Favorite thing: The atmosphere of an old American town
Fondest memory: 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.
Dorothy told us about George Washington, his stay there and how he used to take his friends to that restaurant.
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Gadsby Tavern Museum
Favorite thing: Gadsby's Tavern Museum
134 North Royal Street.
John Gadsby owned this tavern, between 1796-1808, consisting of two buildings, one Georgian, 1785 and the other, Federal 1792. Gadsby combined these buildings to create a gentleman's tavern. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Marquis de Lafayette, among others, frequented the tavern. Parties, performaces of theater, concerts and small circuses, along with government meetings, to plan the Revolution, were held here .
The Tavern is now a museum and social gathering place as it was in the 18th century. The other building is now, Gadsby's Tavern Restaurant.
Tours are given.
Call (703) 838-4242 for more information.
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An Historical Town!
Favorite thing: Alexandria offeres a view of the past in it's rustic "Old Town" area.
Cobbled streets, old brick buildings and landmarks of great historical interest can be revisited, bringing back an image which reminds us of the Revolution and the reason for creating this Nation.
Fondest memory: Driving through historic Old Town Alexandria where George Washington trained his troops in front ot Gadsby's Tavern, and seeing the places where many decisions were made to effect the early days of the United States of America and by extention, my own life, more than two hundred years later.
It is an awesome experience!
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Thank you, Tim
Fondest memory: When I came up for the inauguration, I stayed with my good friend Tim in a residential neighbourhood in Alexandria. I orginally met Tim during my Excellent Embassy Adventure in Washington 3 years before when I went after my Brazilian tourist visa. See, hotels were either full up or they engaged in some tall price gouging. A hotel my boss and I stayed in a few years before for $45 was charging $189!
I met Tim that evening at 6:15 at the Huntington metro station. From there, we went to the Safeway to get us some fixins for lasagne. At his house, I met his brother and sister. We watched a little TV after supper and went to bed earlier than usual because we had to get up with the chickens the following morning. See, Tim volunteered to be one of the leaders at the inauguration. That worked well for me too because that gave me time to have a leisurely breakfast and tour a neighbourhood in Washington before it was time to go through security and attend the inaugural ceremony. We had planned on me spending a second night there, but I was so tired from all that walking both inauguration eve and inauguration day that I couldn't do what was needed to get a good day in for the day after. Once I fell into bed that night, there would have been no getting me up the following morning. So, I went home Thursday night rather tha Friday. Thank you, Tim.
Statues of Alexandria's Old Town
Favorite thing: Alexandria has numerous interesting statues from the historic Confederate soldier statue in he center of an intersection to the sculpture of a colonial tri-cornered hat that is part of a water fountain. Here are some of the statues I have discovered:
Confederate Soldier - Officially named the Appomattox Memorial, this statue of an unarmed Confederate soldier stands in the center of the intersection of Prince and Washington Streets in Old town. The statue was placed in 1889 at the spot where the soldiers from Alexandria had left for the war in 1861. The statue was designed after a painting of a Confederate soldier observing the battlefields after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
The Pharmacist - This statue was based on a Norman Rockwell painting of the same name, that portrys a pharmacist mixing drugs while a young boy watches and chews on his scarf. It is on Daingerfield Road near King Street Metro at the entrance to the National Community Pharmacists Association building.
The Tri-Cornered Hat - The odd little statue is integrated into a water fountain. There is a tri-cornered hat resting on the top near the bowl of the fountain, and there are children's hands cupped together to form a bowl for pets.
The Shipbuilder - This statue in small Waterfront Park is of a shipbuilder holding a hammer. It is a reminder of Alexandria's nautical past.
Washington Sat and Worshipped Here!
Favorite thing: This modest colonial style building is the Episcopal Christ Church, in Old Town Alexandra, where George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped. The interior is just as modest and it is possible to sit in the pew where a plaque identifies which each of these men used.
Outside you'll find the church cemetery. Don't miss the memorial stone that indicates the mass grave. Thirty-four Confederate prisoners who died, during the Civil War, in prison camp were buried here.
Address: 118 North Washington Street.
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Historical Buildings Still Standing
Favorite thing: It was interesting to see the18th century brick buildings which are predominate in Alexandria.
It is hard to describe the feeling of driving through Old Town Alexandria, especially to a person coming from another country, one who didn't grow up learning about the creation of the USA. Especially, Europeans who have buildings much older than anything we have, sometimes three hundred years older, would not be so impressed.
However, anyone who loves history can appreciate the period captured in this area of town. Though the USA is less than three hundred years old--quite young compared to some cultures--its history is being preserved throughout the country and Alexandria is an especially rich repository.
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Favorite thing: Alexandria has a Visitor's Center located in Old Town in the Ramsey House at the corner of King and North Fairfax Streets.
It is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
Fondest memory: Address: 221 King Street
Telephones: 703 838 4200
703 838 6494
Old versus new
Favorite thing: My favourite thing about Alexandria's old town is the contrast between old and new. In some of the colonial buildings that have the half-storey (used as a loophole to get around paying higher tax during colonial times), there are multi-national chains such as McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, etc. I snapped a tanning salon in one of these older buildings on King Street.
Northern Virginia Community College
Favorite thing: NOVA, or the Northern Virginia Community College, is a two-year community college, founded in 1965, with locations in Arlington, Annandale, Alexandria, Springfield, Manassas, Woodbridge, Loudoun, and Reston. In 2003-2004, the college enrolled 63,000 students in credit courses and some 250,000 more in non-credit offerings.
The Annandale Campus is the largest in the NOVA system. The campus is about a mile outside the Capital Beltway at exit 52 in Annandale, VA.
Jackson & Ellsworth -- Local Civil War Martyrs
Favorite thing: The fortunes of James W. Jackson, a southerner from Alexandria, and Elmer E. Ellsworth, a Union Army Colonel clashed in Alexandria on 24 May 1861. On this day, the Union Army invaded northern Virginia, shortly after the state voted to secede from the Union. Northern troops from New York, including Col Ellsworth entered Alexandria, and quickly occupied the town. In the center of town at the Marshall House (where the Hotel Monaco stands today) a brave James Jackson was flying the Confederate flag. Ellsworth entered the Marshall House and removed the flag, only to be confronted and shot by Jackson, the inn's owner. Ellsworth died at the scene and Jackson was executed a short time later. Col Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the war, and his name became a rallying cry for the northern military. Jackson too became a martyr for the southern cause, as he represented a man trying to defend his home from Northern invaders.
Today there is a plaque at Union Station in Alexandria that describes the Ellsworth and Jackson's role in this incident. There is also a plaque honoring Jackson at the Hotel Monaco; the hotel also has a restaurant called Jackson 20 that is supposedly named after the president, but the coincidence is interesting. Fort Ellsworth, which stood on Shuter's Hill at the present site of the George Washington National Masonic Monument, was named after Ellsworth.
The plaque at the Monaco hotel is dedicated to Jackson, and it celebrates his defense of the South. It reads: "The Marshall House stood upon this site, and within the building on the early morning of May 24, 1861 James W. Jackson was killed by Federal Soldiers while defending his property and personal rights, as stated in the verdict of coroners jury. He was the first Martyr to the cause of Southern Independence. The Justice of History does not allow his name to be forgotten. Not in the excitement of battle, but coolly, and for a great principle, he laid down his life, an example to all, in defence [sic] of his home and the sacred soil of his native state Virgina."
Another plaque in Alexandria presents Ellsworth as the hero. The "Alexandria in the Civil War" plaque at Alexandria's Union Stations reads: "'Alexandria is ours,' declared Col. Orlando Wilcox of the 1st Michigan Vol. Inf. as his regiment captured the city on the morning of May 24, 1861. When Virginia's vote of secession became effective, Union forces immediately crossed the Potomac River and occupied the Virginia shore. Due to its strategic location on the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C., Alexandria became a prime Union occupation target.
During the capture of Alexandria, James W. Jackson, an ardent secessionist and the proprietor of Marshall House, fatally shot Union Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth as he removed a Confederate flag from the top of the hotel. In retaliation, a member of Ellsworth's 11th New York Zouave regiment killed Jackson. Both men became martyrs for their respective causes.
Alexandria's transformation from small southern town to military district took its toll on the city. Two-thirds of the population fled. Large private homes, churches and other public buildings were 'requisitioned' to support the military occupation. The city became headquarters for the U.S. Military Railroad and one of the largest Union army hospital centers in the East. One of the first national cemeteries, established by an order of President Abraham Lincoln in February 1862, is located on Wilkes Street.
Alexandria would remain under Union control through late 1865, distinguishing it as the longest occupied territory of the Civil War. Today, many of the buildings that survived the four-year military occupation remain standing."
Historic Buildings of Old Town Alexandria
Favorite thing: The Historic Alexandria Foundation's Historic Buildings Survey places small oval plaques on historic structures throughout Alexandria, VA. The vast majority of these buildings are located on Fairfax St near the water, on Duke Street, and on Cameron Street.
The Historic Alexandria Foundation was created in 1954 "to preserve, protect and restore structures of historic and architectural interest in and associated with the City of Alexandria, Virginia, to preserve antiquities and generally to foster and promote interest in Alexandria's heritage."
The first citywide historic survey was undertaken by this foundation in 1960 which resulted in the first round of plaque placement, and also led to a book about the historic properties of Alexandria, called Historic Alexandria, Street by Street. The plaque initiative continues today as a program that recognizes 100 year old buildings which retain an integrity of historic architectural features.
The Foundation's map of historic buildings with plaques is available at their website (http://www.historicalexandriafoundation.org/plaques/map.aspx).
Many of these historic homes also have cast-iron fire shields on the front walls. These date from the 19th Century and were used to show that the owner had paid one of the local fire companies to respond in case of fire. Presumably, houses without shields would be allowed to burn...
Potomac River - "The Nation's River"
Favorite thing: The Potomac River runs 383 miles from the West Virginia-Maryland border to the Chesapeake Bay south of Washington DC. Some of the major cities along the river include Harper's Ferry, WV, Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA. The river forms part of the borders between Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the north and West Virginia and Virginia to the south. At the mouth of the Potomac, the river is 11 miles wide, between Point Lookout, Maryland and Smith Point, Virginia.
Numerous famous Americans were born and lived along the Potomac. Two of the most famous are George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Of course, every President and Congressman has also resided along the river while serving in Washington DC!
Various methods have been used to navigate the river. The Patowmack Canal was envisioned and partially funded by George Washington to connect the area Georgetown with Cumberland, Maryland. Started in 1785, its five short canals were not completed until 1802, and they ceased operations in 1830. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal operated along the opposite bank of the Potomac in Maryland from 1850 to 1924 and it also connected Cumberland to Washington, D.C.
Today numerous parks line the Potomac. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park runs is 184.5 miles along the north side of the river. Also in Maryland, south of DC, you will find Oxon Hill Farm, Fort Foot National Park, Fort Washington Park, Piscataway National Park, and Point Lookout State Park. In Washington DC you will find Georgetown Waterfront Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Lady Bird Johnson Park, West Potomac Park, and East Potomac Park including Hains Point. In Virginia, you'll find Harpers Ferry National Park, Balls Bluff Battlefield, Great Falls Park, Jones Point Park, Fort Hunt National Park, Mount Vernon, Leesylvania State Park, and George Washington's Birthplace National Park.
Parks in and around Old Town, Aelxandria
Favorite thing: Alexandria has a distributed park system with approximately 950 acres spread across 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers. Most of my favorite parks are in Old Town, but there are a few spread around the rest of the town that I occasionally visit. My favorite parks are the disconnected pockets of parkland along the river that are separated by warehouses and parking lots. From the north these parks are Tide Lock Park, Rivergate City Park, Oronoco Park, Founders Park, Torpedo Plaza and Marina Park, Waterfront Park, Point Lumley, Roberdeau Park, Shipyard Park, Pomander Park, Ford's Landing, and Jones Point Park. As old warehouses come down and new development goes in, waterfront access is improved and the parks are interconnected along the water, but it is a slow process!
Tide Lock Park is located at the site of the old seven mile canal that connected Alexandria to the much more famous and successful C&O Canal in Georgetown. This canal was built in 1843 and remained in operation until 1886. Just to the north is a privately owned, but publicly accessible area called Promenade Classique with unusual art such as an obelisk and fake ruins.
Rivergate City Park is located at the dead end of Madison Street north of Oronoco Park.
Oronoco Bay Park is just north of Founders Park, both separated by an old warehouse. The park occupies 4.5 acres of what used to be the Standard Oil Company grounds. The area was purchased by the city in the 1980s and converted to waterfront parkland. Oronoco Bay Park is the home of the annual Alexandria Waterfront Festival, the largest American Red Cross fund raising event in the country!
Founders Park was originally a shipping port called West Point, and it actually predates the establishment of the city of Alexandria. The warehouse that was constructed here in 1732 was the first permanent building on the Alexandria waterfront. Through the years this area was often used as a key slavery and tobacco port, as well as an important military shipping area during the Civil War. In the 1970s the industry left, but soon plans for huge 18-story apartment buildings sprung up; luckily these were rejected in favor of the park you see today. Founders Park is on Union Street between Oronoco and Queen Streets.
Torpedo Plaza and Marina Park is behind the Torpedo Factory Art Center. This is one of the city's most visited parks, as it has restaurants, a marina, benches, and trails connecting to the neighboring parks.
Waterfront Park is a small 1.5 acre square located at the base of Prince Street. This park has an open grassy lawn, a statue of a ship builder, old anchors, and a monument to fallen policemen.
Point Lumley is another of the string of disconnected riverfront parks in Old Town. This park lies at the base of Duke Street, and has just .2 acres of land with some flowering vegetation, a few benches, and a tiny river overlook. On either side of this park are warehouses and parking lots... too bad the city can't buy up the rest of the riverfront lots and
expand these parks!
Roberdeau Park is a tiny park at the end of Wolfe Street on the Potomac.
Shipyard Park is on Wilkes Street next to Pomander Park on the river.
Pomander Park and Windmill Hill Park are separated by Union Street. Together these parks are comprised of about five acres and they have basketball courts, playgrounds, a few trails, dog areas, and great views of the Potomac.
Ford's Landing is the site of the old Ford Motors plant on the waterfront.
Jones Point Park is one of my favorite parks, as it has a variety of historic elements such as the Jones Point Light House, the first Washington DC boundary stone, the foundations of old ship building factories, and even Native American sites.
These are some of my favorite parks that are not along the river:
Simpson Park is in the Del Rey Neighborhood, just a mile or less from Old Town. This park is bordered by our local YMCA, and it has baseball fields, a fitness path, and more.
King Street Gardens Park is located near King Street Metro Station at the big intersection of King Street, Diagonal Road, and Daingerfield Street. This park was dedicated in 1997 and features a small wetlands, a large vine-covered trellis, summertime concerts, and a farmers market.
Fort Ward Park is a huge park that was created to preserve Civil War-era Fort Ward. Though this fort was never involved in a battle, this is the best preserved of the ring of forts surrounding the nation's capitol.
African American Heritage Memorial Park is located just west of Alexandria National Cemetery next to the Carlyle neighborhood.
TC Williams High School - Remember the Titans!
Favorite thing: Located at 3330 King Street, this huge school has 2100 students in grades ten through twelve. The school was built in 1965, and became the city's only public high school in 1971 when the Alexandria schools were finally integrated following the 1959 desegregation law. In 2007 the original building was replaced by a brand new school building and demolished.
TC Williams high school is famous from the 2000 movie "Remember the Titans" starring Denzel Washington. The movie takes place in 1971 when the three city high schools, each of which was made up of predominately one race, were consolidated into a single multi-racial school. In the movie, as in real life, the team overcomes racial problems associated with the desegregation to go undefeated and win the state AAA championship.
Unfortunately the movie was filmed in Georgia, so none of the real scenes from Alexandria are in the movie.
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