This Week in Historic Alexandria
City Museums and
Historic Sites
Other Historic Sites and Resources
This Week in
Alexandria History
Penny Hill Cemetery Ad
On August 29, 1795, the city placed the above advertisement in the Alexandria Gazette, to inform local citizens and property owners that a committee had been formed to obtain land for a new municipal cemetery, later named Penny Hill Cemetery. Exactly 150 years to the day later, the city again purchased another land tract to expand Penny Hill.
On Sale Now
On Thursday, September 4, hear Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History at King's College University of London and expert on British trade and naval history, lecture on the War of 1812 from the British perspective. Public tickets can be purchased here at $10 per person, but are free for Alexandria Historical Society members only at The one-hour lecture will be held at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at 7:30 p.m.
Witness to War and Reunion
As British forces sailed up the Potomac in late August 1814, closing in on a defenseless Alexandria whose militia and arms had been ordered to Maryland, town residents waited for the excepted siege. On Sunday morning, August 28, 1814, a committee led by Alexandria Mayor Charles Simms rowed southward to meet the British Captain Gordon and request terms of surrender. Due to the Sabbath Day, Gordon refused to give conditions, and he send the town's representatives back to Alexandria to await his decision. His fleet arrived in front of the town in the evening. The next morning, the British lined up their gun boats (two frigates, the 38-gun Sea Horse and the 36-gun Euryalus; a "rocket ship"; three bomb vessels of eight guns each; and a two-gun schooner). They were "so situated that they might have laid [the town] in ashes in a few minutes." (Shomette, Maritime Alexandria).

Captain Gordon offered terms which called for the removal of naval supplies, ships and agricultural commodities from the port. At the mercy of the British squadron, the town council acceded to the enemy's demands, and for the next five days the British looted stores and warehouses of 16,000 barrels of flour, 1,000 hogsheads of tobacco, 150 bales of cotton and some $5,000 worth of wine, sugar and other items. On September 2, the British weighed anchor and, after a skirmish with American forces at White House Landing below Mount Vernon, they made their escape. But their multi-day sojourn in Alexandria delayed the British fleet from reaching their next destination at Baltimore, allowing the Americans time to prepare the defense of that city. The emotional impact of the Battle of Baltimore so moved American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key that the following morning he penned a poem that was set to the British tune, To Anacreon in Heaven. Later on the song was adopted as the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

In the aftermath of the important Baltimore battle, Alexandria was widely ridiculed for cowardice across the young nation, with Baltimore hailed as a city of heroes. However, the surrender in Virginia preserved the town's buildings and infrastructure, laying the foundation for the bustling heritage tourism economy we enjoy today.
On Christmas Eve 1814, American and British peace commissioners signed the Treaty of Ghent, formally ending the War of 1812. Although Alexandria's grain trade would briefly recover, the losses occasioned by British looting, coupled with the economic panic at the end of the decade, sounded the death knell for Alexandria as a major seaport.

» Lee-Fendall House and GardenThe Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Needs Your Help!
This year, Alexandria observes the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. In August 1814, a British naval squadron held Alexandria for ransom for six days, taking supplies and valuables from local businesses. During the occupation, a widowed Mary Lee Fendall worried that British sailors might plunder her home. Along with her neighbor and sister-in-law Ann Hill Carter Lee, she feared for the safety of her children in the presence of so many armed men.
The Lee-Fendall House and its occupants weathered the storm of war 200 years ago, but still faces critical threats today. Small museums across America continue to struggle with the economic problems of the past few years, and a number have been forced to close. Maintaining an historic property and offering vibrant museum programming are great challenges, but this task is crucial to the cultural literacy of all Americans.
Although a partner with City-owned Office of Historic Alexandria museums, the Lee-Fendall House is operated as a private non-profit and receives no public funding. Its need for resources has again reached a critical stage. The museum depends upon admission and rental fees for a large portion of its operating budget. However, admissions and rentals have declined this year, and income from these sources this year will not be sufficient to meet standard operational expenses. Without significant help from Alexandrians, the museum will not be able to continue to remain open to the public.
In 1972, concerned Virginians signaled their intention to preserve this historic home as a cultural resource for the public. Now is a time that concerned supporters must save Lee-Fendall again. Over its history, the Lee-Fendall House was home to generations of the Lee Family, including George Washington's friend and business partner Philip Fendall, served as a Civil War hospital, housed America's premier labor leader John L. Lewis, and was an important Alexandria gathering place for decades. For nearly 40 years, students, tourists, and neighbors have benefitted from this museum. All donations are tax deductible, and may be made by a check payable to Lee-Fendall House, 614 Oronoco Street, Alexandria VA 22314 or online at
EVENTS * click the picture to see a larger photo
» Tuesday, August 26 - 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.
» Wednesday, August 27 - The War of 1812 Buccaneer - Hollywood Style
The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
Ready for your close-up, Mr. DeMille? This week enjoy two fun nights of vintage War of 1812 motion pictures at The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum, one film shown on the silver screen, the other in glorious Technicolor! Tonight's presentation features The Buccaneer (1938 Version, 126 minutes), directed by Cecil B. DeMille and filmed in luminous black & white. The film stars stars Fredric March and Akim Tamiroff. Free admission, but donations to the War of 1812 Commemoration are gladly accepted! Snacks available for purchase. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., film starts at 7. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4994.
The War of 1812 Buccaneer-Holywood Style
» Thursday, August 28 - The War of 1812 Buccaneer - Hollywood Style
The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum, 201 South Washington Street
In the War of 1812, they had faces! Salute the bicentennial commemoration from your armchair with another motion picture extravaganza presented by Paramount Pictures, shot in the new technologies of Technicolor and Vista Vision! Tonight's presentation features The Buccaneer (1958 Version, 121 minutes), directed by Anthony Quinn, and starring Yul Brenner, Charles Boyer, Claire Bloom, Inger Stevens and Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson. Free admission, but donations to the War of 1812 Commemoration are gladly accepted! Snacks available for purchase. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., film starts at 7. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4994.
The War of 1812 Buccaneer - Hollywood Style
» Saturday, August 30 - The War of 1812 Signature Event Weekend
Old Town, Alexandria (Specific locations are as indicated at each listing)
Let the festivities begin! Two full days of War of 1812 bicentennial activities and challenge events culminating Alexandria's commemoration and the end of our Star-Spangled Summer

Wreath Laying at the Grave of Robert Allison, Jr.
Presbyterian Meeting House Cemetery & Columbarium, 600 Hamilton Lane, Alexandria
Help honor the Veterans of the War of 1812. Following the ceremony, guests will mark War of 1812 Veterans' graves throughout the cemetery.
Free! 10 a.m.

Challenge #1: Cricket Match
Jefferson Cricket Field, Potomac Park, Washington, DC (north of 14th Street Bridge)
Team Alexandria v. Team Britain (British Defence Staff, UK Embassy)
Free! 12 noon to 6 p.m.

United States Navy Band Concert
Market Square, 301 King Street
Free! 3 to 4 p.m.

Honors Ceremony
Alexandria National Cemetery, 1450 Wilkes Street, Alexandria
Featuring the Continental Color Guard with Fife and Drum.
Free! 4:30 to 5 p.m. (seating opens at 4:15 p.m.)

» Sunday, August 30 - The War of 1812 Signature Event Weekend
Waterfront Park, 1A Prince Street
This is it! The War of 1812 event you've waited 200 years for! Join in a spectacular day celebrating Alexandria's role in America's Second War of Independence!

Challenge #2: Yacht Race
Old Dominion Boat Club, 1 King Street, Alexandria
Team Alexandria (Old Dominion Boat Club) v. Team Britain (British Defence Staff, UK Embassy). Free! 11 a.m.

Signature Event
Waterfront Park, 1A Prince Street, Alexandria
Waterfront Park will be transformed into a festival to commemorate the events that transpired on our shores 200 years ago. Meet the townspeople of 1814, enjoy boat tours of the river courtesy of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, and learn about the War of 1812 through author & historian talks as well as a variety of hands-on activities and information booths. Free! 12 noon to 5 p.m.

» Sunday, August 24 - 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 31 - Summer Chamber Series at the Lyceum (WMPA)
The Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street
The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association continues its Summer Chamber Series at the Lyceum. This week's program features pianist Thomas Pandolfi: Music by Chopin (2 polonaises, 2 Etudes, Nocturne and Fantasy-Impromptu) and Gershwin (Improvisation on Three Gershwin Songs, Rhapsody in Blue). Free, but donations gladly accepted! 3 to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit or call 703.746.4994.
» Open Through September 21, 2014- Influence and Inspiration in Alexandria Exhibition
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street
Influence and Inspiration in Alexandria: Highlights from Art League's Finest Teaching Faculty Over Sixty Years. Many of the region's most notable artists have taught at The Art League over the years. This show highlights their superb talent and digs into the fundamentals of influence and inspiration found throughout the city. Free! Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. For further information, please visit or call 703.548.0035.
» Open Through “Their Fates Intertwined: The Lees of Alexandria in the War of 1812”
Lee-Fendall House and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street
A new exhibit on the experiences of the Lee family in Alexandria during the War of 1812. examines the contributions of Alexandria's citizens during the conflict that led to the writing of our national anthem through the lives of this iconic Virginia family. For further information, please visit or call 703.548.1789.
» Open 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

  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. 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).