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Alexandria wants Freedom House Museum exterior to resemble slave pen origin

Freedom House Museum in Old Town is looking to replicate how its property looked in the mid-19th century, when it was the headquarters of the largest slave-trading operation in the United States.

The proposed project at 1315 Duke Street would restore portions of the museum building exterior to how it looked between 1828 and 1861. After being deferred over the summer, it goes back to the city’s Board of Architectural Review next Wednesday, Nov. 15.

The building was the headquarters for five successive slave dealing firms between 1828 and 1861, including Franklin and Armfield, one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country. The building was a slave trafficking hub that forcibly shipped thousands of Black men, women and children around the country.

Alexandria bought the building in 2020 for $1.8 million from the Northern Virginia Urban League. In 2018, the city started running the museum and gave NVUL a $63,000 interest-free loan for upgrades, following concerns that the building was falling into disrepair.

After buying the property, the Office of Historic Alexandria shifted the focus inside the three-story building on the lives of the people enslaved instead of the enslavers. It fully reopened to the public with temporary exhibits in May 2022.

According to the Office of Historic Alexandria, the work involves:

  • Repointing masonry walls
  • Masonry infill of window openings added after the period of significance
  • Removal/replacement or restoration of doors, windows & shutters
  • Repainting all previously painted walls
  • Revealing and restoring the historic sign
  • Siding replacement
  • Demolition of the south slope of the existing mansard roof and portions of the east and west gable ends for restoration of the original side-gable form slate roof

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