Historic Buildings and Places on the Waterfront
Compiled by Douglas Applar, 2008
Return to Historic Alexandria Waterfront main page.
McVeigh Warehouse on Alexandria Waterfront.
100-104 South Union Street
Year Built: c. 1795-1797
Original Owner: John Fitzgerald
Building History: Fitzgerald’s Warehouse at 100-104 S. Union St. (c. 1797) is one of the Alexandria Waterfront’s true historic treasures. John Fitzgerald was George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War and later served as his secretary while Washington was in office. Like most of the Waterfront District east of Lee Street, Fitzgerald’s Warehouse sits on land that was made by filling in the marshland that originally occupied the site. In this case, Fitzgerald and his business partner, Valentine Peers, bought the land in 1778, and by 1781 they had “banked out” the property and divided it between them. Along with its warehousing activities, Fitzgerald’s Warehouse reflected its maritime connections in other ways. An advertisement in the February 8, 1798, issue of the Columbia Mirror and Alexandria Gazette announces that sail maker Daniel McDougall was moving his business to the loft in Col. Fitzgerald’s warehouse. Although his death in 1799 prevented John Fitzgerald from making significant use of the building himself, the Fitzgerald Warehouse has been a fixture on the Alexandria Waterfront for more than two hundred years.
Early 19th Century
101 King Street
Year Built: c.1803
Building History: The warehouse at 101 King St. may have been built in 1803, potentially making it one of the waterfront’s oldest buildings. It sits on land that was made by William Ramsay in the mid-18th-century, when Ramsay extended his wharf into the Potomac. Ramsay bought lot 46 in 1749 at the City’s founding and proceeded to bank out his lot, taking soil from the high bluffs on his property and depositing it on the mudflats as fill, until his wharf reached deeper into the Potomac to navigable water. (Diane Riker, “The Warehouses of Lower King Street,” unpublished manuscript) A Mutual Assurance Society policy from 1803 shows a three-story building being constructed on this site in that year, and the 1886 Sanborn map shows a three-and-a-half story brick building on the site, which is consistent with the building’s current appearance. The building’s use of brickwork laid in Flemish bond also indicates an early-19th-century construction date. 101 King St. has spent most of its life being used as a wholesale grocery store, and today it is occupied by a furniture store.
100 Prince Street
Year Built: 1810
Original Owners: Benjamin Shreve and James Lawrason
Building History: The Shreve and Lawrason Warehouse was built at the beginning of the 19th century, during the Alexandria Waterfront’s most successful years as a commercial port. Like many buildings in the Waterfront District, the Shreve and Lawrason Warehouse sits on land that was “made” by merchants extending their wharves out into the Potomac. The land under this building was once likely part of James Lawrason’s Wharf, or possibly James Gilpin’s Wharf. In the early 19th century, Thomas Lawrason, who was James Lawrason’s son, formed a partnership with William Fowle. The firm of Lawrason and Fowle was responsible for importing a wide variety of goods to the Alexandria market. A sample of these include: New England rum, molasses, candles, chocolate, fine combs, suspenders, Belona gunpowder, hyson tea, raisins, ravens, duck, salmon, green coffee, nutmeg, cloves, Madeira wine, blubber oil, boxes of capers, boxes of “segars,” Havana brown sugar, New York prime pork, cheese, plaster of Paris, crockery ware, lumber, English mustard, indigo, soap, tanner’s oil and rope and more. (Alexandria Advertiser, various years, cited in T. Michael Miller, Artisans and Merchants of Alexandria, Virginia, 1784-1820, Vol. 1. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1991, pp. 264, 265) In the late 19th and 20th centuries it was used as a grain warehouse, and it was also a facility for storing animal hides and skins, possibly related to the meat and fertilizer industries that were a major part of the city’s later industrial landscape. (Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. maps for Alexandria, VA, 1885, 1912) The facility was converted to a private residence in 1966. (Ethelyn Cox, Historic Alexandria, Virginia: Street by Street, Historic Alexandria Foundation: Alexandria, VA, 1976, p. 118)
125 South Union Street
Year Built: c. 1827/1828
Original Owner: Norman Fitzhugh
Building History: The Norman Fitzhugh Warehouse at 125 S. Union St. (1827/1828) may be the fourth-oldest building in the Waterfront District. Only the Shreve and Lawrason Warehouse at 100 Prince St. (1784/1796), Fitzgerald’s Warehouse at 100-104 S. Union St. (c.1796/1797), and the warehouse at 101 King St. (1803) are known to be older. The Waterfront District has suffered several fires over the centuries, and 1827 saw one of the worst. That fire destroyed the Harper Warehouse building, which had been located on the site now occupied by the Norman Fitzhugh Warehouse. When built, the Norman Fitzhugh building was valued by the City at $4,500. Since its construction, this warehouse has been occupied by a wide variety of businesses, though one of its longest-lasting occupants was the Dreifus family’s junk and rag business, which used the property from the 1870s through the end of World War II. It is now occupied by the Christmas Attic, reflecting the Alexandria Waterfront’s shift away from its early industries of shipping and manufacturing toward its current economic base of tourism and retail sales. The attic of the Fitzhugh Warehouse contains an exciting clue about its past. Like a handful of other warehouses in Alexandria, it contains the remains of a wheeled lift system for bringing goods from ground level to the upper story.
206 South Union Street
Year Built: Pre-1877 or perhaps 1843
Original Owner: William Fowle
Building History: As with many buildings on the Alexandria Waterfront, 206 S. Union sits on land that was once part of the Potomac River but was gradually built out by creating wharves that extended into the river and by later filling in between the wharves. The structure currently identified as 206 S. Union St. probably began its life by 1843, when it is listed on the tax rolls. A similar structure is shown on the 1877 Hopkins Insurance map. In the late 19th century, the building’s use reflected the city’s long association with agriculture and industry, as it is identified by Sanborn fire insurance maps as a fertilizer warehouse and it sits adjacent to P.B. Hooe’s grain warehouse. This building survived the 1897 fire that destroyed much of this section of the waterfront. (Alexandria Gazette, June 3, 1897, p. 3) By 1912, Sanborn maps indicate that the building was occupied by the tenant with whom it would be most strongly associated, the Wattles Corn and Feed mill, and by the 1921 map, 206 S. Union and 204 S. Union were connected by a fire door. The 1958 Sanborn maps indicate that the building was being used for guns and ammunition storage, which is the use that continues to the present day. It is interesting to note that throughout the building’s lifetime, the Sanborn maps have identified this building as having metal shutters; the building still has metal shutters, which encourages one to wonder if the shutters that face the street today might still be those that were identified by the fire insurance company so many years ago.
204 South Union Street
Year Built: c. 1857
Original Owner: William Fowle
Building History: In the mid-1850s, William Fowle was a major industrialist in the City of Alexandria, involved in both the fertilizer and the flour businesses. Fowle was general agent of the Pioneer Mill during its most successful years before the Civil War, and in 1843 and 1857, reflecting the era’s relative prosperity; Fowle built two new warehouses on S. Union Street. An 1859 Alexandria Gazette mentions William Fowle’s new four-story warehouse on the east side of Union St., two doors down from Prince, bordering an alley. This description fits the site of 204 S. Union St. exactly. In addition, the warehouse at 204 S. Union features door fenders, which are essentially cast iron shields to protect brickwork in high traffic areas, bearing the initials “W.F.” A building at this address is depicted in the 1877 Hopkins fire insurance map, and a building with the same footprint has occupied the site at 204 S. Union since at least 1877. The Sanborn maps include more information than did the earlier Hopkins maps, and the Sanborn maps show the building as having four floors, making it highly probable that the building standing in 1896 was the same building that was mentioned in the 1859 Gazette announcement. The depiction of the building changes on the 1902 map, when the number of floors in the building is reduced from four to two, likely reflecting the damage wrought by the fire of 1897. The earliest Sanborn maps show the building being used as a fertilizer warehouse, and by the time the 1921 Sanborn maps were published, the building had been connected to the adjacent Wattles Mill building by a fire door. By the 1941 map, the 204 S. Union seemed to have regained one of its lost stories, now being identified as a three-story building. By 1959, the building was being used for gun and ammunition storage, a purpose that it still serves today.
Late 19th Century
205 South Union Street
Year Built: Likely before 1877
Building History: 205 S. Union Street is one of the many warehouses that once served Alexandria’s thriving shipping industry. Throughout the 20th century, it saw use as a grocery warehouse and as a plumbing facility, but as with other buildings in the waterfront district, understanding this building’s 19th-century history is a bit more of a challenge. As early as 1877, the Hopkins fire insurance map shows a long narrow building on this lot, with a wall inside the building that essentially cuts it into a front half and a back half. Sanborn maps for the late 19th century show the same footprint, but the 1902 map shows that the back half of the building had been removed. This may mean that the back half of the building was destroyed in the fire of 1897. Whatever the cause, Sanborn maps indicate that since 1902, the building’s footprint has remained unaltered. The building does contain several additional clues about its history: the scorch marks and one half of a brickwork arch visible on the north side of the façade, where this building abuts 203 S. Union St. Simply put, this building has these features and the building to the north, 203, does not have them. This indicates that 205 S. Union is older than 203 S. Union. Before the fire of 1897, Sanborn maps show an alley between 205 and 203, but the 1902 map shows that the alley is no longer in existence. It is likely, then, that following the fire of 1897, 203 was rebuilt, or at least that part of the building was rebuilt, to occupy its half of the alley, leaving the owners of 205, which must have survived the fire at least in part, to brick over the entrance to their half of the alley and possibly expand into it themselves. The history of 205 S. Union St. definitely leaves opportunities for future research.
215 S. Union Street
Year Built: Prior to 1877
Building History: The building at 215 S. Union dates at least as far back as 1877, when the present structure was identified on the Hopkins Fire Insurance maps, and city directories from just before the Civil War identify the site as being occupied by a carpenter. In 1877 it is identified with the name “Jas. Monroe.” Sanborn maps indicate that at the end of the 19th century, the building was used either as a “sash and blind warehouse” or as a “door warehouse.” There is little indication of the building’s use in the late 1920s through the early 1940s but in the late 1940s it was a beverage distributing company, followed by a four-year run as a warehouse used by the Christian Heurich Brewing Company, one of Washington’s historic breweries. Later occupants of the building would include Bowen Machine Company, International Armament Corp., and a moped store.
2 Duke Street
Year Built: Probably prior to 1877, with extensive repair work after 1897
Building History: There are few addresses that better tell the story of the Alexandria Waterfront than 2 Duke St. One of the original distinctive features of the Alexandria Waterfront was a small peninsula of land known as Point Lumley. Originally, the land at the end of Point Lumley was too marshy for building, but by 1774, most of the dirt from a bluff of land on the western part of the point had been moved toward the end of the point to make sound land. Between 1774 and 1783, Hooe’s Wharf extended the shoreline on the south side of Duke St. and created the land that would first be occupied by Hooe’s Warehouse, which was made of stone, and later by the Robinson Terminal warehouse. Hooe’s Warehouse and Wharf was one of the City’s major shipping terminals. A list of some of the goods to have passed through Hooe’s Warehouse provides a window into the lives of everyday 18th-and 19th-century Alexandria residents. Hooe sold from his warehouse: frying pans, shovels, hinges, Lisbon wine, skins from Morocco, lemons and oranges, olive oil, almonds, coffee, carpets, Negro cottons, blankets, porter and stout, looking glasses, japanned ware, plated table furniture, coffee urns, goblets, Grenada rum, fine salt in sacks, Italian marble slabs for hearths and much more. (Miller, Michael T. “Wandering Along the Alexandria Waterfront: 1780 thru 1820”) The Robinson Terminal warehouse building that now occupies much the same space as Hooe’s Warehouse is historic in its own right, though like many historic buildings, it takes a good bit of detective work to figure out when it might have been built. A Civil War map of the city shows the site occupied by a long narrow building used as a “Soldiers Mess house” and the 1877 Hopkins Fire Insurance map shows a long narrow brick building on the site, but doesn’t say much more. (Pulliam, Ted. “Gunpowder, Flour, Fire and Heirs” in The Alexandria Chronicle, Fall 2007) An 1886 Sanborn map shows the same building with the notation “Poor IR Shutters On All Sides,” which indicates that it had windows all around. The 1896 map shows windows with shutters all around the building. Today, the walls of the building clearly show differently colored brick where windows once were, running the length of the east side of the building, but the fire insurance maps starting in 1902 and going through the 1970s all show that the east side of the building on this site has no windows. So if the building was in fact destroyed by the 1897 fire, the new building would have had to have had windows built and bricked up within the 5 years between the 1897 fire and the 1902 Sanborn map. What may have happened instead is that the walls of the building survived the 1897 fire, and when it came time to rebuild, the owners may have simply decided to brick up their windows to reduce the likelihood of future fire damage. So there is fairly convincing evidence to suggest that the building pre-dates the 1897 fire and might even be the same structure identified by the 1877 Hopkins map and the Civil War map.
100 King Street
Date built: 1871
Building History: The building that presently sits at 100 King Street began its life as the Corn Exchange building in 1871. The first floor of the building was occupied by Noble Lindsey’s grocery store, and the Corn Exchange occupied the second floor. (T. Michael Miller, “Wandering Along the Waterfront: King to Prince Street” in The Fireside Sentinel, August 1991, vol. V, No.8) The Corn Exchange itself did not last long, but Lindsey’s grocery business fared much better. By 1922 the Alexandria Gazette had the following to say about what had become the Lindsey-Nicholson Corporation:
“No firm has been more responsible for the development of Alexandria commercially, and with some 4000 square ft. of floor space in its large brick building at 100-110 King Street, it is the center of the wholesale district. It handles a complete line of staple and fancy groceries, notions, flour, feedstuff, etc. as well as the celebrated Diamond tires and tubes.”
According to Sanborn maps, the building was occupied by the Virginia Public Service Company throughout the 1930s and into the 40s, and by 1959 it was occupied by the Federal Government. As with most of the Alexandria Waterfront district, 100 King St. sits on land that was created over time by filling in land and by the building of wharves to accommodate the city’s once thriving shipping industry. Lot 51, at the corner of King and Water/Lee streets was originally purchased in 1749 by Lawrence Washington, George Washington’s half brother, and the lot would eventually pass to John Fitzgerald and Valentine Peers, who banked out the land into the Potomac. (Fairfax County Deed Book B:497, cited in Diane Riker, “The Fitzgerald Warehouse and Wharf,” unpublished manuscript, p. 2)
103, 105 and 107 South Union street
Dates Built: Possibly before 1877
Original Owners: Possibly the heirs of Thomas Irwin/Irvine
Building History: These three buildings appear to have stood adjacent to each other since at least 1877, so it makes some sense to discuss them as a group. As with most of the Alexandria Waterfront district, they sit on land that was created over time by filling in land and by the building of wharves to facilitate the city’s thriving maritime shipping industry. This land was created when John Fitzgerald and Valentine Peers banked out their lot toward the river prior to 1789. Late-18th and early-19th-century insurance and property-tax records indicate that the buildings on this site stayed in the Irwin/Irvine family through at least the 1850s, and that small wood-frame buildings were replaced over time with larger and more valuable structures. Trying to provide an exact date for the construction of the buildings that are present today is very difficult, partly because the buildings contain so many conflicting clues. The brickwork on the buildings, Flemish bond on the front and a mix of four-and five-course American bond on side walls are more commonly found in early-19th-century buildings, but the windows on the front of the buildings are more typical of later-19th-century construction. The 1886 Sanborn maps indicate buildings that have changed only very slightly from what is present today, with the exception of the building at 103 S. Union St., which seems to have added a floor while maintaining the building footprint. So it is probably safest to say that these are late-19th-century buildings, but as with many buildings in the Waterfront District, further research would prove valuable. During their lives, these buildings have been used for a variety of purposes, including a woodworking shop and meat store (107) a machine shop and bolt works (105) and a wholesale grocery store (103).
203 South Union Street
Date Built: Prior to 1885, with modifications after 1897
Building History: The warehouse building at 203 S. Union St. shares much of its history with the building to its south, 205 S. Union. 203 S. Union has been used for many purposes over the years, including storage of salt fish, salt and flour, groceries, hay and feed, and in the late 1950s, ammunition. As with 203 S. Union, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when this building was first constructed. The first relatively secure date that can be applied to the building now standing is 1885, when the Sanborn fire insurance map identifies a brick, three- story structure with a small angle in the north wall. The earlier 1877 Hopkins map does show a structure on the site, however, and although it is shorter in length, the angle represented in the later map may represent an addition made to that original pre-1877 structure. The first significant change to 203 S. Union appears to have happened following the fire in 1897, as the 1902 Sanborn map shows that 203 had been linked to 205 S. Union by a fire door. 203 and 205 also lost the alley that had separated the two buildings prior to the fire. It seems clear that at least the façade of 203 was destroyed in the fire, and probably more of the building was lost as well, but because other parts of the building still have essentially the same footprint, it is possible that the owner of the building made use of structurally sound ruins when reconstructing after the fire. This is speculation, however, and this remains a topic for further research. The 1902 map also shows that at that time 203 had recently had an elevator installed. Following the post-fire reconstruction, the building remains largely unchanged throughout the 20th century. In keeping with the City’s growing appreciation for its historic structures, 203 S. Union St. now houses an architectural ceramics store.
226 South Strand
Date Built: Pre-1920, with some parts possibly pre-1877
Building History: The site of 226 S. Strand shares the history of 205 and 206 S. Strand with respect to how the land was built up and to the past uses of neighboring properties, and like 205 and 206, 226 S. Strand has some interesting characteristics that make coming up with a precise date of construction a challenge. At the very least, 226 S. Strand was built before 1920, when the present one-story building shows up on the Sanborn maps as being vacant. In 1902, however, the site is occupied by a building with the same footprint, but one additional story, identified as an acid house connected to the Bryant Fertilizer Plant across the Strand. Before that, in 1902, things become murkier still. A building existed on the same location before the 1897 fire, and the building occupied the same position relative to many street and wharf features, but the old structure was wider, was identified as having 2 to 3 stories, and included interior walls or partitions. The old structure was once a sumac mill, constructed in the mid-19th century. So the building that stands on 226 S. Strand today may be a case where parts of an old building, such as a foundation or a wall, were incorporated into a new building built on the same site, or it may be entirely new construction from 1920.
200 South Union Street
Year Built: Between 1897 and 1902
Building History: Someday, when the yellow aluminum siding that covers 200 S. Union Street (or 10 Prince St.) comes down, the people of Alexandria will have an opportunity to answer some questions about a building that sits in one of the Waterfront District’s most prominent locations. In 1877, the length of Prince Street from Union to the Strand was occupied by what was essentially one building, a series of five conjoined warehouses that shared a common roof. As time passed, fire insurance maps show the block-long series of three-story warehouses becoming old and/or vacant, 200 S. Union St. included. The first map after the 1897 Pioneer Mill Fire, published in 1902, shows that the building at the 200 S. Union address is only two stories in height, and it now occupies both its own address and that of 8 Prince St. Without being able to examine the brickwork of the building for telltale signs such as scorch marks on the brick, early patterns of brickwork, or other signs of age typical of 19th-century buildings in Alexandria, it remains anybody’s guess as to whether this structure contains any remnants of the original block-long warehouse. For now, though, it is safest to assume that the building at this address was newly built following the 1897 fire, but before the 1902 Sanborn map. This building has served in the past as a grocer’s warehouse, and today it is used by Interarms.
Early 20th Century
203/205 South Strand
Date Built: 1902-1905, with 19th-century ruins incorporated into existing structure
Original Owner of 205: DeWilton Aitcheson Coal and Wood Yard (20th century)
Original Owner of 203: William Fowle
Building History: By the late-19th century, coal, lumber and fertilizer had become the major sources of economic activity on the waterfront, and DeWilton Aitcheson owned and operated a major coal and wood yard adjacent to the site of 203 and 205 S. Strand, where two warehouses once used by P.B. Hooe for grain storage still stood. The Pioneer Mill Fire of 1897 largely destroyed the structures that occupied 203 and 205 S. Strand. A new two-story structure appeared at 205 before 1902, and while the 1902 map identifies the site of 203 S. Strand as being ruins, a new two-story structure was raised by the time of the 1905 map. A close examination of the stone and brickwork in the walls of both buildings appears to indicate that some of the ruins of the earlier buildings were incorporated into the new buildings at 203 and 205 S. Strand. If that is the case, both 203 and 205 S. Strand should be thought of as having two construction dates: one that is at least prior to the 1877 Hopkins map, and one in the early-20th century. The Strand is one of many legacies of Alexandria’s maritime and industrial past. As with Union Street, the Strand was created by the gradual extension of the shoreline into the Potomac through wharf building and land filling. In this case, it appears that 203 S. Strand may sit on land created by George Gilpin sometime at the end of the 18th century; a 1798 map of the city shows land to the east of Union St., and an 1803 map identifies that land as belonging to Gilpin.
123 South Union Street
Year Built: between 1912 and 1921
Building History: Though it sits adjacent to a much older building (the Fitzhugh Warehouse), the building at 123 S. Union St. is one of the more recent historic buildings in the Waterfront district. The Sanborn maps prior to 1921 indicate a timber-frame dwelling on the property, but the 1921 Sanborn map identifies a brick structure being used for soft-drink storage, so it seems that the present building was constructed at some point shortly before 1921. In the late 1960s or 1970s, a new building was built at the long-vacant 121 S. Union St., and today 123 S. Union St. serves as part of the restaurant at 121 S. Union St.
106 South Union Street
Date Built: 1916
Original Owners: Hunt and Roberts
Building History: As Alexandria’s involvement in shipping tobacco declined in the late 18th century, the selling and shipping of whole grains and flour became one of the city’s biggest industries. Edmund Hunt and Robert Roberts operated one of the city’s longest-lived grain businesses, starting operations here in 1847. Hunt and Roberts purchased 106 S. Union St. between 1901 and 1907 and demolished the structure that had been on the site in 1916. They built the structure that now occupies the site in that same year, and a Roberts family business stayed in the building until 1959. Today the building reflects the waterfront’s continuing transition toward retail shopping and tourism. (Manning, Derek. “106 South Union Street Alexandria, Virginia Historic Structures Report,” 2005)
105 and 205 North Union Street
Year Built: Earliest portion completed in 1919 as a factory to build torpedoes
Original Owner: United States Navy
Building History: Two of the defining structures of today’s Waterfront district are now part of the Torpedo Factory Art Center complex. Compared to many other buildings in the district, the Torpedo Factory is a relative newcomer, the oldest section at 105 N. Union St. having been completed in 1919. At the time of the City’s founding in 1749, the land now known as the 100 block of N. Union Street did not exist. When land was auctioned off that same year, William Ramsay acquired lot numbers 46 and 47 on King St; lot 46 fronted on the Potomac River, and the adjacent lot 47 had frontage on Fairfax St. (Miller, T. Michael. “Wandering Along the Waterfront: Cameron to King St.” in The Fireside Sentinel, published by the Alexandria Library, 1990, p. 101) Ramsay constructed a wharf complex into the Potomac, and continued to “bank out” or fill-in land next to his wharf, creating a road known as Fayette St. that ran to the waterfront. (Miller, ibid.) By the end of the 18th century, much of the waterfront had been filled in, and by 1791, Union Street was established. The process of wharf creation and landfilling continued, creating both the land that now sits under 105 N. Union St., and the Strand. Although the Ramsays continued to own large parts of this land, in 1794 the family sold a parcel of land north of King and east of Union, which would be at least some of the land now occupied by the Torpedo Factory. (Hammond Moore, John. “Historical Background of the Alexandria Waterfront Controversy,” Unpublished Manuscript, p. 21)
By the mid-19th century, prior to the Civil War, the land was occupied by warehouses served by rail, including the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. During the war Alexandria’s rail yard was used extensively by the Union Army. A fire swept through the block in 1872, and included among the losses were bushels of wheat, grain, fertilizer, horses with carts, and guano. (Miller, “Wandering…,” p. 102,103) As the losses indicate, the sale and shipping of wheat and fertilizers were two of the city’s major businesses. An 1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance map identifies several of the businesses on the block now occupied by the Torpedo Factory: grocers, ship chandlers, some of the Smoot lumberyard facilities, barrel makers, a sail loft, and other businesses. The Smoot and Perry Lumber Yards remained on the site until the Torpedo Factory was built in 1918/19. The factory was planned to build torpedoes for the First World War, but construction of the building wasn’t finished until after the Armistice. So after roughly three years of producing torpedoes, the facility was essentially run by a skeleton crew until production resumed in 1937, in advance of World War II. Following the War, the factory was used for record storage. In 1974, the Torpedo Factory became a model example of adaptive reuse and became home to the Art League of Alexandria. The Torpedo factory now provides work and gallery space for approximately 160 artists, is an activity center for the community, and has become an attraction for Alexandria’s tourist population.
1 King Street
Year Built: 1923
Original Owner: Old Dominion Boat Club
Building History: 1 King St. has been home to the Old Dominion Boat Club since its construction in 1923, following a fire that destroyed the Club’s original home at the foot of Duke St. The ODBC sits on the site of what was once the terminal for the Alexandria-Washington Ferry. The structure has been heavily modified during its life, receiving a two-story addition in 1933, a remodeling in 1967, and a remodeling of the dining room/bar area in the mid-1990s. The most distinctive feature of the building is the wood-scissor truss system in the ballroom.
300 South Union Street
Year Built: 1937/1939
Original Owner: Robinson Terminal Warehouse Corp.
Building History: The corrugated metal building at 300 S. Union Street is relatively young when compared to some of the other buildings in the Waterfront District, but its use is well grounded in Alexandria’s commercial traditions, and the ground on which it sits is steeped in Alexandria history. The 1877 Hopkins fire insurance map shows the 300 S. Union St. site west of the Strand as occupied by a lumberyard belonging to “Jas. Greene,” the site to the east of the strand as being occupied by a coal yard of the same ownership, and also by the Pioneer Mill Grain Warehouse. When it was built in 1853/1854, the Pioneer Mill was six stories in height and was one of the largest steam flour mills in the United States. (“Pioneer Mills,” Alexandria Gazette, March 11, 1854, p.3, in T. Michael Miller, “Pen Portraits of Alexandria, Virginia, 1739-1900” (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books Inc., 1987) 361) It received grain directly from the holds of ships docking on the waterfront by way of a grain elevator and also could receive grain by way of the rail line on Union St. The Pioneer Mill was a symbol of economic prosperity and of the city’s strong connection to the region’s agricultural economy, but the timing of its construction could not have been worse. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 left the mill sitting idle, and the postwar world could not find a use for the giant structure. By the 1890s it was a ruin, and it, along with many of the surrounding warehouses and buildings, burned to the ground in a major 1897 blaze. In subsequent years, the site west of the Strand was used for fertilizer storage, and the site east of the Strand was used by the Emerson Engine Co. to manufacture marine engines. The Robinson Terminal Warehouse Co. built the metal warehouse on Wolfe St. in 1937-1939, and the storage facility on the former site of the Pioneer Mill was built in the 1940s. The warehouse today deals primarily in paper products, such as newsprint and food-grade paper, in some ways continuing the waterfront’s tradition of shipping products that have their roots in the countryside. The Robinson Terminal Warehouse facility also includes the address 2 Duke St., which has its own unique and interesting history.
2 Prince Street
Date Built: Between 1931 and 1950
Building History: Hooe is a family name that occurs quite frequently in Alexandria history. In 1780, Robert Townsend Hooe became the first Mayor of Alexandria, and that same year he signed a lease for a wharf at the end of Duke St. along with Richard Harrison and Joseph W. Harrison. Hooe must have been quite a successful merchant, as the 1791 City Directory also identifies Robert T. Hooe as being the owner and occupier of a wharf on Prince St. The Hooe family continued to work on the Waterfront, and the 1871 City Directory bears an advertisement for Hooe & Johnson, General Commission Merchants, operating out of 2 Prince St. in Alexandria. Among the services they offer are the purchase and sale of flour, grain, salt, plaster, fertilizers, and fish, in addition to being insurance agents for the Petersburg Savings and Insurance Co. and the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company. The 1877 Hopkins Fire Insurance map identifies a stone or brick structure on the site that runs the length of the Prince St. side of the block and is divided into 5 separate units. No. 2 shows the name “P.B. Hooe.” In June of 1896, the Virginia Beef Extract Company leased the building formerly occupied by P.B. Hooe and began remodeling work, introducing windows to the rear of the building. There was a major fire in this section of town in 1897, however, and this section of Prince St. was largely destroyed. A new building was then constructed at some point between the fire and 1907, when it is identified by the Sanborn maps as being occupied by a machine shop. In 1921 the building was occupied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hay Standardization Office, and at some point between 1931 and 1950, it appears that the building was again demolished and this time was rebuilt as a single-story building, possibly at the same time as the adjacent building at 6 Prince St.
Mid 20th Century
0 Prince Street
Year Built: 1945/1946
Original Owner: Clarence J. Robinson and Abbie H. Robinson
Building History: 0 Prince St. was originally built for and occupied by Beachcombers Restaurant, which opened to the public in 1946. When originally constructed, 0 Prince St. was actually in the water, built on piers. Although Beachcombers had a successful eight-year run as a restaurant, a first-floor fire in 1954 closed the restaurant, bringing a new occupant to the building, International Armaments Corp. (Interarms). The building would be used by one owner or another for gun and ammunition storage and sales for the next fifty years, although in its later years the building’s waterfront access would also allow dinner cruises to take place from its dock. It was sold to the City of Alexandria in 2006. (Riker, Diane, and Rita Holtz, Alexandria Archaeology. “Alexandria Waterfront Timelines: 0 Prince St.” Unpublished Manuscript)