ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Saturday, February 8, 2020, museum staff and period re-enactors welcomed visitors to a busy open house 300th birthday celebration for town founder John Carlyle at his 121 N. Fairfax Street home.
Festivities included 18th-century dancing, live music, and musket-firing demonstrations. And of course, cake. “No party is complete without birthday cake! We are serving Martha Washington’s Great Cake along with some apple cider,” said Andrea Tracey, Director of Carlyle House
Who Was John Carlyle?
Born February 8, 1720 to William and Rachel Carlyle in either Carlisle, England or Dumfries, Scotland, John Carlyle was only 21 when he hunkered down on a British ship for the harrowing six to eight-week voyage to America in 1741.
He quickly established himself as a merchant at Belhaven, a settlement that had grown up around a tobacco warehouse on the bluff overlooking the Potomac River.
He did well in business and, in 1747, married Sarah Fairfax, cousin of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. Recognizing any street names? Carlyle built their home on Fairfax Street between 1751 and 1753 in Alexandria, but he also owned thousands of acres of land throughout Virginia, including three plantations.
Carlyle was part of critical moments in America’s early history. A founder of Alexandria, he opened their home during the French and Indian War in 1754 to General Edward Braddock (yes like the Road) to use as his headquarters, and he was good friends with General George Washington and was part of the early days of revolution.
When Sarah died in 1761, he married Sybil West and built a plantation house called Morven in the area now known as Fairlington. It stood until 1942 when it was torn down to make way for the townhomes still standing which were originally built as military housing for officers during World War 2.
John Carlyle died in 1780 and is buried in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House cemetery at 321 S. Fairfax Street in Alexandria
Carlyle House offers daily tours, youth programs, special events, exhibits and lectures offer visitors a chance to experience eighteenth century life through the eyes of one man and his family as he made the journey from English citizen to American patriot.