Alexandria, VA

Earl Lloyd, the first Black man to play in the National Basketball Association, will be honored on Saturday when his statue will be unveiled at the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame at  Charles Houston Recreation Center.

The City Council approved the gift from Lloyd’s wife, Charlita Lloyd, last summer. The statue, which is three feet wide, nine feet long and six feet tall, is exactly like the statue of Lloyd dedicated at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Lloyd, who graduated from Parker-Gray High School, was an All-American athlete at West Virginia State University, and on October 31, 1950, at the age of 21 was the first Black player to play in an NBA game as a member of the Washington Capitols. After seven games, Lloyd was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War, and then went back to professional basketball in 1952. He would play more than 560 games, and he won an NBA championship five years later. He was later a scout and coach for the Detroit Pistons. Lloyd passed away in 2015.

Lat year, the city also approved a request to name the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town after Lloyd.

The event will be held at 1 p.m. and streamed live online. It is closed to the public.

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Several largely-intact ship hulls found underground in Old Town a few years ago could see new life in a proposed “Waterfront Museum” in the early stages of consideration in the upcoming budget.

The possible museum could house and display the timbers of at least one of the four-total ships found under new developments in 2018.

To be clear: the idea of the museum is still in its nascent stage. A feasibility study to “assess the viability” of the potential museum.

In addition, in FY 2022 $125,000 is requested to conduct a Waterfront Museum Feasibility Study to assess the viability of a history center as recommended in the Waterfront History Plan and the Waterfront Area Plan. If supported, the museum would house items such as the conserved ship timbers of an 18th century merchant ship and associated artifacts excavated as part of the Robinson Terminal South and Hotel Indigo construction projects.

Derelict ships were often used part of the foundation when the city was expanding its waterfront at the end of the 18th century. One of the most intact ships was once a cargo freighter, with holes showing where certain Caribbean worms had eaten away at the wood and dendrochronology indicating that the ship’s timbers were originally from Boston and had been cut down in 1741.

The discovery of the ships made national headlines, with the relatively intact state giving archeologists a chance to analyze artifacts from the city’s heyday as a port.

The timbers from the ships were shipped to Texas A&M for further study and preservation — mainly involving the slow extraction of water from the long-buried timbers and careful treatment to ensure the frames don’t lose integrity in the process.

A scale model of the ship is available in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the top floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, but the museum would be too small to house timbers from the ship, which is around 25 feet wide and 46 feet long.

The feasibility study comes in addition to $102 million also being considered for infrastructure improvements along the waterfront. The budget item notes that prices have increased dramatically since many of the infrastructure improvements were first proposed.

According to the budget memo:

$102 million over the ten-year CIP to support the design and construction of the Plan-recommended infrastructure, including flood mitigation, prioritized through community engagement processes. Projected construction costs have increased due to further scope refinement, further design development, and market drivers. Cost estimates have been escalated to anticipated mid-construction date. The most significant changes were due to more detailed design for stormwater and pumping system, structural bulkhead, and electrical infrastructure. The current CIP budget is funded at approximately 50% of the current cost estimate. Alternative strategies and value engineering studies are currently underway. The design-build process will likely include further alternatives analysis and cost development to facilitate a firm budget. It is anticipated that the CIP budget request will be further refined after the project alternatives and value engineering process is complete.

The waterfront items are part of a larger FY 2022 budget discussion scheduled for the April 8 Planning Commission meeting.

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After months of being closed during the holidays, a number of museums in Alexandria will be open to the public starting this Thursday, March 25.

The Alexandria Archaeology MuseumAlexandria History Museum at the LyceumFriendship Firehouse Museum and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum will open with modified hours, capacities, and advance ticket requirements, according to the city.

This follows a closure over the holidays during a surge, which ended up closing a number of museums.

“For the safety of museum staff, volunteers and guests, visitors are expected to follow the requirements of Executive Order 72 and the City mask ordinance,” the city advised. “Everyone ages 5 and older is required to wear masks that fit snugly over their nose and mouth at all times; to keep 6 feet of physical distance between households; and to wash hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethyl alcohol frequently.”

The following museums are still closed:

  • Alexandria Black History Museum (closed for renovation)
  • Archives and Records Center
  • Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site (closed for renovation)
  • Freedom House Museum (closed for renovation)
  • Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Students Win C-SPAN Documentary Contest — “Five Alexandria students are winners in C-SPAN’s 2021 StudentCam competition. The national contest, in its 17th year, encourages middle and high school students to create short films on subjects of national importance. T.C. Williams High School’s Helen Russell, Alison Avelar, and Elena Gutierrez will receive $250 as honorable mention winners for the documentary, ‘Dear Mr. President: History, or Progress?’ about the renaming of schools, statues, and monuments.” [Zebra]

Some Alexandria Museums to Open in March — “The Alexandria History Museum will reopen on March 25, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and Alexandria Archaeology Museum will reopen on March 26, and Friendship Firehouse Museum will open on select Saturdays.” [Patch]

Textile Company ‘Tulusa’ in Running for $50K FedEx Grant — “I went from being a solopreneur to providing work for 10 people. In less than a year, we’ve sold and donated over 13,000 masks. After the initial burst of mask-making, I now employ four people, all of whom lost jobs because of the pandemic. And I want to keep growing, expanding our line to include wallpaper, melamine servingware and even more products that will make your home a beautiful place to be. That’s where you can help.” [Facebook]

Local Baker Starts Bake-at-Home Cookie Delivery Service — “It occurred to me there is something perfect about having a single warm cookie when you want it and on demand. What if I could make this dough and make it available for customers to order in small batches?” [Alexandria Living]

Last Days to Try Cozy Loft at Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap — “Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, located at 401 E. Braddock Road, converted a 4,500 square-foot space on a second story of their restaurant into an Aspen-style resort. it gives diners a chance to experience a world away from their own. And the fact that reservations have been full many days speaks to how much the space means to customers.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy skies. Slight chance of a rain shower. High around 70F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy during the evening followed by cloudy skies overnight. Low around 40F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Driving Instructor — “Driving Instructor needed for OldTownDrivingSchool.com. We are looking for a patient, enthusiastic Driving Instructor to teach high school students. Must obtain a Virginia driving instructors license. Skills as a teacher or coach a plus.” [Indeed]

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From a profile of a daring 18th century coffee shop owner to the arrest of local suffragists, the Office of Historic Alexandria is planning a series of lectures and activities for Women’s History Month.

Historic Alexandria is planning several events over the upcoming weeks, including:

  • Lecture on 18th Century Coffeehouse Proprietor Hannah Griffith, March 11, 7 p.m. — Learn how Hannah Griffith used her status, experience and industriousness to make a new life for herself and her eight young children in the late 18th century. After becoming widowed, she operated the prestigious Alexandria Coffee-House, which is one of the buildings that today are part of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum.
  • New Wayfinding Marker — A new wayfinding marker will be installed at the former Alexandria Custom House (SW corner of Prince & St. Asaph Streets) commemorating the Occoquan Workhouse Suffragists who were tried and convicted at that location, sponsored by Alexandria Celebrates Women.
  • A New Online Exhibit “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts” — Learn about Alexandria’s first Girl Scout troops and the important role youth organizations have historically played in supporting girls in their formative years.

The city is also planing to publish stories about female business leaders, including some that played a role in historic preservation efforts. An article in the March edition of Zebra will feature a profile of Julia Wheelock, who came to Alexandria as a nurse during the Civil War.

Historic Alexandria said those who want more stories and information about women’s history in Alexandria should follow the department’s Facebook and Instagram pages, which will regularly spotlight additional local profiles in women’s history.

Photo via National Women’s History Museum/Facebook

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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has lived in Old Town for 35 years, and on a freezing Monday morning he learned about the lives of enslaved and free Blacks via a tour with Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman.

“We have to tell the whole story — the good, the bad, the ugly,” Warner told ALXnow. “I’ve lived in Alexandria for 35 years and I’m hearing some of these stories for the first time.”

Chapman, who founded the Manumission Tour Company in 2015 to tell stories about the struggle for freedom in Alexandria, said that he’s been trying to get VIPs like Warner to take one of his tours for years.

“We’ve had thousands of people come here (on Manumission tours),” Chapman said. “We’ve had family reunions, we’ve had VIPs… and a lot of out of town guests. So, I like to say especially for political reasons, I’m adding to the city coffers with my tourism company and my business taxes as well.”

The seven-block tour lasted just under an hour and included Lloyd House, the Fairfax-Moore-Montague House, the Oscar Ball runaway site, the Moses Hepburn homes, Gadsby’s Tavern and City Hall. Alexandria was a duty-free port of call with one of the largest slave trading operations in the country, making it a popular destination during the 19th century.

Warner, who acknowledged that Monday was a difficult day weather-wise to conduct an outdoor tour, attended in recognition of February as Black History Month.

“We lived last year through COVID, the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, an unprecedented election, and then starting on January 6, an insurrection at the Capitol,” Warner told ALXnow. “The history of this country, the history of our city, the history of the Commonwealth is a lot different than the history that probably I got taught with my school books back in the 1960s.”

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Several figures instrumental Alexandria’s Civil Rights movement crowded a typically unremarkable Naming Committee meeting last week to express support for naming a park for former school board member Shirley Tyler.

The naming committee voted unanimously in support of naming the unnamed 3550 Commonwealth Avenue Park the Shirley Tyler Unity Park, a blend of the “Shirley Tyler Park” and “Unity Park” suggestions.

The virtual meeting was attended by Tyler’s children and a few Alexandrians who had been active in the Civil Rights movement, including a rare appearance by Ira Robinson, Alexandria’s first Black City Council member since Reconstruction.

Robinson was elected in 1970 after helping to calm riots following the murder of local teenager Robin Gibson in a 7-Eleven store. The School Board at the time was appointed, rather than elected, and it was Robinson who appointed Tyler.

“I’m on this call because McArthur Meyers made me aware [of the naming] and with Shirley Tyler being on it, the important thing to do would be to express my congratulations and talk about how much Shirley Tyler did for Alexandria when she was there,” Robinson said. “She was so independently dignified and professional. She was posessed of leadership, and a real no-brainer for getting things done. My only reason to show up is to show my respect and appreciation for a woman who did so much for Alexandria.”

Jack Browand, division chief for Park Planning, Capital Development & Waterfront, said the Lynhaven Civic Association suggested “Unity Park” in reference to the role the park played as a gathering place in the years after Gibson’s murder.

“In 1970 there was community strife after murder of community member,” Browand said. “Neighborhoods were at odds with each other. But as the neighborhoods came together it became a symbol of unity. Lynhaven suggested ‘Unity Park’ to represent that.”

Others who spoke in favor of the naming included Alexandria Living Legend Lillian Patterson. Kathryn Prigmore, Tyler’s daughter, said the combined name represented everything Tyler worked for.

“Behind her motivation for doing everything for the city was to unify the community,” Prigmore said. “That was why I suggested, after the last meeting, to add unity to her name.”

Councilwoman Del Pepper agreed and endorsed the name, along with the rest of the committee, which will head to the City Council for final approval.

“There wasn’t a leaf that turned that she wasn’t behind it,” Pepper said. “Something should be named for her, and this is an excellent thing.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Beyer: Trump Must Be Removed — Rep. Don Beyer: “Donald Trump is a danger to our democracy. I continue to support his impeachment and removal from office, and am looking carefully at new articles of impeachment being drafted and offered by my colleagues… Congress must ensure Trump’s removal from office by the swiftest and surest method available: confirmation of the American people’s will as expressed in the 2020 election.” [Press Release]

Current Inova Site to Become Residential Development — “At an online community meeting Wednesday evening, attorney Cathy Puskar said the hospital will be requesting a rezoning of its current Seminary Road/Howard Street property to allow a future developer to build single family detached homes and townhomes. The current hospital is surrounded by single family homes and multifamily units.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Local Experts Suggest Gentle New Year’s Resolutions — “For 2021, local mental health professionals advise being gentle with yourself when creating the daily schedules and resolutions that often come with the beginning of the New Year. As many are feeling drained and defeated after a tumultuous 2020, making tiny, downsized resolutions can offer reassurance and hope as we embark on a new year.” [Alexandria Gazette]

Local Historian to Host Lecture on Washington Presidency — “Alexandria resident Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky will host the virtual lecture “George Washington and France” on Thursday, Jan. 7. Chervinsky, who is a former White House Historian at the White House Historical Association, wrote about Washington and his cabinet for a recent book.” [Zebra]

The Unofficial History of the Hard Times Horse — “The horse and 1941 Chevy pick-up truck is another one of the legacies left by Fred Parker, who died in April after a battle with cancer. The horse and truck have stood proudly in front of the restaurant and have been featured in local parades.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Any Alexandrian who has gone up and down the waterfront has passed, or even walked through, the Wilkes Street Tunnel.

The tunnel’s ties to the area’s industrial history were recently documented in the online local history repository Atlas Obscura.

“At the corner of Wilkes Street and Royal Street is the entrance to a former railroad tunnel that belonged to Orange & Alexandria Railroad completed in 1856,” contributor blimpcaptain wrote. “It was used in both the Civil War and World War I as a major connector between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.”

The train tracks were removed in 1975 and underwent a refurbishment in 2007-2008 to become a pedestrian passage.

“The most intriguing thing about the tunnel is its design and appearance,” blimpcaptain wrote. “The long entrance path is on a downward slope that slices right down the middle of Wilkes Street, which forms an upward slope that brackets the tunnel on either side, creating a neat optical effect.”

Blimpcaptain also notes that the tunnel could be haunted, but doesn’t go into further detail. An Alexandria Gazette article from 1909, quoted by Old Town Crier in a 2015 article on local hauntings, said that roughly 44 years before the article — so 1865 — there was a murder that could be the cause of the “cold spots” reported in the tunnel.

The murder was committed between five and six o’clock on a bright summer evening. The party or parties who committed the crime were never identified. The victim wore new clothes, but there is every reason to suppose he had enlisted in order to procure several hundred dollars bounty. He had been lured into the tunnel, where he was murdered and robbed. A short time before this murder some fiends who had murdered a man placed his dead body upon the track at the western end of the tunnel. The head of the corpse had been placed on the rail and a passing train crushed it.

Atlas Obscura is an online magazine with community-written posts about obscure bits of local history, specializing in hidden or mysterious locales.

Image via Wilkes Street Tunnel

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After briefly reopening some locations to tours, Alexandria has once again closed several museums and historic sites starting tomorrow (Tuesday) until further notice due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

The city said three locations that had been opened will be closed again:

  • Alexandria Archaeology Museum
  • Alexandria’s History Museum at The Lyceum
  • Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

According to the press release:

Due to the dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Alexandria and across the region, Historic Alexandria museums will close starting Tuesday, December 22 until further notice. Luckily, history doesn’t stop just because our doors are closed! We invite the public to explore the history of Alexandria through our online resources by visiting alexandriava.gov/Historic and follow us on social media to discover new things about your hometown.

Earlier this month, the city reverted libraries back to Phase 2 of the pandemic response, with curbside pick-up/drop-off only and virtual service.

The city said there is no estimate on when the locations could reopen.

Photo via Gadsby’s Tavern Museum/Facebook

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