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Lee-Fendall House’s Garden Wall Collapses!

The over-200-years-old brick wall in the garden of the Lee-Fendall House collapsed last week! (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

ALEXANDRIA, VA–The brick wall in the garden of the Lee-Fendall House has completely collapsed! Executive Director, Martha Withers, and staff seek the helping hands of Alexandrians to fund the wall’s repair and restore the history it once upheld. 

The fallen structure is being temporarily barricaded by a green-painted wooden fence. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

The Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden is a historical location in Old Town Alexandria that offers a look at a restored version of the mid-19th century lodging. Originally built in 1785, The house was sold to Philip R. Fendall by his relative, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, the father of Robert. E. Lee. Prior to the Civil War, the establishment had been owned and resided in by the Lee family, as well as their slaves and other workers. When the country broke into conflict, the House and garden was converted into a hospital for soldiers of the Union army. 

(Photo courtesy of Lee-Fendall House)

When asked to describe the importance of the wall, Megan Ritters, who works at the Lee-Fendall, said that “Since the house was a home for nearly 200 years, from 1785 to 1969, with many different families living there, it’s undergone numerous changes. The wall, on the other hand, would be exactly as recognizable to early visitors to the house like Martha Washington or President John Quincy Adams as it is today. We also believe that the wall would have been built by enslaved servants, and that it has lasted so long is a testament to their contributions in building Alexandria and to the quality of their craftsmanship.”

Lee-Fendall Garden Bench. (Photo Courtesy of Lee-Fendall House Museum.)

Unfortunately, a large portion of the garden’s wall, which has been up since 1810, collapsed on June 11th, 2021. This resulted in a massive portion of the wall (over 2000 bricks!) to fall. The cause the collapse was years of wear and tear overtime, and the flooding rains Alexandria has received in the past few months. The stormy weather that occurred on June 11th appeared to have caused the wall to collapse the following morning.

Lee-Fendall Garden Wall pre-collapse. (Photo courtesy of Megan Ritters)

The damage the historical museum took is not without it’s costs. It will cost the museum over $125,000 to restore the wall to its proper form, and even then, there are still more expenses the museum will have to endure. In order to repair the wall, Ritters stated that the museum’s goal is to “Rebuild it to its exact circa 1800 appearance, using the original bricks and rebuilding in the same Flemish bond pattern with the same ornamentation at the top of the wall. We are working with specialists in historic masonry who will help us ensure that it stands the test of time, so that this doesn’t happen again.

The beginnings of repairs at the Lee-Fendall House. (Photo Courtesy of Lee-Fendall House)

When asked how long it would take for the walls to fully be repaired, Ritters answered that “It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take until we receive a plan from the preservation firm we are contracting with, but we anticipate that it will be a multi-step process that will take several years.” The Lee-Fendall house is in need of support from the community. While volunteers in the city’s community came to assist in clearing bricks and rubble, the Lee-Fendall museum set up a fundraiser to help get the money in order to fully restore the garden wall in stronger, proper form. 

More information regarding the history of the Lee-Fendall House, as well as how you can support the museum can be found at the house, or through the museum’s online website HERE. 

Furthermore, the museum is also taking donations for the wall repairs HERE


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