyed, one house of brick, stone or wood, well framed of the dimensions of twenty feet square, and nine feet pitch, at the least or proportionably thereto if such grantee shall have two lots contiguous, with a brick or stone chimney ... and if the owner of any such lot shall fail to pursue and comply with the directions herein prescribed for the building and finishing one or more house or houses thereon, then such lots upon which such houses shall not be so built and finished shall be revested in the said trustees, and shall and may be sold and conveyed to any other persons whatsoever, in the manner before directed, and shall revest and be sold as often as the owner or owners shall fail to perform, obey and fulfill the directions aforesaid, and the money arising from the sale of such lots as shall be revested and sold applied to such public use for the common benefit of the inhabitants of the said town as to them shall seem most proper; and if the said inhabitants of said town shall fail to obey and pursue the rules and orders of the said directors in repairing and mending the streets, landing, and public wharfs, they shall be liable to the same penalties as are inflicted for not repairing the highways in this Colony."[14]

The county surveyor wrote on July 18, 1749:

By Virtue of an Act of the General Assembly ... I, the Subscriber did Survey and lay off sixty acres of land to be for the said town, and divided the same into lotts, streets, etc., as per the plan thereof

JOHN WEST, JR. Dept. S.F.C.[15]

George Washington had been living with his half-brother, Lawrence, at Mount Vernon for some time and studying engineering under Mrs. Lawrence Washington's brother, Colonel George William Fairfax. It is a safe assumption that the three young men sailed up the Potomac numerous times to see the layout for the prospective new town; or, that wanting an afternoon's ride, they set their horses towards Belle Haven. It was not a strange journey. For years the Hunting Creek warehouse had handled tobacco from Mount Vernon, Belvoir, Gunston Hall, and the neighboring estates. Tradition has it in Alexandria that Washington aided John West when he was struggling through the underbrush and tree stumps staking out the lots. So familiar did the embryo engineer become with the future town site that he drew a map, and added the names of lot purchasers to the side of his drawing.[16]

News traveled throughout the colony, from the Tidewater to the Shenandoah, of the town to be built near the Hunting Creek warehouses. Advertisements were inserted in the colony's gazettes. Auction of lots was to take place on the site, in the month of July, on the thirteenth day.

On the morning of the sale people on horseback began pouring into the village of Belle Haven from all the nearby plantations and estates. Tidewater was represented by Ralph Wormley of Rosegill in Middlesex; from Westmoreland came Augustine Washington; from Fredericksburg, William Fitzhugh; from Gunston Hall, George Mason; from Belvoir, the two Colonels Fairfax; and from Mount Vernon, young George Washington and his half-brother, Augustine, up for the proceedings.

Lawrence Washington was not present, possibly away in England at the time. His brother, Augustine, however, stood proxy and the letter in which he reported the day's proceedings throws a new light upon the sale. It is believed never to have been published; here is the portion relating to the Alexandria auction:

Mount Vernon July 19th 1749

D^r Brother

I have this day returned from Goose Creek, and the Vessel by whom this comes being under way alows one but a short time to write. As to your family I need only to say that they are well as my Sister &c wrote to you by the same ship whilst I was up the Country. You have a very fine prospect for a Crop of Corn & I am in hopes you have made a worse Crop of Tob^o than you'll make this year if the fall is Seasonable, but that depends very much upon the fall. As to Belhaven or Alexandria I understand my Brother George has left much to say upon that head. I purchased you two lots near the water upon the Main street, as every one along the rode will be trough that street. I thought they would be as agreeable to you as any, as M^r Chapman was determined upon having the Lot on the point. I had a Plan & a Copy of the Sale of the Lots to send you, but as my Broth^r has sent both & I am [torn] very exact, I need not trouble you with any more; you will see by the amount of the Sale that your part cleared three hundred & eighty three pistoles [torn] sensible if Alexander had Stood to the sale of them he would not have made half the Sum by th [torn] every one seem'd to encourage the thing, upon y^r and M^r Chapman's account, as they were sensible what you did was through a Publick Spirit & n [torn] of interest; the reason the lots sold so high was River side ones being sett up first which were purchased at a very extravagant price by the prop [illegible] Your two, M^r Carlyles M^r Dortons M^r Ramseys [illegible] M^r Chapmans sold at different prices, as you may se by the Sale, but we agreed before the Sale to give any Price for them & to strike them upon an average so that by adding them up & dividing them by five you will se what your two lots Cost. M^r Chapman was obliged to pay Phil Alexander the money for your & his bond last Stafford Court (before the Sale) or other wise was to have George the Second upon his back. M^r Chapman took into Partnership M^r Ramsey Carlyle & Dorton, Ramsey has a fourth, Dorton & Carlyle the other fourth....

The price is L10 12s. 10d.

Here assuredly are the circumstances surrounding the plan of the town in the youthful George Washington's hand, still preserved among the Washington papers in the Library of Congress, as indeed is the relevant letter. If this was not the actual map sent by George to Lawrence, it most certainly was the copy which he retained for his personal files of the eighty-four lots divided by seven streets running east and west; and three north and south, checkerboard fashion, which comprised the contemplated town.

The bell was rung. Business got under way. John West was crier and announced that the lots put up would be sold within five minutes. The hot crowd pressed in to hear and see all that took place. The disturbed dust blanketed man and beast.

Bidding was brisk; and twenty-four lots were sold in short order. Among the first day's purchasers, besides those mentioned above, were William Fitzhugh, the Honorable William Fairfax, and Colonel George Fairfax.

The trustees met again the next day, July 14, and wasted no time. At once seventeen lots were sold. The trustees agreed to adjourn "till 20th of September next,"[17] at which time the "deeds are to be executed for the above lots and the remaining lots to be sold, and that the Clerk prepare blank deeds for the same."[18]

As for the prices paid for the lots—it is surprising to find a foreign coin, the Spanish pistole, as the basic unit of currency. This was due to a situation where hard money was seriously lacking in colonial Virginia. As early as 1714 a general act had been passed to attract foreign specie, which was declared current according to weight. Thus the legal valuation of the pistole was slightly in excess of 21s. or approximately $4.34.[19] Its purchasing power in the eighteenth century was about five times as great as today. Lots purchased at auction on the first day brought from 16 to 56-1/2 pistoles. On the second day, they went for as little as six pistoles, the highest bidder for that day being Henry Salkeld, who purchased lots Nos. 38 and 39 for 23 pistoles (present-day normal evaluation about $282.00).


For many months the trustees were primarily concerned with the disposal of the lots and "advertisements were set up to that purpose,"[20] in the gazettes. Sales were numerous, houses began to go up speedily. By January 1750, eighty lots had been sold with two lots set apart for the town house and market square. In August 1751, Colonel Carlyle was "appointed to have a good road cleared down to Point Lumley and to see the streets kept in repair."[21] On July 18, 1752, the trustees "Ordered on Coll. George Fairfaxe's motion that all dwelling houses from this day not begun or to be built hereafter shall be built on the front and be in a line with the street as chief of the houses now are, and that no gable or end of such house be on or next to the street, except an angle or where two streets cross, otherwise to be pulled down."[22]

While the trustees were feverishly building the new port, the Assembly at Williamsburg was discharging the purchasers of marsh lots from the necessity of building on and improving them; approving the proposition "for appointing fairs to be kept in the Town of Alexandria."[23] Fairs and lotteries were the principal source of municipal income in early years; the journals of the House of Burgesses contain frequent requests for such from many of the Virginia towns.

On March 10, 1752, a committee reporting to the House of Burgesses "Resolved That it is the opinion of the Committee that the Proposition from the County of Fairfax, in opposition to the proposition from that county, for appointing the Court of the said County to be held at the Town of Belhaven, be rejected."[24] A somewhat complicated manner of ordering the court to be held at Alexandria.

Four days later the Burgesses rejected "the proposition from the Town of Alexandria for altering the name of that town to Belhaven."[25] There had been much talk about this, and for long "The Town at Hunting Creek" was the only designation. The Alexander family, which was both numerous and important (the head of the clan bearing the title Lord Stirling), and the bulk of the land upon which the town was built having been a part of its patent,[26] it was deemed appropriate to name the new town Alexandria. Save for an occasional slip in some old letter (Washington dated some letters Bellehaven) Alexandria is the name by which the town was called since this time.

By 1753 a village had become a town with the market place located exactly in the middle. The first courthouse of frame was built on the east side of lot No. 43, at the intersection of Cameron and Fairfax Streets. South of the Town House on Fairfax stood the jail, stocks, and whipping post for the use of those who failed to keep the law. Directly behind these buildings the market square, or green, occupied all of lot No. 44. Here the town militia drilled, here were held the carnivals, and public gatherings, and here was the larder of Alexandria. To this day the market square caters to the appetites of hungry townsmen. Across Royal Street, facing the square, stood the City Tavern or Coffee House; southward on the same side of the street was the Royal George, after the Revolution called George Tavern. Already substantial wharves and warehouses appeared along the water front, and private houses and stores were beginning to fill the empty lots.[27]


As the passage of four years marked physical growth in Alexandria, so it made a difference between a lad barely seventeen and an officer in His Majesty's Militia. Early in November 1753, Major George Washington, aged twenty-one, and an Adjutant General of the Colony, was sent by the Royal Governor to the Ohio to "visit" the commandant of the French forces and deliver a letter asking him to withdraw from the lands "known to be the property of the Crown of Great Britain." Up to town came Major Washington to busy himself acquiring the "necessaries" for the expedition. Once equipped, he set out from Alexandria and was gone about two months, returning on January 11, 1754. January 16 found him in Williamsburg making his report to the Governor. The report was of such a nature that His Excellency alerted the Virginia troops; it was deemed of such importance as to be published in both Williamsburg and London gazettes.

When Washington returned he carried a commission from His Excellency of a lieutenant colonelcy in the Virginia regiment "whereof Joshua Fry, Esquire, was Colonel," and joined his command in Alexandria. The market square took on a militant atmosphere. "Two Companies of Foot, commanded by Captain Peter Hog and Lieutenant Jacob Van Braam, five subalterns, two Sergeants, six Corporals, one Drummer and one hundred and twenty Soldiers, one Surgeon, one Swedish Gentleman, who was a volunteer, two wagons, guarded by one Lieutenant, Sergeant, Corporal and twenty-five soldiers," were all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Washington.[28]

Many brave young men newly outfitted in the colorful uniforms of His Majesty's Militia, short clothes and white wigs, drilling in the market square, swaggering around the town, filling up the new City Tavern. Dances and dinners for the officers were the order of the day. Then came the command for Washington to join Fry in defending British possessions against the French, who had continued their depredations despite the earlier diplomatic parley, and had not removed from the lands claimed as the property of Great Britain.

Came April 2, and from the market place crowded with citizens, "Every thing being ready," the commander, aged twenty-two, gave the order and the company set forth to the strident beats of one drummer.[29] As the creaking wheels of the two wagons and the tramp of marching feet faded out of hearing, Alexandria had sent her sons off to her first war.

While Lieutenant Colonel Washington was occupied in so spectacular a fashion, the town trustees were not without their troubles, also. People were delinquent about complying with the Assembly laws. In June 1754, the trustees ordered that various lots not built upon be put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder. They were in earnest about this dereliction on the part of purchasers, and seven lots were forfeited at this time. Among those paying such a penalty was George Washington's half-brother, Augustine Washington.

By December 1754, public buildings were well under way, the courthouse lot was ordered "paled in with Posts and Rails in a workman-like manner," and John Carlyle, John Dalton, George Johnston and William Ramsay were appointed to see what was necessary to be done to the finishing of the courthouse.

Within the year, his expedition defeated, Washington was back at Mount Vernon, and very irritated by army orders demoting colonials of the same grade and rank below the British regulars. Despite a vote of commendation by the Burgesses and the sum of L50 voted for his services, he threw up his commission.

The French continued hostilities, stirring up the Indians and causing no end of trouble. His Majesty's government became sufficiently exercised to dispatch an officer of the line, Major General Edward Braddock, two warships in which were stowed a fine arsenal of powder, rifles, and cannon, and two regiments of regulars. Word reached Alexandria in February of Braddock's arrival in Williamsburg and that he and the Governor were in conference. The first result of this conference was a letter to "Mr. George Washington" written on March 2, 1755, and dispatched in the person of General Braddock's aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Robert Orme, requesting the presence of Mr. Washington as a member of the General's military family. This, thought the Governor and the General, would do away with any unpleasantness due to difference in rank. A second decision reached in Williamsburg was one that resounded along the Atlantic seaboard—to call a conference of the colonial governors to consider ways, and especially means, of waging the coming campaign. Alexandria was chosen as a meeting place and the day set was April 14, 1755.

In the meantime, the English warships Sea Horse and Nightingale under command of Admiral Keppel arrived in Alexandria. Two of His Majesty's regiments disembarked from the sea-grimed ships and the Redcoats in formation marched to the "northwest of the town" led by Colonel Sir Peter Halket and Colonel Dunbar. The humbler citizens had never seen such a sight; neither had the Redcoats, and up went British noses for all things Colonial. The regulars promptly dubbed the militia "Bobtails."

After the exchange of several letters, Colonel Washington "volunteered" to go unpaid with General Braddock on the campaign, and he came to Alexandria to attend the governors' conference and whip his militia into shape. Again he occupied the City Tavern as headquarters.

All at once the town was overrun with governors, His Majesty's royal representatives. From Williamsburg came Dinwiddie; from Maryland, Governor Sharpe; from Massachusetts, Governor Shirley; from New York, Governor De Lancey; and from Pennsylvania, Governor Morris. Neither dress nor ceremony had yet been curtailed by the drabness of Democracy. Each governor arrived with a retinue of secretaries, attendants, and aides; each by coach, decorated in gilded scrolls and colorful arms, drawn by four to six horses; each governor resplendent in wig and powder, silken hose, coats of brocade, velvet or broadcloth, waistcoats of satin or damask, embroidered and braided, shirts of finest linen, betucked and belaced, and attended by servants in livery as colorful as their masters. The town was packed. Taverns were full, and private houses were put at the disposal of these visitors. Dinners and balls followed the serious councils of the day, which lasted until eleven or twelve o'clock at night. The market place rang with the continuous drilling of the Bobtails. Redcoats were everywhere. The ladies of the town vied with one another in presents of potted woodcock and delicious cake to the distinguished guests.

It has been one hundred and ninety-four years since the citizens of Alexandria were treated to the panoply of five of His Majesty's royal governors, two warships, and the presence of Major General Edward Braddock with Mr. George Washington as part of his military family. These days established the little seaport in history and furnished sights and subjects resulting in tales and traditions more firmly established than the printed word. Amid the scratching of quills and the dipping of snuff, the destiny, not only of this hemisphere but of the world, was changed, for the five governors assembled decided to tax the colonies to support Braddock's expedition. It was not a popular decision, and great difficulties arose in collecting the allotted sums. It was a fateful step which led eventually to revolt by the colonies.

The conference over, pomp and pageantry departed, but not before Mr. Washington and General Braddock had disagreed heartily on the fashion of waging warfare. The heavy cannon brought by the British were dumped overboard, notwithstanding, or were otherwise abandoned as too cumbersome for the long trek west. General Braddock purchased from Governor Sharpe of Maryland "an old English chariot and six horses" for the march.

On April 20 the Redcoats and Bobtails (six companies, two from Alexandria and the nearby countryside) set out. To Sir Peter Halket's regiment were assigned Captain Stephens', Captain Peyronny's and Captain Cock's Company of Rangers, and Captain Polson's Company of Artificers. The heavy coach lumbered over the rough country roads, shaking poor General Braddock almost to pieces and "greatly increased his discomfort." Mr. Washington, desiring time to arrange his private affairs at Mount Vernon, was unable to depart with his military family for eight days after they left.

This tragically ill-fated expedition resulted in heavy casualties. On July 9, Braddock was attacked unexpectedly near Fort Du Quesne by a body of French and Indians, some three hundred strong, which so surprised the British regulars they were struck with a "deadly panic" and ignominiously fled. "The officers behaved with incomparable bravery ... there being near 60 killed and wounded. The Virginian Companies behaved like men and died like Soldiers ... scarce 30 were left alive ... The General was wounded behind in the shoulder and into the Breast, of which he died three days after."[30] George Washington miraculously saved the army from complete rout. He afterwards collected his decimated Virginians and marched them back to the market square in Alexandria. The reception was a sad one.


The minutes of the trustees for 1755 announced that by this time the first frame courthouse was fenced—it had taken two years—and the gentlemen justices of Fairfax County, sitting on November 17, 1756, ordered John West, John Carlyle, and William Ramsay, Gentlemen, to be paid five thousand pounds of tobacco; John Doonas, Alexandria's first policeman, was to receive 120 pounds for patrolling twelve days.

For the next hundred years the great municipal interests were to be tobacco, wheat, and ships; the rapid and proper dispatching of the produce stored in the great warehouses occupying the river front; the housing and sale of the vast diversity of goods coming to anchor with each new sail. But in these earliest days, tobacco and ships to transport it were the motivating forces of the town.

Turning the pages of a journal of long ago, one gets this glimpse of the fit setting:

In the evening we returned down the river about fifteen miles to Alexandria or Belhaven, a small trading place in one of the finest situations imaginable. The Potomac above and below the town is not more than a mile broad, but it here opens into a large circular bay of at least twice that diameter. The town is built upon an arc of this bay; at one extremity of which is a wharf; at the other a dock for building ships; with water sufficiently deep to launch a vessel of any rate or magnitude.[31]

On May 19, 1760, George Washington "went to Alexandria to see Captn. Litterdale's ship launched, wch. went off extreamely well."[32] Again on October 5, 1768, he "went up to Alexandria after an early dinner to see a ship [the Jenny] launched, but was disappointed and came home."[33] Next day, the 6th, he "went up again, saw the ship launched; stayd all night to a Ball and set up all Night."[34] His expense account shows a loss of 19 shillings at cards for the evening.

Alexandria's importance as a seaport was phenomenal and after a few years it was ranking third in the New World—greater than New York, the rival of Boston. Master shipbuilders turned out vessels to sail any sea—manned, owned, and operated by Alexandrians. Down the ways of Alexandria shipyards glided as good vessels as could be built. From her ropewalks came the rope to hoist the sails made in her sail lofts. Chemists' shops specialized in fitting out ships' medicine boxes for the long voyages, and bakeshops packed daily thousands of ships' biscuits. Ship chandlers forsook older ports for the new one; planters rolled in tobacco in ever increasing bulk to fill the vessels crowding the harbor. With greater wealth came the means to fill the need and desire of Alexandrians for good clothes and fine furnishings. And so back to England with each cargo went orders for the newest taste and the latest fashion.

It took months, sometimes longer than a year, to complete an order for goods. Each voyage was a stupendous adventure. Ships with full cargoes often disappeared and were neither seen nor heard of again. George Washington's writings serve as a good history of Alexandria. His voluminous letters reveal what our first citizens needed, bought, and used, what various articles cost, and how business details were handled:

November 30, 1759

To Robert Cary & Company

Gentn: By the George and Captns Richardson and Nicks who saild with the Fleet in September last I sent invoices of such Goods as were wanting for myself Estate etc, but knowing that the latter unfortunately foundered at Sea soon after her departure from Virginia and that the former may probably have suffered by that Storm or some other accident, by which means my Letters &c would miscarry I take this oppertunity by way of Bristol of addressing Copies of them, and over and above the things there wrote for to desire the favour of you to send me a neat Grait (for Coal or small Faggots) in the newest taste and of a size to fit a Chimney abt. 3 feet wide and two Deep, and a fender suited to Ditto. Steel I believe are most used at present; also send me a New Market Great Coat with a loose hood to be made of Blew Drab or broad cloth with Straps before according to the present taste, let it be made of such cloth as will turn a good shower of Rain and made long, and fit in other respects for a Man full 6 feet high and proportionately made, possibly the Measure sent for my other cloths may be a good direction to these. Please to add also to the things ordered for Mrs. Dandridge 12 yds of Silver cold Armozeen or Ducape and cause it to be packed up with the Rest of her things charged with them. &ca.

Five days ago I dropt a letter at Williamsburg, to take the first Conveyance to you, desiring Insurance on 50 Hhds Tobo pr. the Cary since then I have got 4 more Inspected and all on Float ready to deliver at the Ships side. You will therefore Insure that Quantity and dispose of them in the best manner for Our Interest. If Captn. Talman uses that Dispatch in Loading of his Vessell, which I am sure he now has in his power to do this Tobo. wl come to a very good market, I hope.

It is almost as much trouble and expense getting Goods from any of the Rivers round to Potomack as the Original Charges of Shipping them amount to, unless they are committed to the charge of very careful Captains who has an Interest in forwarding. I should be glad therefore if you would take the oppertunity of some Ship to that River of sending my Goods for the Future.

Your favour of the 6th Augt. I have had the pleasure of receiving, and acknowledge myself particularly obliged to you for your polite Congratulations on my Marriage, as I likewise am for your Dispatch of my Goods.

I am Gentn.[35]

An invoice of goods of earlier date sent by the same firm for the use of George Washington contained 194 items. Wearing garments, ornaments for the chimney place, busts, drugs, sugar, carpenter's and plowman's tools, candy, a case of pickles containing anchovies, capers, olives, "salid oyl" and a bottle of India mangoes; tea, harness, saddles, corks, six pounds of perfumed powder, three pounds of the best Scotch snuff, ribbons, gloves, sword belt, nine dozen packages of playing cards, paint and brushes, one and one-half dozen bell glasses for the garden; one mahogany closet stool case in the newest taste, with place for chamber pot, etc.; soap, garden seeds, nuts and condiments, locks and two dozen H&L hinges and three pounds of bird lime, were but a few of the items listed.

In addition to his own orders, the General supervised the shopping for the two Custis children and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Dandridge. Not only were clothes and materials ordered, fine ivory combs, stockings, etc., but toys. Here is a selection made by the Cary firm—a child's fiddle, a coach and six in a box, a stable with six horses, a toy whip, a filigree watch, a neat enameled watch box, a corner cupboard and a child's huzzit [housewife].

General Washington was a Virginia gentleman who lived in a fashion similar to his neighbors; like orders, we may be sure, went from Alexandria, and like articles were bought and received into its homes. Perhaps the system was not always so direct, for the average townsman doubtless relied more upon local merchants as agents. Washington followed this course at various times, but until the American Revolution he rather steadfastly depended upon Robert Cary & Company of London.

With the growth of trade and population came the necessity for expansion of the town, and we see the Assembly approving the petition of the trustees and sundry inhabitants of the town of Alexandria in 1762, "Praying that an Act may pass to enlarge the Bounds of the said Town."[36] All lots save those in the marsh were then built upon.

On May 9, 1763, the trustees proceeded to sell the new lots, which had been added by act of Assembly. The town property was enhancing in value and for that reason the lots were sold with a twelve-month credit, hoping to increase the sale value. Forty-six lots were disposed of, among the purchasers being George Johnston, Robert Adam, Francis Lee, John Dalton, John Carlyle, and George Washington, who at thirty-one years of age became a bona fide citizen of Alexandria. The town which he had honored returned the compliment four years later when the city fathers meeting on December 16, 1766, "proceeded to elect as Trustee in the room of George Johnston, decd, and have unanimously chosen George Washington, Esq., as Trustee for the town aforesaid."[37]

Fifteen years after the laying out of the town, at a session of the House of Burgesses, November 5, 1764, in the fifth year of the reign of George III it was "Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Committee that the Petition of divers Proprietors of Lots, and other Inhabitants of the Town of Alexandria, in the County of Fairfax, praying that so much of the Act of Assembly for establishing the said Town as obliges the Purchasers of Lots therein to build and improve the same in a limited Time, may be repealed, and the Purchasers left at Liberty to build thereon when convenient to them, is reasonable."[38] George Washington found it convenient to build a house on one of his lots in 1769; the other was not built upon until almost thirty years later.

The prodigious development of the new port was accompanied by a growing civic pride and the demand for better public buildings. A story-and-a-half brick town hall was erected in 1759 by funds raised by lottery, tickets selling at ten shillings each, the trustees making themselves responsible for a sum adequate for the purpose. At the trustees' meeting of April 1767, John Dalton and John Carlyle produced an account of moving the courthouse amounting to L52 7s. 5-1/2d.; while William Ramsay presented his account for a "scheme of a lottery to build a Church and Market house" in the amount of L11 12s.[39] The new town house with its clerk's office and assembly room stood on the northeast corner of the square; nearby on Cameron Street stood the Fairfax Court House, which town promotion had brought to Alexandria. The church and market did not materialize so early.


Space in the lower floor of the town hall was provided for a grammar school soon after the completion of this building in 1760. Seven years later the town fathers found that the schoolhouse was so misused that repairs were urgent and minutes for the meeting of February 2, 1767, record how they considered it necessary to put it in better condition, "also to make some additions in order to make the upper room usefull not only for meeting of the Trustees but for such other purposes as may be thought necessary." Apparently a separate entrance for the schoolroom dates from this time; other improvements included the raising of the roof for greater utility upstairs. The trustees further resolved: "As it appears to us that the House has been very much injured by the negligence of the School Masters it is now determined that each Master give security to repair any injury that the House may sustain during the time they have it." Robert Adam and Thomas Fleming were appointed overseers of the property for a term of twelve months.

A grammar school reputed to have been supported by public funds was in existence at Belhaven in 1739, just ten years before Alexandria was founded. Presumably the Alexandria school of 1760 was put into operation under identical conditions and it may be that special classes beyond the mere rudiments of education were conducted for children whose families could pay extra tuition. Such a plan would closely approximate the tutorial arrangement prevailing on outlying plantations. For orphaned children and the very poor who had to earn while they learned, provision was usually made for a little schooling within the framework of the apprenticeship system, and church wardens were charged with responsibility for placing orphans with individuals to learn a useful occupation. At a court held March 18, 1770, "James Gameron, five years old the last of this month and Sarah Gameron three years old" were bound out "to William Wren who is to learn them to read and write, and the said James the trade of a shoe maker."[40]

After the Revolution, the town's educational system centered in the Alexandria academy, which stood on the east side of Washington Street between Wolfe and Wilkes, where now stands the present Washington Public School. The old Marsteller house, acquired by the public school system in 1882, when the present school building was erected, has by many been confused with the old academy building. The Alexandria academy was a one-story brick structure. Its cornerstone was laid September 7, 1785, by the Alexandria Lodge of Freemasons, Robert Adam, Esquire, Worshipful Master of the Lodge. Mrs. Powell, in her History of Old Alexandria, states that after the stone was laid "a gratuity was distributed among the workmen." The school was incorporated in 1786 by act of the Virginia Assembly and the trustees were to be chosen by those gentlemen who had contributed five or more dollars for the use of the academy, thirteen fit and able men to serve beginning in 1788. In the meantime, Washington, Dr. Brown, and twelve other generous public-spirited citizens were appointed by law as trustees until the annual elections should begin. The letter asking Washington to serve is extant.

General Washington, always a believer and a patron of learning, contributed for many years prior to his death, L50 annually toward a free department for poor students. In his will he left one thousand dollars or "20 shares of stock which I hold in the Bank of Alexandria, towards the support of a free school established at and annexed to the said Academy, for the purpose of educating such orphans or children of such poor and indigent persons as are unable to accomplish it with their own means, and who in the judgment of the trustees of the said Seminary are best entitled to the benefit of this donation."

By 1791 the school established by his bounty was caring for thirteen boy and seven girl pupils. One graduate, John Weylie, wrote to thank the General for his benevolence. This same young man later became tutor for the children of Dr. David Stuart. In January 1800, following Washington's death the month previous, the Alexandria council voted to provide a suit of mourning for each of the poor scholars educated at his expense that they might join in the memorial exercises scheduled for February 22.

George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence Augustine, sons of the General's deceased brother, Samuel, were both sent to the academy. They were boarded by Washington with one of the trustees, Samuel Hansen, who frequently reported to their uncle on their interests and behavior. In 1789, Hansen wrote to the General recommending for George one Cleon Moore as teacher of the violin at L12 per year.

These gentlemen were not as circumspect when students as was Lorenzo Lewis, who was cited in 1819 for "general deportment and propriety of conduct." Young Lewis was the son of Nelly Custis and Lawrence Lewis, the former Mrs. Washington's granddaughter and the General's ward, the latter the General's nephew. Robert E. Lee perchance might be included in this Washington family circle, by virtue of his subsequent marriage to the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, brother of Nelly. Lee attended the academy from about 1820 until 1824, and was remembered by his teachers as an exemplary scholar.

Education for the opposite sex was not overlooked. Through the interest and encouragement of Washington, Mrs. Eliza Harriot O'Conner opened an academy for young ladies as early as 1788. Quaintly worded announcements appearing in local gazettes early in the nineteenth century reveal an ever-increasing number of girls' schools.

Female scholars clad in blue worsted dresses, black aprons, muslin handkerchiefs, leather shoes and colored hose, capes, blue lined straw bonnets, sporting crimson ribbons, studied the exotic subjects of "Painting in inks and colors on 'tiffany.' Embroidered landscapes both plain and fanciful in chenile, gold and silver, wrought maps in 'ditto'—printed work in Tambour and needlework—made fringe and netting."


Alexandrians were not without their lighter side. There were plays in town at least as early as 1768, for on September 20 of that year George Washington took Mrs. Washington and the Custis children to Alexandria to see "The Inconstant, or, Way to Win." They remained overnight and the next day attended the theatre again to see "The Tragedy of Douglas." The cost of the two entertainments was given as L3 12s. 6d.

In 1789 the Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser announced the presentation of the "Tragedy of Jane Shore, with the musical farce of the Virgin Unmasked." Mr. McGrath opened the Alexandria Theatre for four seasons beginning in 1791. On November 6 he presented Garrick's comedy, "The Lying Valet" and on November 19, 1793, the American comedy, "The Contrast: or, the True Born Yankee." The theatre doors opened at six, and the curtain was raised promptly at half-past six—or so the announcement read, and it continued, "no money to be received by the Door-Keepers."

In 1797, Thomas Wade West, Manager of "The Virginia and South Carolina Comedians Companies" and Margaret, his wife, came to Alexandria for the purpose of erecting a theatre. A lot on the north side of Cameron Street, fronting thereon fifty-four feet, was purchased on July 8, 1797, from Thomas and Sarah Porter, the ground rental of which was 108 silver dollars yearly.

The patrons of this enterprise, some twenty-nine of the first citizens of Alexandria—among them Edmund I. Lee, William Herbert, Josiah Watson, Ludwell Lee, Elisha Cullen Dick, Joseph Riddle and Jonah Thompson—agreed with one another to contribute the sum of two hundred dollars each to be laid out and expended for the erection of a theatre upon the aforesaid piece of ground. The subscribers had free tickets of admission to every performance with the exception of benefits and charities. This was to continue in effect for one season after reimbursement at six per cent interest. Thomas Wade West agreed to furnish all the decorations, scenery and furniture to the value of L500. This was the New Theatre as shown on the early maps of the town.

Cockfights and horse racing, too, were popular, the latter attended by women and children. But in 1816 the council forbade these activities taking place within the town limits, and ruled that "every person who shall trim, heel, or pit any cock so fought and every owner of such cock consenting thereto and every person who shall bet on such a match or main shall severally forfeit and pay for every offense the sum of twenty dollars."[41] Since horse racing could not be easily secreted in cellars and walled gardens, no such drastic penalties accompanied that pertinent part of the act. Blooded horses were imported by John Carlyle as early as 1762. Alexandria races attracted the best horses in the Old Dominion. Famous Maryland and Tidewater stables participated in the Jockey Club races. George Washington was steward of the Alexandria Jockey Club. The gazettes were full of notices concerning the races and frequently gave pedigrees of certain horses advertised for sale or stud.

After the races, especially those of the Jockey Club, there was sure to be an Assembly Ball at one of the larger taverns, followed by a fine supper. In Gadsby's time the Jockey Club used his tavern as headquarters. After dining, the members were frequently entertained by "The Players" or "Jugglers and Tumblers." Maryland neighbors as well as nearby Virginians turned out for these festivities.

Fox hunting was indulged in frequently by Alexandria gentlemen who went often to Mount Vernon, Belvoir and to other estates near Alexandria for the sport.

Fairs and circuses from time to time filled the town with excitement. Feats of horsemanship, vaulting and dancing were performed every Fair Day during the visitation of Messrs. Pepin and Breschard in April 1810. The doors opened at half-past three and the performance commenced at half-past four; beginning with a Grand Military Manoeuvre by eight persons well mounted, and ending with the admired "Scene of the Domestic Horse" (by the famous Conqueror) who brought chairs and baskets when commanded, and the "Ladies Fireworks," composed by Mr. Condit.

Of course, there was much wining and dining out, followed by cards rendered more spicy when played for stakes. Taverns and oyster houses furnished recreation for those less affluent. Fields and streams furnished rare sport for fishermen; the successful fisherman or hunter could always dispose of his excess catch at the market. Fish fries were common entertainment.


As the population grew, the markets were abundantly supplied. Great vessels packed with ice for sale in the town tied up at the wharves; open spaces devoted to gardens and outbuildings gave way to dwelling houses, and the town became more compact. Twelve or more servants were necessary for the maintenance of large establishments, varying in number according to the size of the family and the house. There was generally a butler, who acted as major-domo, a cook and kitchenmaid, body servants or valets for the head of the house and the young gentlemen, a ladies' maid, chambermaid, nurse and nursemaids, a coachman, stable boy, gardener, yard boy and laundress.

During the first twenty years of the city's development, an entire block might contain not more than four homes. Each of these units functioned as a miniature and self-supporting estate, surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens and the usual outbuildings—necessaries, kitchen, dairy, ice house, smokehouse, fowl house, servant quarters and stable. The following advertisement appearing as late as 1828 illustrates the traditional layout:


An elegant two story Brick House, with kitchen, wash house, bath house, stable and carriage houses, an elegant garden, and a well of excellent water, a pump in the middle or centre of the square, a cistern for wash water and every convenience, equalled by few and exceeded by none of its size in Alexandria and suited only to a genteel family.

It stands on Prince Street. It will be let for one or more years as best suits the tenant and possession given at once.


In spring the gardens were prepared, the herring salted and packed. In summer great quantities of preserves, jellies, and pickles were put up for the long winter. At the first frost the smokehouses were filled with hams and great sides of bacon. Game was plentiful, and during the season venison, duck, partridge, wild turkey, and woodcock appeared in market and graced the tables of the well-to-do. With tea from China and India, coffee from Brazil, oil and condiments from Spain, sugar and fruits from the West Indies, Alexandrians fared sumptuously.

By 1770 Alexandria's tobacco trade had largely given way to wheat, and the local shipping merchants were finding their supplies farther and farther west in the valley of the Shenandoah. George Washington was one of the first planters on the upper Potomac to change his money crop from tobacco to wheat. He enlarged his mill and took advantage of the latest mechanical advances of his time. However successful he became as a wheat farmer, he never escaped the trials and grief caused by those middlemen, his agents. In 1767 he wrote a nine-page letter roundly berating Carlyle and Adam for the destruction of his bags and for delay in paying him for his wheat.

A list of merchants and factors doing business in Alexandria in 1775 emphasizes the transition from tobacco to wheat. Of twenty-one firms enumerated, fourteen were purchasers of wheat:

1. Hooe and Harrison—wheat purchasers. 2. Steward and Hubard—wheat purchasers. 3. Fitzgerald and Reis—wheat purchasers. 4. Harper and Hartshorne—wheat purchasers. 5. John Allison—wheat purchaser. 6. William Sadler—wheat purchaser. 7. Robert Adam and Co.—wheat purchasers. 8. Henby and Calder—wheat purchasers. 9. William Hayburne—wheat purchaser. 10. James Kirk—wheat purchaser. 11. George Gilpin—wheat purchaser, inspector of flour. 12. Thomas Kilpatrick—wheat purchaser, inspector of flour. 13. McCawlay and Mayes—import British goods which they sell wholesale. 14. William Wilson—seller of British goods who buys tobacco. 15. John Locke—seller of British goods who buys tobacco. 16. John Muir—seller of British goods who buys tobacco. 17. Brown and Finley—they import goods from Philadelphia and purchase tobacco and wheat. 18. Josiah Watson—he imports goods from Philadelphia and purchases tobacco and wheat. 19. Robert Dove and Co.—distillers. 20. Carlyle and Dalton—import Rum and Sugar. 21. Andrew Wales—brewer.[42]

It is said that Virginia wheat was the best to be procured and all Europe was a market for Alexandria flour. It was not long before the great wagons that had formerly carried wheat from Tidewater to Philadelphia and the Delaware found the Potomac port as good a market and a shorter journey. Numerous bakehouses appeared and Alexandria packed and shipped large quantities of bread and crackers along with flour to Europe and the Indies.

Alexandria had been a port of entry since 1779 and time was when the Potomac from mouth to port was so crowded with vessels that navigation was difficult. The early gazettes constantly referred to the crowded condition of the river. The water front seethed with activity. One finds the notice in a newspaper of 1786 of the arrival from St. Petersburg, Russia, of the ship Hunter of Alexandria. She was advertised to ply her trade between these two places. This ship was built, owned, and sailed by an Alexandrian, and was but one of many claiming Alexandria as home port. Far corners of the earth were united in this ancient harbor for a hundred years or more. "Commerce and Shipping" columns in the local journals were as well read then as are our "classifieds" today. Ships from China lay beside ships from Spain; flags from Holland, Jamaica, Portugal, Germany, France and Russia flaunted their gay colors. Private as well as public wharves were built. Large and rich shipping firms were numerous. Great warehouses of brick lined the river front. A kinsman of President Washington wrote him in 1792 that the "port of Alexandria has seldom less than 20 square-rigged vessels in it and often many more. The streets are crowded with wagons and the people all seem busy."[43]

Sloops, brigs, barques and schooners unloaded osnaburgs, wild boars, moreens, brocades and damasks, bombazines, Russian and Belgian linens, Scottish wools, French and Italian silk, caster hats, morocco leather slippers, pipes of Madeira wine, casks of rum and port from Spain, spices, fruits, and muscovado sugar from the West Indies, chests of Hyson tea from China, neat sofas, bureaus, sideboards, harpsichords and spinets from London, along with other things "too tedious to mention."

By 1816 decline in the importance of the port had set in, but no less than 992 vessels entered and cleared the customs that year. This number did not include the "vast number of inland packets, coal traders, lumber vessells, wood d^o, grain d^o, etc." Of these 992 vessels, 195 were foreign—ships, brigs, schooners, sloops—while coastwise entrances and clearances reached 797. On January 22, 1817, the account of vessels in the port of Alexandria stood:

Ships 9 Barques 1 Brigs 11 Schooners 30 Sloops 15 —- Total 66

These figures do not include a number of small craft in the port or the steamboats Washington and Camdon.


Participants in the Revolution made more impress upon Alexandria's history than the war itself. The town was divided in its sentiments. Many of the Scottish people remained loyal in their sympathies to the mother country. Old Lord Fairfax, a Tory of Tories, became incensed with young Washington, whom he had practically brought up, and 'tis said, refused ever to see or speak to him again. His heir, Parson Bryan Fairfax, of Mount Eagle, afterward Eighth Lord, remained on the friendliest terms with the household at Mount Vernon, while holding the strongest of Loyalist convictions. Tradition has it that Washington personally saved him from molestation by the American troops.

The Alexandria Committee of Safety obtained and outfitted fifteen vessels for the protection of the town and the Potomac. On two occasions the people became much excited and badly frightened. Rumor was rife in 1775 that Governor Dunmore had dispatched an expedition of warships up the Potomac to "lay waste the towns and the country, capture Mrs. Washington, and burn Mount Vernon."[44] Martha Washington remained calm, and though finally persuaded by Colonel Mason to leave home, she stayed away one night only.

The second scare is revealed in a letter from the General's manager, Lund Washington, written in January 1776. "Alexandria is much alarmed and indeed the whole neighborhood," he wrote. "The women and children are leaving the town and stowing themselves in every hut they can find, out of reach of the enemy's cannon. Every wagon, cart and pack horse they can get is employed. The militia are all up, but not in arms, for indeed they have none, or at least very few."[45]

La Fayette, De Kalb, Rochambeau, John Paul Jones, and "Light Horse Harry" Lee, were in and out of Alexandria many times. On May 4, 1781, the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army recorded in his diary: "A letter from the Marq^s de la Fayette, dated at Alexandria on the 23rd, mentioned his having commenced his march that day for Fredericksburg"—that desertion had ceased, and that his detachment was in good spirits.[46] High morale and grand strategy brought victory for the Continental cause that October. Something like thirty-odd officers of the Revolution lived in or near Alexandria, or came to live here after the war. Sixteen of them became members of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Washington was President General.

The Peace of 1783 revived strangulated commerce and construction. The harbor came to life. The brickmason and the carpenter took up their tools. Wheat and tobacco rolled in to fill again the empty warehouses. The citizens were gay and indulged themselves in festivities, as witness an old letter written from Alexandria on February 13, 1787:

Last Evening there was an elegant Ball in this Town, being the anniversary of General Washington's birth. No less than fifty Ladies elegantly dressed graced the Ball Room, tho the mud in our intolerable Streets was up to the Knees in Shoes (rather Boots) & Stockings.

Mr. Jenckes attended—says the Ball was agreeable for one so numerous. He has formed considerable acquaintances with the ladies, who are very agreeable but in general they talk rather too broad Irish for him.[47]

Brissot de Warville, who visited America in 1788, was impressed by the possibilities of Alexandria:

... where thirty or forty years ago there were only one or two houses, is now indeed smaller than Baltimore, but plans to surpass her. She is already quite as irregular in construction and as muddy. But there is more luxury evident at Alexandria, if a miserable luxury; you see servants in silk stockings, and their masters in boots.

At the end of the war the people of Alexandria imagined that the natural advantages of their situation, the salubrity of the air, the depth of the river channel and the safety of the harbour which can accomodate the largest ships and permit them to anchor close to the wharves, must unite with the richness of the back country to make their town the center of a large commerce. In consequence they are building on all sides, they have set up superb wharves and raised vast warehouses.

At the moment the expected commerce languishes. This is attributed to the heavy taxes. Whatever may be the cause many citizens are emigrating or planning to emigrate. Some ships of Alexandria are now trading regularly with the West Indies and at New Orleans.[48]


It was not long after the Revolution that the seat of the new federal government was selected near Alexandria. In fact, one old story has it that Alexandria was chosen as the site, and the patriot Washington was twitted with the advantages that would accrue to him, with such vast holdings of land so near the new capital. The tales go on that Washington waxed very angry and replied that never, if he could help it, should a public building be put south of the Potomac.

Be this as it may, the Virginia Assembly ceded to the federal government on December 3, 1789, a generous slice of Fairfax County to be incorporated with the State of Maryland's larger portion into a district for the federal capital, ten miles square. The Congress of the United States was pleased to accept this, and later an additional act of Congress of March 3, 1791, amended and repealed a part of the first act, naming Alexandria part of the ceded territory. And so for the next fifty-six years we have no longer Alexandria in Virginia, but Alexandria in the District of Columbia.

The Federal City (afterward Washington) which did not officially become the nation's capital until 1800, was an undrained marsh in 1790. Travelers visiting Alexandria about that time described it as having "upwards of three hundred houses," many "handsomely built."[49] In 1795 Thomas Twining passed through Alexandria and commented: "What struck me most was the vast number of houses which I saw building ... the hammer and the trowel were at work everywhere, a cheering sight."[50] The Duc de la Rochefoucauld in the following year stated: "Alexandria is beyond all comparison the handsomest town in Virginia and indeed is among the finest in the United States."[51] That same year, 1796, Isaac Weld remarked, "Alexandria is one of the neatest towns in the United States. The houses are mostly of brick."[52]

Virginians were largely their own architects. Thomas Jefferson designed Monticello, the University of Virginia, and the Capitol at Richmond; George Mason built Gunston Hall; and George Washington directed the transformation of Mount Vernon from a simple villa into the famous mansion it is. Alexandria "Undertakers," or contractors, did the work—James Patterson in 1758 and Going Lamphire from 1773 onward for a number of years. One Mr. Sanders, was called in about roof troubles and afterwards dismissed. John Carlyle was the great gentleman architect and builder of Alexandria. He built his own fine house, he took over Christ Church in 1773 when James Parsons failed to complete his contract, and he also superintended the erection of the Presbyterian meetinghouse.

James Wren, Gentleman, is remembered as the designer of Christ Church in 1767. Thomas Fleming is referred to as a ship's carpenter and "one who is inclined to serve the Town." A story goes that George Coryell built a gate in Philadelphia which so pleased the first President that he persuaded him to move to Alexandria. True or not, the local Gazette carried Coryell's advertisements of building materials and he is known to have built a number of houses. Robert Brockett was building in 1785 the Presbyterian Manse. Benjamin Hallowell, William Fowle, and William Yeaton at a later time proved themselves able architects.

The designs of Alexandria houses derived from the Old Country, and follow the type of eighteenth century architecture found in the British Isles, especially Scotland. The general floor plans of Alexandria's homes are similar. With the Builder's Companion and Workman's General Assistant, it was well-nigh impossible to go wrong. This series of pamphlets, reprinted in 1762 by William Pain of London, offered the purest and best of classical designs. The Scottish founders adapted them to their needs, with the result that Alexandria differs from other Colonial towns in Virginia, as Scotland differs from England. The spiritual and physical variations are keenly sensed.

The interior trim of Alexandria's houses is simple and severe compared to the plantation houses lining the Virginia rivers; to the elaborate carving of the fine eighteenth century Charleston homes it seems plain and austere. Nonetheless, there is a substantial dignity about these houses that produces an atmosphere of calm, gracious peace not unlike the interiors of meetinghouses. Even the little brick-and-frame cottages partake of this same feeling and are remarkable for the charm of their inviting and harmonious rooms. The simple overmantels, chair rails, wide and low six-paneled doors hung on the proverbial H&L hinges, well proportioned rooms and large, hospitable fireplaces, all done in miniature, form interiors rare in scale, surprising in elegance, perfect in balance.

For the better part of ten years after the Revolution, buildings continued going up as rapidly as bricks could be made and artisans found to put them together. As the town grew, the gaps along the streets were filled. Alexandria assumed the character, not of Williamsburg or Annapolis, but rather of Philadelphia or some Old World town. By 1795 it wore an air of stability as row after row of fine brick buildings went up. Alexandria houses were city dwellings and homes of merchants. Comfortable and inviting they were, too, with a wealth of detail in finish and appearance. Doorways and cornices for the outside; arches, mantels and paneling within. Very sad it is to relate how much of this has found its way into the museums of the country, and sadder still to tell how much has been wantonly destroyed. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art houses one of the great rooms from Alexandria; the St. Louis Museum another; and some interior woodwork has found its way to Williamsburg.

Conceived and built as a trading center, by 1796, almost without exception, the first floor of every building was used as a place of business while the upper floors served as the family dwelling. This accounts for the more elaborate woodwork found on second floors. The Mutual Assurance Society archives reveal many instances of a store, countinghouse, office or shop located in a wing or attached building; likewise warehouses on the premises as well as along the water front.


Alexandrians owned and operated shipyards, sail lofts, ropewalks, lumber yards, brick kilns; print and apothecary shops; manufactories of harness, saddles, boots, shoes, mattresses, and cloth. And of course there were the taverns and hotels, inns and oyster houses, markets, stables, ferries, and fish wharves (where millions of herring were packed for export). Its citizens maintained churches, schools, academies, banks, fire companies, counting houses, and newspapers. They supported ministers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, oculists, cabinetmakers, artists, musicians, actors, merchants and a town militia. Mention has already been made of the important building professions—to the activities of house and ship carpenters, and the "undertakers," or contractors of the day.

Among the tradesmen and artisans of the town were watchmakers and clockmakers, jewelers, goldsmiths, coppersmiths, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, and ironmongers; confectioners, bakers and brewers; hatters, and wig-makers. Cottom & Stewart was a firm of publishers and vendors of the latest in literature. Joshua Delacour was a bookbinder who carried on his business in all its branches, not only supplying ladies with bandboxes, trunks, pasteboard stays and stomachers, but he also papered rooms in the neatest fashion. Books and stationery were imported by Joshua Merryman, who also advertised blotting paper, quills, ink powder, inkpots, sealing wax and wafers—in fact, all the adjuncts of polite correspondence.

Margaret Greetner set great store by her newly imported mangle, by which "silk, linen and cotton stockings, and other articles were smoothed and glossed in the most expeditious manner." She took in washing at "moderate terms" and apparently was the eighteenth century counterpart of our modern laundry. Joseph Delarue was her competitor in the dry-cleaning field, offering his services to ladies and gentlemen of the town and adjacent country as a scourer of silks, chintzes, and woolen clothes. Coachmaking was carried on by E.P. Taylor and Charles Jones. Unfortunately, records relating to Alexandria's early artisans are pathetically scanty or altogether lacking.

Alexandria in its heyday boasted as fine silver as could be found in the colony, and while there is a quantity of English silver thereabouts, much was made by her own craftsmen. It exists today in families who, while cherishing it for generations, have used it commonly for a century or more.

A partial list of silversmiths includes some nineteen or twenty names, for the earliest of whom there is any record, we must thank "the General," for it is in his ledgers that these first five names are found, noting some work done for Mount Vernon, usually of a repair nature. Salt spoons and ladles evidently saw hard service, or were kept so spick and span they had to go to the silversmith for frequent mending. In 1773 the Washington silver chest was the richer for a punch ladle made by William Dowdney. While this was in the making, one Edward Sandford was restoring a salt and mending a punch ladle. He also repaired Mrs. Washington's watch and made her a silver seal. The salt spoons were in the hands of one Charles Turner in 1775; and Mrs. Washington had a gold locket from one Philip Dawe. The punch ladle was out of order again in 1781 and had a new handle made by "Mr. Kanat."

About this time the Adam family of silversmiths began to attract attention. The first of that name in Alexandria was James Adam (1755-1798). He was working in Alexandria as early as 1771, and he who has an original Adam piece is either one of an ancient family in the town or a fortunate collector. The work of his son, John Adam (1780-1843), is more frequently found, and of the best type. The Adam grandson, William W. (1817-1877), followed the trade of his progenitors, turning out good work certainly but in the Victorian idiom.

Charles Burnett, working in Alexandria in 1793, and probably as early as 1785, produced sauceboats, urns, tea sets, tankards, and so on. His flatware is usually distinguished by a shell motif, and gadroon edges finish and decorate many of his pieces. His work is very similar to his Philadelphia contemporaries.

Adam Lynn (1775-1836) was born in Alexandria, of Alexandria parents, the son of Colonel Adam Lynn, a Revolutionary officer and a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. He inherited property from his father, two lots of land on King and St. Asaph Streets. At the age of twenty-five, in 1800, he advertised himself as:


Jeweler, Silver and Goldsmith, Silver Tea sets may be had to any pattern at short notice, warranted to equal any in America.

It is noted that in 1801 he "respectfully informs the public that he has commenced the clock and watchmaking business, in addition to that of jewelry. He has laid in a large assortment of the best materials in that line and is determined to give general satisfaction." Lynn's work is delicate and fine. Strangely, very little remains but what there is is satisfactory. He frequently decorated his flatware with a refined etching or gravure, his hollow ware with reeding. To the jewelry business Lynn combined another. In 1810 his advertisement read:

New Hardware Store Adam Lynn & Co.

Have received by the Ship "Dumphries" from Liverpool, via Baltimore A Large and General Assortment ... which they now offer for sale at their store corner King and Royal Streets—late occupied by Peter Sherron.

Lynn held several offices in the Masonic lodge and served for years as vestryman of St. Paul's Church. He had the added distinction of being drawn by M. de St. Memin.

A few spoons and ladles survive Mordecai Miller, 1790; John Duffey, 1793; George Duffey (1845-1880); James Ganet (1820-1830); William Cohen, 1833; Benjamin Barton, 1833; R.C. Acton, 1840; William A. Williams (1787-1846). The last-named craftsmen made the famous silver cup presented by the "grateful City Council" to the lovely Mrs. Lawrason for entertaining La Fayette in her home. John Pittman is listed in a deed in 1801 as a goldsmith and silversmith, while the census for 1790 gives the names of Thomas Bird, William Galt, John Piper and John Lawrason. In addition, from other deeds and advertisements, the names of John Short (1784); James Galt (1801); Josiah Coryton, "late of this town" (1801) are gleaned as watchmakers and clockmakers.

Slate roofing seems to have made its initial appearance around 1800. In 1805 Joseph Riddle's dwelling house was "covered in copper" and John Janney's warehouse in slate, and at least one building in "composition." At this date an insurance plat shows a tinsmith and coppersmith's shop. The early roofs were covered in wood (i.e., wooden shingles).


With the death of George Washington in 1799, which emphasized the close of the eighteenth century, the city whose prosperity seemed in some mystic fashion to have developed and grown with him began a decline.

In 1803 came yellow fever, leaving desolation and mourning in its wake. An English traveler wrote in 1807:

Alexandria was about eight years ago a very flourishing place, but the losses sustained from the capture of American vessels by the French in the West Indies, occasioned many failures. In the year 1803, the yellow fever, which broke out there for the first time, carried off a number of its inhabitants. These shocks have so deeply affected the mercantile interest, that the town has but two or three ships in the trade with Great Britain; and there is little prospect of its ever attaining to its former prosperity.[53]

Alexandria was further subjected to plagues. Cholera broke out in 1832, and people dropped dead in the streets while the population shuddered. Illness, death, and burial was the fearsome sequence of only a few hours. There was a Board of Health and a Quarantine Officer, but ignorance of sanitation laws and preventive medicine resulted in appalling epidemics brought in by visiting vessels.

Fire, too, ravaged the town. There were two major conflagrations in the early nineteenth century, one in 1810 and another in 1824, in each of which at least fifty buildings were consumed. The fire in the latter year all but demolished the west side of Fairfax Street between King and Prince Streets. George Washington is credited with having founded the first fire company and giving to the city what was then the finest of modern hand pumpers—a magnificent affair of red paint, brass trimmings, and leather buckets. A law of the town made it mandatory for each householder or proprietor of a dwelling or storehouse to furnish leather buckets of at least two-and-one-half-gallon capacity at "his or her expense"—in quantity equal to the stories of his house; no proprietor was expected, however, to provide more than three buckets. The buckets were numbered and lettered with the names of the owners, whose duty it was to send or carry them to any place where a fire broke out, or to "throw them into the street so that they may be taken there."[54]

The fire companies at the first alarm, in scarlet shirts, turned out on shortest notice, at a dead run on "shanks' mare." Woe betide the member who was late, for he was fined right heavily. Pumping by hand to put out a fire was a laborious affair and slackers were not tolerated. Even with the best of will and the most earnest of pumpers, the fires got out of hand and took a terrible toll of the early buildings. While insides were gutted, the walls often remained to contain again an interior of beauty and dignity.

Alexandria suffered more from the War of 1812 than from the Revolution. Before Washington fell to the British in 1814, Alexandria was forced to capitulate and had to pay a high indemnity for physical protection. This disaster, coupled with the failure of the canal which was to open up the vast Ohio country, all but wrecked the best financial hopes and plans of the city.

The opening of the Potomac River for navigation, to connect with the Ohio, was a project close to General Washington's heart. He had entertained this dream from the time of his first western venture in 1754. He calculated, plotted, and surveyed distances, and from 1770 onward his mind was set upon the accomplishment. In July of that year he was in correspondence with Thomas Johnson, to whom he wrote: "Till now I have not been able to enquire into the sentiments of any of the Gentlemen of this side in respect to the Scheme of opening inland navigation of the Potomac by private subscription."[55] Washington's trips to the Ohio, in October 1770 and again in September 1784—on both occasions accompanied by Dr. Craik—while in the interest of his western land holdings were also to forward this canal business.

All of this resulted in the founding of the Potomac Navigation Company in 1785, and Alexandria subscribed heavily to the bond issue. By 1829 the first steam locomotive was operating in America and the coming of the steam engine was followed by the collapse of the canal project. Thousands of local dollars were thus lost. When the deflation was complete, financial stagnation followed, from which Alexandria never entirely recovered. During these trying 1830s and 1840s many of her younger men departed for the west hoping to better their fortunes.

Alexandrians did not take kindly to federal jurisdiction of their affairs, and within half a century from 1800—on February 3, 1846—a petition was presented from the citizens of the county and town of Alexandria to the Virginia General Assembly, stating that they had pending before Congress an application for recession to the Commonwealth of Virginia. They asked the Assembly for a law to accept them back into the fold should their request be granted. By act of Congress, dated July 9, 1846, it was provided that: "With the assent of the people of the County and Town of Alexandria, that portion of the territory of the District of Columbia ceded to the United States by the State of Virginia ... receded and forever relinquished to the State of Virginia ..."[56]

Virginia welcomed the recession as a mother would welcome home a maltreated and divorced daughter. Alexandria County (later Arlington County) and the City of Alexandria were accepted on March 13, 1847, just two years short of the latter's centenary.

Fourteen years later the first blood of dreadful civil war was spilled in Alexandria and the city found itself a pawn to arbitrament by the sword. When General Robert E. Lee accepted the command of Confederate forces, a host of Alexandrians followed him into battle. To the citizenry with Southern sympathies, war meant bitter severance once again from Virginia. For the duration of the Civil War, Alexandria, under federal jurisdiction again, became the capital of that part of the state (West Virginia) which refused to secede with the Richmond government. To the old city came a governor and legislature with Northern sympathies, making welcome any federal forces camping on the outskirts of town. Old prints show the Union flag in the hands of marching soldiers on King Street, and camps and cantonments, beginning at the "Round House," extending for miles.

Even so, the best and noblest donned the gray, and Alexandria's own marched out to become part of the 17th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A., upon the bloody battlefields of the South.

With the close of the Civil War, prosperity departed. Fewer and fewer ships came to anchor in the Potomac port, until finally nothing remained to show the important part that Alexandria played for a century in the sea commerce of the world save rotted piles that once supported wharves, and a few grimy, scarred old warehouses whose collapsing roofs and loose bricks threatened the very life of the pedestrian.

Other wars have come and gone and each has had a conspicuous effect upon the town. The tragic era of 1861-65, binding our great nation into an indissoluble union, began likewise the process of cementation which steadfastly links Alexandria to the District of Columbia by bands that are basically nonpolitical (maybe stronger for that same reason). Paradoxically, Alexandria is a free city—part of Virginia, though not characteristic of the State; allied to the District, but no part of it.

Alexandria's cultural heritage has appealed for many reasons to Washington officialdom, and many persons prominent in national affairs have crossed the river to settle and to restore the gracious old homes of bygone days. George Washington's Alexandria is a city at once assured and self-conscious. Confident in its background, its venerable traditions, and its associations with the great in the country's development, Alexandria ponders its destiny.

All faithful sons and daughters, whether native or adopted, fondly hope that this bicentennial year of the city's existence may bring closer to fulfillment the famous toast voiced by La Fayette in 1824: "The City of Alexandria: May her prosperity and happiness more and more realize the fondest wishes of our venerated Washington!"


Where is the great seaport that was Alexandria? Where are the ships that plied their trade to the four corners of the earth, built, outfitted, loaded from this port, officered and manned by the men of this town? Where the great shipyards down whose ways slipped vessels of any magnitude; the ropewalks where black slaves trod the weary miles twisting the hemp to lift the sails made in Alexandria sail lofts? Where the great docks, wharves and warehouses that lined the water front?

Only phantom vessels, locked in the eternal secrets of the deep, float at anchor and crowd the harbor with a pale tracery of masts and rigging. Only the voices of sailors long silent float ashore on the breezes in a polyglot of languages, while ghostly laughter and oaths of those held in taverns by rum and sugar at three pence ha'penny disturbs the sobriety of the water front.

Gone are the shipyards. Upon ways destroyed by rot will rise no more the skeleton ribs of sloop nor barque nor brig.

Silent are the sail lofts. Long ago the last workman at day's end put down the canvas and the thread.

Empty are the ropewalks of docile slave and pungent hemp.

Cold are the bake ovens—crumbled the last biscuit....

The worn and polished cobbles are destitute of coach and four, of chariot and chair. Nor does the mail arrive by stage.

No more will hoops and wigs add allure to the progress of beauty—nor peruke nor smallclothes invest the beau with grandeur.

The factor and the sea captains have departed. The weary clerk has put up the last shutter; empty stools and blunted quills abandoned. Only the ledgers remain, free of blot and blemish to attest the skill and patience of the forgotten scribe.

An autumn moon lights the old town, turning to silver the tiny waves lapping the old sea wall, shimmering on the panes of dormer windows, silhouetting the high brick facades against the white night, outlining trim and cornice. Lighted transoms dimly reveal the white paneled doorways.... Let us enter....


The Presence of George Washington 1749-1799

Chapter 1

William Ramsay: Romulus of Alexandria

[Historic Ramsay House, once the home of Alexandria's first mayor and oldest building standing in the city, miraculously escaped destruction by fire in 1942. Later threatened by the "wheels of progress," it was saved by heroic efforts of Alexandria antiquarians who persuaded the city fathers to purchase the structure as a gesture to the 1949 anniversary. As this book goes to press an active campaign is under way by Alexandria historical societies to raise funds for restoration.]

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