Zebra Misc

The Story of Alexandria Starts With a Woman

City Hall now stands on the site of the original Market House built in the late 1700s. Market House contained a market on the first floor, with the local Hustings Court and Fairfax County Court on the second. Market House included an assembly room and the town jail. A third floor was later added for use by the Alexandria-Washington Lodge #22, organized in 1782. The Market House stood until a fire destroyed the building in 1871.

By Louise Krafft

Alexandria, VA – Margaret Brent was an English immigrant to the Colony of Maryland in the 1600s. She settled in its new capitol, St. Mary’s City, with two of her brothers. She was the first woman in the English North American colonies to appear before a court of the common law.

Alexandria Historic District, Alexandria Washington Lodge, Assembly Hall, Duvall Tavern, Margaret Brent in City Hall, Wise’s Tavern ̶ Historic plaques adorn the walls in and around City Hall and the surrounding buildings detailing the colonial history of the neighborhoods. (Photo: Mary Calvert)
(Photo: Mary Calvert)
(Photo: Mary Calvert)
(Photo: Mary Calvert)

Brent was kin to Lord Cecil Baltimore and became the lawyer to his brother, the governor of Maryland, Leonard Calvert. She received a land grant of 700 acres on September 6, 1654, from Virginia Governor Richard Bennett. The land included the area north of Hunting Creek that, in another 95 years, would become the town of Alexandria. Brent’s heirs sold the property to a Stafford County planter, John Alexander.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum at 105 & 107 S. Fairfax Street was built between 1774 and 1785. Stabler operated another pharmacy in town before purchasing the buildings on S. Fairfax, beginning in 1796. (All photos by Louise Krafft, except where noted.)
Bank of Alexandria
The fanlight above the doorway of the Bank of Alexandria, across from City Hall, is dressed for the holidays. The Bank was established by the Virginia Assembly in 1792, though construction did not begin until 1803.
The Carlyle House was built between 1751 and 1753 by a founding trustee and overseer of the town of Alexandria, John Carlyle. It is located in the 100 block of N. Fairfax Street. In October, the Carlyle House reenacts the activities that took place in October 1780 when John Carlyle died. The mansion is draped in mourning crepe as the body is laid out in the grand parlor. Later, pallbearers arrive to carry the casket down Fairfax Street to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House for burial.

On April 14, 1755, British General Edward Braddock, while using the Carlyle House as his residence before pursuing the French and Indians, met with five colonial governors in an effort to fund his war chest.

It was in April 1749 that the Virginia House of Burgesses passed legislation establishing the town of Alexandria. The legislation stated that within four months, 60 acres of land owned by Hugh West and Philip and John Alexander be turned over to 11 trustees. The trustees would oversee the sale of lots and construction of the town.

Christ Church rises on the horizon as members of the First Virginia Regiment march down Cameron Street during the annual George Washington Birthday Parade. Completed in 1773, the church was designed by James Wren.

The Old Town Farmers’ Market is the oldest farmers’ market in the country held continuously at the same site. It began operating in 1753, shortly after the town was established. George Washington sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold at our Farmer’s Market.
In 1774, Friendship Fire House was erected at the west end of the city on S. Alfred St. The museum hosts an annual birthday celebration and an open house in early August.
Gadsby’s Tavern was built in the late 1700s by John Wise. It was a popular meeting place for local businessmen and travelers.
Alexandria hosts an annual George Washington Birthday Parade on Monday of President’s Day holiday weekend. The first Virginia regiment of the Continental Line fires a volley in salute to the Commander in Chief, General George Washington.
During the American Revolution, it was recorded that a public celebration of General Washington’s birthday was held on February 22, 1778, during the winter encampment at Valley Forge. In 1787, it was also documented that the first Birthnight Ball was held in Alexandria. The ball on Saturday evening at Gadsby’s included an 18th-century banquet, English country dancing, dessert collation, character reenactors, and General and Mrs. George Washington.

The original plan of the town, as drawn up by surveyor John West, Jr., encompassed the area between Water (Lee) Street on the east, Pitt Street on the west, Oronoco to the north, and Wolfe to the south. Much of the colonial fabric exists today in Alexandria in its buildings and traditions.

The Lee Fendall House was built by Philip Richard Fendall around 1785. Fendall married the widow of Philip Ludwell Lee of Stratford Hall, Elizabeth Steptoe. Lighthorse Harry Lee was a frequent visitor as he had been married to Elizabeth Lee’s daughter Matilda until her untimely death.
Lloyd House, located on N. Washington and Queen Streets, was built around 1798 by John Wise. Twice saved from demolition by the Historic Alexandria Foundation, it is now used as the administrative office for the Office of Historic Alexandria.
In late September, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate hosts an 18th-century market and fair. All measure of colonial craftsmen set up stalls displaying their wares. Performers entertain the guests with daring feats, stories, music, and puppet shows throughout the weekend.

The Murray-Dick-Fawcett House on the corner of S. St Asaph and Prince Sts. was constructed around 1775 by Patrick Murray. The Office of Historic Alexandria now owns the house.
William Hunter, Jr., mayor of Alexandria 1789-1790, founded the St. Andrew’s Society in Alexandria around 1760. The First Presbyterian Church of Alexandria was erected in 1774. The Alexandria Society was succeeded by the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. in the mid-1800s. Hunter is buried in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House graveyard on S. Fairfax St. near the intersection of Wolfe St. The church was destroyed by lightning striking the steeple in 1835. It was rebuilt in 1836, minus the steeple.

The Ramsay House on the corner of King Street and N. Fairfax Streets now serves as the Alexandria Visitor’s Center. The original house was built around 1724 and home to Alexandria’s first mayor in 1749, William Ramsay. Ramsay lived in the house until death in the 1780s. The house was completely reconstructed in 1956.
Honoring the Scottish heritage of many of Alexandria’s founding trustees and early citizens, the Scottish Walk parade is held annually on the first Saturday of December. The St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, the Campagna Center and the City of Alexandria host the parade and surrounding festivities. Before the start of the parade, St. Andrew’s Society members attend a service at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House and place a wreath on the gravesite of William Hunter, Jr.
The tradition of the town crier in Alexandria dates back to the town auction for lots in July 1749. In A Seaport Saga, historian T. Michael Miller notes, “the trustees met at the tobacco warehouse near Oronoco Street and walked down the riverfront to the northwest corner of Cameron and Lee (Water) streets. There a Mr. West, the town crier, struck off the first lot to John Dalton, a tobacco merchant.”

In this photo essay, we offer a view of many points of historical interest in our community.

ICYMI: Contribute to a New Initiative, Mapping Alexandria, by Sharing Your Story

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