This Week in Historic Alexandria
This Week in
Alexandria History
George Washington Memorial Parkway
On July 31, 1934, a contract was let for the construction of the George Washington High School, known as “GW” (now GW Middle School) at 1005 Mount Vernon Avenue. One of Del Ray's great Art Deco-style buildings, the school was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and initially housed a student population of 1,200 with a staff of 35. At the time of its construction, critics claimed that the school was built so large that there would never be enough students to fill its cavernous halls. By 1944, the addition of three wings proved them wrong!

The school merged the classes of the Alexandria High School, located in the 1400 block of Cameron Street, and the George Mason High School at 2500 Mount Vernon Avenue, built in 1925 by the Town of Potomac, which was annexed by the City of Alexandria in 1930.

Free Admission to Active Military Families!
Now through Labor Day, September 1, 2014, Gadsby's Tavern Museum, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and Lee-Fendall House and Gardens are proud to be designated as Blue Star Museums, commemorating the service of active military families! All active duty military service members, and their immediate family, receive FREE admission to these and other museums throughout the country from now through Labor Day, September 1, 2014. Please note that you must present an active military ID in order to receive free admission. Free admission is limited to nuclear family members only (to include spouses and children).
On Sale Now
On Saturday, August 9, step back to the time of Jane Austen at this late 1790s era ball at Gadsby's Tavern Museum. The evening will feature a variety of English country dances in the historic ballroom, live music, and “iced refreshments.” Period costume optional, “after-five” attire encouraged. Reservations required. Tickets are priced at $45 per person. For more information, please call 703.746.4242.
Witness to War and Reunion
The years 2012-2015 mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The war, and the five-day occupation of Alexandria by British forces in 1814, had a profound effect on the town and its economy.

While war was declared in 1812, it was not until 1814 that it reached Alexandria's shores. On August 29 Alexandrians awoke to find 138 guns of the British squadron "but a few hundred yards from the wharves, and the houses so situated at they might have been laid in ashes in a few minutes," as described by the residents. The British promised not to destroy the town if the citizens surrendered all naval stores, shipping, and merchandise being exported. Alexandria agreed, under much scrutiny and criticism by the nation. However, while nearby Washington landmarks burned and fortifications along the Potomac shoreline were destroyed, it was thanks to the actions on both sides that the "Old Town" of today's Alexandria is still preserved.

The City of Alexandria and community partners are commemorating Alexandria's role in the war through a Star-Spangled Summer of events, culminating in the Signature Weekend activities that will take place over Labor Day weekend. Over the next several weeks, this column will discuss the historical events that unfolded rapidly in the Chesapeake region during the summer of 1814, leading to the some of the darkest days in our nation. And as with many conflicts in our country's history, Alexandria's strategic location put it at the forefront of war.

Alexandria's beautiful Lee-Fendall House is now offering special “Downton Abbey” themed teas to individual groups upon request. The current owner of Highclere Castle - the real world castle where the popular television program “Downton Abbey” is filmed - is a direct descendant of the original owner of the Lee-Fendall House, Philip Fendall. The newly announced program includes a traditional tea and a special private tour of the house comparing the people and places of Downton Abbey with those of the Lee-Fendall House. The tour includes the servants' wing, kitchen area with its service bells, and other areas not regularly open to the public. The Lee-Fendall House can provide an elegant Downton Abbey tea program for small groups of 25 people or less, with a minimum group size of 5 persons. All teas are scheduled to meet the personalized needs of each group.

The Downton Abbey tea is a great event for those looking to socialize with tea and light delicacies in a historic environment while learning more about this popular television program. The tour and tea program lasts from 2 to 3 hours, but can be adjusted to fit scheduling needs. The fee is $50 per person. For more information, please contact the Lee-Fendall House at or by calling 703-548-1789.

EVENTS * click the picture to see a larger photo
» Tuesday, July 29 - Alexandria Assembly Dance Rehearsal
Gadsby's Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
Gadsby's Tavern Museum's performance dance group, the Alexandria Assembly, meets most Tuesday nights for practice and instruction. Monthly donations accepted. Prerequisite: dancers must have participated in one of the Museum's Thursday night dance class series. Free! 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4242.
» Thursday, July 31 - Science Behind Harry Potter
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, 105-107 South Fairfax Street
In honor of Harry's birthday, visit the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and explore the real world of science and medicine behind J.K. Rowling's series Harry Potter. Tour includes a special take-home activity book and hands-on opportunities. Tickets on sale in advance for timed entry. Although the event is for all ages, adult groups are recommended to come to the latter half of the program. While in Alexandria, enjoy free Harry Potter trivia just outside the Museum led by local bookstore Hooray for Books and stop by The Christmas Attic/The Urban Attic, located at 125 S. Union Street and The Tea and Spice Exchange, located at 320 King Street, between 5 and 9 p.m., for more Harry Potter fun! Tickets are priced at $6 per person. 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4242.
Science Behind Harry Potter
» Thursday, July 31 - Jane Austen Dance Class
Gadsby's Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
In preparation for the Jane Austen Ball on August 9, learn 18th-century English country dancing from expert dance instructors. Reservations recommended. Tickets are priced at $12 per person. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4242.
Jane Austen Dance Class
» Saturday, August 2 - Friendship Firehouse Festival
Friendship Firehouse Museum, 105 South Alfred Street
The annual Festival will include vendor and exhibit displays on the street in front of the firehouse, and tours of the firehouse museum. The Alexandria Fire Department will have fire engines, fire trucks and a medic unit on display. There will also be a cake cutting ceremony, delicious cake, and free fire helmets for the children, All in celebration of Friendship's 240th birthday. Free! 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4994.
Friendship Firehouse Festival
» Saturday, August 2 - Alexandria Archaeology's Family Dig Days
George Washington Masonic National Memorial Grounds, Callahan's Drive
Help City archaeologists screen excavated soil from a real dig on the grounds of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial! Reservations required. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a participating adult. Space is limited and reservations are required. Upon receipt of full payment, slots are secured and confirmation and additional information will be emailed. Due to the popularity of this event, sessions fill quickly and participants may only sign up for one session per season. $5 per person, fee is non-refundable. 1:30 to 3 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4399.
Family Dig Days
» Sunday, August 3 - Civil War Sunday
Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 105 North Union Street, #327
Explore the Civil War in Alexandria with Civil War Sundays. See an original May 26, 1861, edition of The New-York Tribune detailing Colonel Elmer Ellsworth's death in Alexandria, a Peeps diorama illustrating Ellsworth's death, a TimeTravelers Passport exhibit featuring the Civil War drummer boy, a diorama of a heating system constructed in Alexandria to warm Civil War hospital tents during the winter of 1861, a cocked and loaded Wickham musket discarded in a privy during the 1860s, and an exhibit on a Lee Street archaeological site during the Civil War. Free! 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4399.
» Sunday, August 3 - History Book Club: Braddock's March
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
This History Book Club event will focus on Thomas E. Crocker's book Braddock's March: How the Man Sent to Seize a Continent Changed American History. Learn how British Gen. Edward Braddock set out from Alexandria with a plan to seize Fort Duquesne from the French. Braddock's campaign drew North America into a global war between Britain and France and launched the military career of a young George Washington. Free! 1 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.548.0035.
History Book Club: Braddoc's March
» Open Through August 3, 2014 - Francie Hester/Symbolic Spaces Exhibition
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Francie Hester's works on steel and aluminum combine machine-tooled precision with paint, wax, and raw pigment to explore concepts relating to the passage of time, the rhythm of random events, and memory. Symbolic Spaces, her newest body of work, shifts from a linear, mathematical piecing together of sequences to examine. Free! Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.548.0035.
» Open Through August 2014 - Sit Down and Take a Stand: Samuel W. Tucker and the 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In Exhibition
Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
On August 21, 1939, five African American men walked into the whites-only Alexandria Library and requested library cards. When refused because they were black, the young men quietly took books off the shelves and sat down to read. Library authorities quickly had them arrested, making this act of civil disobedience one of the earliest of its kind in the modern civil rights movement. This new exhibition highlights the sit-in and its behind-the-scenes mastermind, Samuel Wilbert Tucker, a 27-year-old attorney and a native of Alexandria. The exhibition also includes the previously unheralded role of Robert Strange, the little known sixth participant of the sit-in. Only 15 years old, Strange acted as a runner between the Alexandria Library and Tucker's office, keeping the young lawyer abreast of sit-in developments. Free! Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4356.
1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In Exhibition
» Fort WardOpen Through 2014 - Fifty Years of Collecting: An Anniversary Exhibit of Objects from the Fort Ward Collection Exhibition Opening
Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Fort Ward Museum & Historic Park, this new exhibition offers a glimpse into the growth and holdings of the Museum's fine Civil War collection.The exhibit features some rare items related to the Defenses of Washington, such as an 1862 panoramic drawing of Fort Albany by the soldier-artist William Lydston, a folding camp chair that belonged to an officer in the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, and a Lambley's portable copying machine used by an officer from the 57th Massachusetts Infantry. Objects that interpret the Union occupation of Alexandria, such as a proclamation declaring martial law in the city, are also featured. Examples of newly acquired objects are a field desk with personal belongings owned by a captain in the 107th New York Infantry, and a John Rogers statuary group, “Uncle Ned's School,” which aimed to portray the efforts of newly freed African Americans to better their lives through education in the post-war years.

Fort Ward is the best preserved of the extensive network of Union forts and batteries known as the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Free! Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, please call 703.746.4848, or visit