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The Del Ray neighborhood was recently profiled on the latest episode of the PBS show If You Lived Here. This episode took a look at three homes in the neighborhood that may be attractive to buyers.

The show followed Jen Walker, a realtor and the unofficial “mayor of Del Ray” who moved to the neighborhood in 1997. Walker gave a tour to hosts John Begeny and Christine Louise and gave a brief history about the Del Ray neighborhood, harkening back to its blue-collar roots when many of the area’s residents worked at the Potomac Yard Railway station. Walker also described its recent evolution which has embraced mom-and-pop businesses as well as a love for dogs and children.

Other residents interviewed throughout the show mentioned earmarks of the neighborhood such as its annual Halloween parade, local restaurants, and a history of African-American-owned businesses such as the Tops of Old Town hat shop. The show also mentioned some of the area’s more colorful history with the old St. Asaph’s racetrack which was the epicenter of gambling not just in the local area but in Northern Virginia in general before its annexation to Alexandria in 1930.

The point of the show is housing and Walker described to the hosts the types of houses that potential house hunters were likely to see. Bungalows and duplexes that had originally been meant for the Potomac Yard workforce dot the neighborhood and are some of the more common houses in Del Ray according to the realtor.

Walker also gave the hosts a quick price range to work with before house hunting, the prices ranged from a one-bedroom apartment in a condo for $225 a month to a townhouse within the $600,000 to $700,000 range to own. Walker also mentioned single-family homes that range from $850 a month to over $2 million to own. These reflect the soaring prices for houses that have occurred over the last two and a half decades.

Walker took the hosts to three homes, a brownstone on Kennedy Street where they marveled at some of the décor and the use of space in the relatively small home, a bungalow on Raymond Avenue which the hosts remarked looked straight out of Better Homes And Gardens magazine, and an expanded bungalow on Randolph Avenue that caught the hosts attention with its embrace of modernity while keeping some of the home’s traditional architecture.

After touring the homes, the hosts would take a guess at their costs, Walker would then let them know if they were within the range.

If You Lived Here are currently in the middle of their second season and can be viewed on PBS’ WETA television affiliate or on their website PBS.org.

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Alexandria has a rich tradition of ghost sightings. Stories of paranormal experiences have been passed down and enthralled and terrified listeners for generations.

But where have these sightings occurred? Many buildings in and around the city dating as far back as the Colonial Period have added to that rich tradition of spooky stories.

Below is a list of four reportedly haunted houses in Alexandria, inside of which anyone in search of ghosts can try their luck. Are you brave enough?

The John Douglas Brown House

This property, also known as the Fawcett-Reeder House, located at 517 Prince Street, has stood since it was first constructed in 1772. According to the website Virginia Haunted Houses, in addition to boasting having been visited by George Washington during his lifetime, witnesses visiting the house have claimed to have sighted apparitions that appear to be Revolutionary War-era soldiers.

The Lee-Fendall House

Located on 614 Oronoco Street, the house served as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. Beginning as the former home of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee until he sold it to his relative Phillip R. Fendall in 1784, many stories of spectral occurrences have come out of this place which includes sightings of a female aspiration dressed in period nurse’s clothing, a woman and child who appear on the back stairwell, and the unusual sound of an antique telephone, according to Haunted Places.

The house has served as a museum since 1974 and was featured on an episode of the SYFY Channel’s Ghost Hunters. The house is open for tours and events so if you decide to rent the place for a celebration, expect a few unexpected guests to attend the festivities.

The Ramsey House

Located at 221 King Street, this 18th century building was the home of William Ramsey, and currently serves as a visitor center for the City of Alexandria.

Ramsey was a Scottish merchant, a city founder, and served as the lord mayor of Alexandria. Many stories of ghostly manifestations have included sightings of male specters that may be that of Ramsey himself, or of another his relative Dennis Ramsey. This spirit has been reported to be found on the upstairs floor looking out the window, according to Haunted Houses.

Other spirits supposedly inhabiting the house include the wives of the Ramsey men, all of whom are dressed in 18th-century clothing and can be found roaming the basement.

Gadsby’s Tavern

Possibly the most well known location for spectral happenings in Alexandria, the building at 138 North Royal Street has been a presence in the city since being built in 1785. The location is known for having been visited by many of the founding fathers but is also known for a certain long-term resident. Famously known as the “Female Stranger“, observers have speculated the identity of this spirit to be wide of a bill-hopper, a con artist, and even the daughter of Aaron Burr, Theodosia.

Regardless of her identity, the stranger has been reported to be a gentle soul dressed in an evening gown who likes to crash events in the ballroom. Other reports have found her walking in the hallways, waiting to be seated in the dining hall, and in her old hotel room, room number eight.

The Tavern still operates today and chances are good that the curious may get to have a face-to-face encounter with the Female Stranger herself, especially if everyone is having a good time.

If you’d like a guide to Old Town’s haunts, there are ghost tours available through Alexandria Colonial Tours.

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Halloween is fast approaching and the time-honored tradition of trick-or-treating will be back in full swing.

Last year, the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) had discouraged the practice for fear of spreading the coronavirus throughout the community. Many holiday traditions in Alexandria, such as the Del Ray Halloween Parade and the Lee Street Halloween Event, were canceled in favor of much smaller, more somber festivities.

While transmission is still at an elevated risk in the city, this year the department is encouraging that some precautions should be taken to ensure a safer Halloween. This way the little goblins and ghouls can run amok to get their tasty treats. 

Any activity with people from different households carries some risk,” said AHD Population Health Manager Natalie Talis, “but you can take common-sense measures to make your Halloween activities safer.”

Below are the recommended measures that the AHD are asking trick or treaters to take in order to have a safe time:

  • Anyone age 12 and older should get vaccinated. Book an appointment at alexandriava.gov/Vaccines
  • Wear a cloth or surgical mask when handing out candy or trick or treating
  • Consider pre-bagging candy so kids don’t have to dip into a bowl
  • Wash hands before eating candy or other treats
  • Choose outdoor parties rather than indoor gatherings
  • Avoid crowded settings and gatherings where you can’t maintain distance from others
  • Stay home and away from others if you’re not feeling well, even if you are fully vaccinated

For more information go to CDC.gov 

Happy Halloween!

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A new report from DASH shows that the bus network has received significantly fewer angry public calls about the new bus network overhaul than had earlier been expected.

A report made at a meeting of the Alexandria Transit Company’s Board of Directors last week indicated that the bus systems’ new DASH network has been a success in terms of recent complaints. According to the network’s customer service report call volumes and complaints regarding DASH operations have fallen below projections for the month of September. 

The report breaks down the number of calls and complaints made in the first four weeks after the networks’ launch on Sept. 6. The projections forecasted 1,050 calls to be made over that time period, however, the actual call numbers were 524 which is slightly less than half of the projected number. The best number came in at week 2 where the actual call volume came in at 93 calls down from a projected 250 calls.

All the calls made to DASH were in regards to questions about bus routes and schedules. 

Another encouraging number from the report was the number of complaint calls made to the customer service line. The total amount of calls for the four weeks came in at 43 which fell far below expectations.

The report also contained a rare sight of four commendations made to the customer service line about good performance from buses. It was noted in the meeting that this number of commendations was over the usual of what they would normally receive in a month which had been one to two at most. This number of commendations is also considered a rare occurrence by DASH authorities, especially when major changes such as the launch of the DASH network occur.

Board Chair David Kaplan reported that DASH received recognition for the network at an event held at the Van Dorn Street Station on Sept. 22. Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson presented the recognition to DASH Director of Planning and Scheduling Martin Barna, who was touted by Kaplan as being a longtime proponent in the development of the network.

At the same meeting, the bill for the new fare-free policy also came in.

The board was presented with the General Manager’s Proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 which showed the Dash network’s operating costs for that year to be projected at a combined $637,578 for the network’s operations and maintenance. The projected budget shows an increase of $3.1 million or 13.5 percent for a total of $26.9 million.

This increase comes not just from the Dash Network itself but from the change over to 24/7 service, expansions funded by the Interstate 395 Commuter Choice Program, and operating at a fare-free status. The Alexandria City Council has applied for funding from the Virginia Transit Ridership Incentive Program which if accepted could bring in $7.2 million over the course of four years. 

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Alexandria School Board member Kelly Carmichael Booz (left), Beverly Vick (center), Gregory Hutchings (right), photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria/Facebook

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria has raised enough funding to establish a new scholarship that will be named after a beloved former teacher.

The recently retired Beverly Vick was a highly regarded teacher at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School for 38 years and received the Excellence in Education award in 2009. Vick also worked with children through the American Girl Literature Club.

Dr. Vick officially celebrated her retirement from teaching in early October.

The fund has raised over $6,000 for the Dr. Beverly Vick Scholarship, which will be awarded to a 2022 graduate of Alexandria City High Schools in the spring. The original goal for the scholarship was to raise $3,000 which was then matched by an anonymous donor for a grand total of $6,341. Including the anonymous donor, 30 people lent their support by donating to the new scholarship.

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria was established in 1986 to provide support for college students who are judged as bright and hard-working. In addition to scholarships, the fund also offers advising on college, financial aid, and readiness support. The fund awards up to $1 million a year in scholarships to Alexandria City High School graduates.

The scholarships range from $12,000 to $20,000 over four years and are funded through donations from the Alexandria community.

Photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria/Facebook

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The Alexandria City Council’s reversal on a decision to reallocate funds meant for school resource officers toward mental health programs has upset those who fought for the move.

The council voted four to three to temporarily restore the program after several complaints by parents about violent encounters involving their children in Alexandria City Public Schools since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. This move was a reversal of the decision made by the council in May 2021 to end the SRO program in favor of school-based mental health programs.

SROs are police officers that are assigned to Alexandria City Public Schools middle and high schools who are armed — unlike school security staff — and fulfill the duties of regular police officers. The program had been in place since 1997 but was recently a source of scrutiny, especially after an officer at discharged his weapon in George Washington Middle School. Further calls to remove SROs came after nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020.

Tenants and Workers United (TWU), an Arlandria/Chirilagua-based organization that advocated for dismantling the SRO program, expressed dissatisfaction in a press release made in response to the council’s decision. TWU had led a multi-year campaign which resulted in the vote for reallocation from the SRO program to mental health programs. TWU pushed for the move citing how SROs affected students of color and contributed to the student-to-prison pipeline.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the communities most impacted by violence and injustice, who know what solutions are needed to best support their communities, are ignored during decision making processes,” Mia Taylor, development lead for TWU, said in a press release. “This is an issue of democracy, racial justice, White Supremacy, and power and privilege. Once again, Alexandria City finds itself on the wrong side of history. Many low-income students of color have been through a year-and-a-half of severely interrupted schooling, loss and grief, severe poverty, lack of adequate food and resources, housing instability, stress, and even trauma. For these reasons, we have long anticipated a difficult return to school this year, but police are not the answer”.

TWU Executive Director Evelin Urrutia said there is a need for the mental health programs over the SROs due to students coming back to school from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe that kids deserve better, they deserve to have mental health in place, we have to take into consideration that we are in the middle of a pandemic and that a lot of our students have gone through so much and we need to focus more on positive programs for them,” Urrutia said. “We know that the SROs are not the best thing that we can bring to kids at this moment, not into our schools. We should be focused on how are going to work moving forward.”

Months after the SRO program had been defunded parents protested to restore the program after relating stories of fights, stories of extreme bullying, and other accounts of concerning behavior.

The restoration of the SRO program came after a six-hour city council meeting in which the SRO decision took up most of the time.

The full press release from TWU is available below the jump:

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