The atmosphere of an old American town When my friend Dorothy took us to Alaxandria, the first thing to do there was having a lunch at Gadsby's tavern, one of the oldest American restaurants where George Washington himself used to dine. It was nice of Dorothy to take us there!
It was a wonderful lunch on the invitation of Dorothy, a friend of mine from Fairfax who had visited Luhansk in 1989.
You feel the good old air and solemn atmosphere of the 18th century.
The waitress dressed in the costume of the end of the 18th century and the menu emphasize that feeling.
Alexandria's Cobblestone Streets
Alexandria has two stretches of cobblestone streets: the first is the lower Prince Street area known as Captains' Row, and the other is Princess Street near Washington Street.
Captians' Row has very rough cobblestones with no concrete curbs or other modern features. This area is said to have been the home of many local sea captains. There is a white planter at each end of this street with a sign that reads, "Captain's Row 1783." This section of Prince Street is located between Lee St and Union St., Old Town, Alexandria. Just west of here is the area called Gentry Row on the 200 block of Prince Street.
Princess Street just east of Washington Street also has a one-block section of cobblestones. The signs at the entrances read:
In the 1790s many Alexandria Streets were paved with cobblestones. According to legend, Hessian soldiers provided labor to cobble Princess Street. These cobbles remained essentially untouched until 1979 when the street was restored using the original cobbles.
Gerald Ford's other "Presidential Mansion"
When Gerald Ford became president in 1974, he actually ran the country from a relatively small house in Alexandria for a short time. How did our 38th President end up ruling from this historic suburb several miles south of the capital city?
Ford was first elected into the House of Representatives in 1949. After arriving in DC, Congressman Gerald and his young wife Betty lived at 2500 Q Street in Georgetown, then they moved to the Parkfairfax apartment complex in Alexandria, Virginia after the birth of their first child. Before long the Fords had a few more children and an idea they might stay awhile, so they had a house built in Alexandria's new Clover neighborhood which they moved into in 1955. This modest two-story house had seven rooms and two and a half baths. Mrs Ford is known to have done much of the landscaping and gardening, while the future President is said to have enjoyed the pool they had constructed in 1961. Just two years later, Ford served on the Warren Commission's controversial investigation of the assassination of JFK.
In 1965, probably after a quick dip in the pool, Representative Ford was named House Minority Leader. In 1973 Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign under investigation of numerous charges of accepting bribes, extortion, tax fraud, and conspiracy, and Ford was nominated to take over as Vice President. In those days, the Vice Presidential Mansion at the US Naval Observatory had just been established and was not yet ready for prime time, so the Vice President was permitted to live at a residence of his choosing. Of course he chose to live in the house his family called home, but that meant major modifications. Secret Service were now assigned to this upper middle class dwelling, and the media soon had a permanent presence on the neighborhood lawns as Nixon's problems mounted. In the meantime, the Secret Service established a command post in the garage, built observation posts in the back yard, created a communications hub in the attic, and reinforced the driveway to support the armored VP limo.
Not even a year later, Nixon resigned due to the Watergate Scandal, and Ford became President of the United States, the only man ever to hold the offices of Vice President and President despite being elected to neither. Ford, a man of humbleness, generously gave Nixon 10 days to move out of the White House while he ran the greatest nation in the world, and his family tried disparately to enjoy their last days in their suburban home.
Ford was president from 1974 to 1977 before defeating Reagan in the primary then losing to Jimmy Carter, and he not only oversaw the evacuation of Saigon, survived two assassination attempts, and pardoned Nixon, he also rented out his former home in the now quiet neighborhood. When Ford left office after just 29 months, he and his family decided California was the place for them, so they sold their home of 19 years. Mrs Ford later wrote, "For me, leaving the White House wasn't nearly so much of a wrench as leaving our house in Alexandria. After we decided we weren't going to move back and put the house up for sale, I never went over there again. I didn't want to. We had built the place, the children had grown up there, all of our neighbors were friends. We'd been to so many block parties and Fourth of July celebrations, we'd planted gardens and put in trees, and I knew if I saw it again it would upset me."
In later years the house was often rented for short periods of time, but never had a long-term occupant. In 2006 the house went up for sale for just over a million dollars, but the housing bubble burst and it sat on the market. As of the writing of this tip (April 2009), the house is still listed for sale, but the price has dropped to a bargain price of just $750,000 for this piece of history. If you drive through the neighborhood you will notice the "for sale" sign in the front yard and, just maybe, on one of the neighbor houses, a plaque from the media offering thanks for the use of their yard.
In 2008, shortly after President Ford's death, the city of Alexandria named a nearby residential street and a small one-acre park after the former resident and president.
River Farm - HQ of American Horticultural Society
River Farm consists of 25 acres of landscaped lawns and gardens along the Potomac River. The estate's history dates back to the earliest days of America and includes George Washington as an owner. In 1654 this land was granted to Captain Giles Brent, one of Jamestown's early settlers and a relative of Lord Baltimore. Later, in 1739, a distant relative named William Clifton inherited the land, and in 1757 he built the current mansion that was later expanded to its present size. This was the site of a ferry across the Potomac that became the main route from Georgia to New York City and Boston, obviously an important and heavily traveled path.
In 1760 George Washington purchased the land and renamed the area River Farm. Of his five plantations (Mount Vernon, River Farm, Union Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, and Dogue Run Farm), River Farm was located the farthest north; it was rented to various farmers then willed to Martha Washington's niece's husband upon Washington's death. The house stayed in the Washington family until 1866, and in 1971 the Soviet Embassy offered to buy the house, but Congress stepped in. The estate was then sold to the American Horticultural Society which soon moved its headquarters from Alexandria to River Farm.
Today the farm has a huge front lawn, beautiful gardens, wild fields along the Potomac, orchards, and lots of benches for relaxing. Entrance to the grounds is free.
African American Heritage Park
The African American Heritage Park occupies nine acres between the historic Alexandria National Cemetery and the newly developed Carlyle Neighborhood. The park was built around a tiny one acre cemetery from the late 1800s that has just six of the 21 original grave sites remaining.
The park is managed by the Alexandria Black History Museum and includes sculptures such as the bronze trees named "Truths That Rise From the Roots Remembered." There is a trail around the park as well as several memorial plaques describing the history of the black community in the area.
The park opened in 1995.