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Roughly 160 years after Pickett’s Charge, some in Alexandria are hoping to bring another defeat to Confederate Major General George E. Pickett.

Signs have popped up on Pickett Street, which is named for the general, calling for it to be renamed.

A history teacher at Francis C. Hammond Middle School posted images of the signs outside the school near the intersection of N. Pickett Street and Seminary Road.

The calls for the street’s renaming come amid a broader review of Confederate-honoring streets around the city. Earlier this year, Alexandria’s City Council discussed plans to rename roughly three Confederate-horning street names each year.

The city also later released a short guide for what those who live on one of those streets will need to do if the street is renamed.

The Contrabands and Freedmens Cemetery Memorial at 1001 S. Washington Street in Old Town (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Office of Historic Alexandria is going all out for Juneteenth this year with four events, a storytelling event, and more around the city.

Juneteenth, celebrated June 19, marks the end of slavery in the United States.

There are several city-led programs around Alexandria between this weekend and next marking the occasion with programs available for all ages.

According to the Office of Historic Alexandria:

  • Tales for Young Historians: Saturday, June 10, 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Beatley Library (5005 Duke Street) — The Alexandria Black History Museum and the Alexandria Library invite you to a collaborative event celebrating Juneteenth. All are welcome, but the event is geared toward children ages 5-8.
  • Juneteenth at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum: Friday, June 16, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum (105 N Union Street, Unit 327) — Visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum for a hands-on activity related to a free Black site excavated in Alexandria. The activity is paired with the new Lee Street Site permanent archaeology exhibit. The Lee Street Site answers questions like: what is urban archaeology; what did the city look like in the past; and what do archaeologists do? The newly designed exhibit centers the experiences of free and enslaved African Americans in Alexandria.
  • Douglass Cemetery Remembrance: Saturday, June 17, 10 -11:30 a.m. at Douglass Cemetery (105 N Union Street) — Join supporters and volunteers at this historic Black cemetery to place purple ribbons of remembrance on the gravestones and attend a short ceremony following in honor of those buried in Douglass Cemetery and the Juneteenth holiday. In partnership with the Social Responsibility Group (SRG) and the Friends of Douglass Cemetery.
  • Washington Revels Jubilee Voices Concert – Singing the Journey: Juneteenth Joy: Monday, June 19, 2 p.m. at Market Square (300 King Street) —  Enjoy traditional African American songs of struggle and freedom with the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble. The ensemble is committed to the preservation of African American history and traditions – presenting songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, as expressed through a cappella music, drama, and dance. Inaugurated in 2010, the group now performs regularly at heritage sites throughout the Washington D.C. area, singing, sharing, and learning the stories of the people in those communities. Event is weather dependent.

The Alexandria Black History Museum is also hosting extended hours on Monday, June 19, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. At 10 a.m., the museum is hosting a storytelling event with Alexandria Living Legend Lillian Patterson.

There are also self-guided tours around Alexandria for locals hoping to explore more of the city’s Black history.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum at 105-107 S. Fairfax Street in Old Town (Staff photo by James Cullum)

A popular tour at Alexandria’s Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax Street) is making a comeback next month: Poison at the Apothecary Museum.

The tour, recommended for ages 18 and older, explores different types of poisons and their application throughout history.

“Come explore the sinister side of medicine on the Apothecary Museum’s Poison Tour,” the city’s website said. “This tour explores several different types of poisons, their historic uses at the Apothecary, and what we know today.”

The tours are scheduled for June 11 and 18 at 11 a.m. Tickets are $15 per person.

Landmark Mall demolition in progress (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Earlier this week, ALXnow launched a survey for readers to provide feedback on the site. At the same time, we asked on Twitter if anyone had questions they wanted answered about Alexandria.

We’re here to provide and update on that — but both questions had pretty vague answers that will require a little more digging.

The first question was about the name for Landmark.

We asked the Office of Historic Alexandria but there doesn’t seem to be much information on why the name Landmark was specifically chosen.

We did, however, find that Landmark Mall originally opened as Landmark Center in 1965 — a large open-air shopping center with three department stores. It wasn’t until 1984 that the center was renovated and turned into the indoor Landmark Mall.

The second question was about Taney Avenue, which is split in the middle by Taney Avenue Park.

City Historian Dan Lee said Taney Avenue did, indeed, run through where the park is today. The when and why is still unclear.

A staff report from 2016 said the “when” at least was possibly in 1976:

In December 1976, 2.58 acres of land was conveyed to the City of Alexandria to be used as Taney Avenue Park by Davis Mortgage Company and the Prudential Insurance Company of America as part of a subdivision related to the development of the Shirley-Duke Apartments, now known as the Foxchase Apartments.

A Washington Post article from the time noted that the entire area was closed down and the families in the low-income housing were evicted. After this, the neighborhood was demolished and rebuilt, which may have been when the park was created as part of a plan to turn the area into a “middle-class development”.

We’ll keep digging into this after the long weekend, but in the meantime, if anyone else has questions about Alexandria or ALXnow they’d like answered in a future post, leave them in the comments below.

Forrest Street, named for Nathan Bedford Forrest (image via Google Maps)

As the city works through plans to systemize the renaming of streets honoring Confederate leaders, some Alexandrians could be taking a trip to the DMV or the bank.

One of the questions going into the renaming process has been: what will that mean for locals living on those streets? Ahead of the renaming process coming back for a public hearing in October, city staff put together a guide to what locals will and won’t have to change.

For the bad news first: the city said those living on a street honoring a Confederate will have to change the following if their street is renamed:

  • Department of Motor Vehicles: vehicle registration, driver’s license, state IDs. Address change can be done online – ID card replacement not required.
  • Passports: No address change is required until passport expires.
  • IRS – Tax Advisor: Put new address on next tax filing and on Form 8822. Mail a letter with the following information: full name, new address, old address, date of birth, Social Security Number, Individual Taxpayer ID Number or Employer Identification Number.
  • Wills & Trusts: No address change required, though if desired, the City may provide certified letter as addendum to will/trust (if requested).
  • Social Security: The change can be made online.
  • Financials: Banks and investment services, Loan issuers, Credit card companies
  • Insurance: Health, dental, life, car, house and/or renters insurance
  • Subscriptions

The good news is there are parts of renaming that the city would handle. Including:

  • U.S. Postal Service: You do not need to request a change of address form.
  • Personal Property tax: You do not need to update your personal property records.
  • Land Records and Permits: The City will inform the Circuit Court Clerk and make any necessary alterations to all
    planning permits.
  • Utilities: The City will alert the following agencies regarding street name changes — AlexRenew, Dominion Energy, Comcast, Ting, and Washington Gas.
  • Voter Registration: The Registrar will change voting records.
  • Schools: The City will send notifications to the City School Board, Alexandria City Public School Administration, and principals.
  • Emergency Services: The City will update all of its emergency services of new street names, including — Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Fire Department, and 311 and 911. You do NOT need to notify these agencies. Your street name will be updated with no action on your part.

Strategic Initiatives Officer Dana Wedeles said there will also be a process for naming suggestions to be brought up from the community, though it requires a community-led meeting and a representative from a community organization to provide a justification for the name.

“That is the process we use for Parks and Recreation,” said Wedeles. “It’s a way to ensure there is community buy-in. It can be small, it can be three people meeting, it’s also meant as a way to filter some… we had many names in the [Jefferson Davis Highway renaming] process that were not serious.”

“You don’t want a Boaty McBoatface,” said City Council member Kirk McPike.

“That’s exactly the one I was going to say,” Wedeles answered. “This is a way to make sure there is some real seriousness and thought put into it.”

Photo via Google Maps

The Tall Ship Providence and The Cherry Blossom on the Potomac River with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the distance. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is planning to pull out all the stops for its 275 birthday next year and, can we just say: it doesn’t look a day over 200.

At a City Council meeting last night, Gretchen Bulova, director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, said the city is preparing for the big 275 next summer with celebrations tying in with state and nationwide events. The city is planning to celebrate from April 24 through Labor Day.

“[It’s] focused on the city, community and really making this focused around oral history,” Bulova said.

But some of the bigger celebrations are a little further off on the horizon. Two years later, 2026, is the 250th anniversary of the United States of America. Virginia is also hosting a similar birthday celebration called Virginia 250.

“This is not your grandma’s 1976 celebration with colonial costumes and celebrating the Declaration of Independence,” said Bulova. “That’s not what this commemoration is about. It’s a look at where we are as a nation after 250 years.”

Bulova said America 250 will focus in part on the stories of immigrant communities that helped to shape the country.

One of the more exciting parts of the 250 celebrations is Sail 250, a multi-state tall ship celebration that will see a small fleet of sailing ships tour the country. Bulova she’s working on having Alexandria be a port partner for Sail 250.

“Sail 250 going to start in New Orleans and hit major ports culminating with a July 4 celebration in Boston Harbor,” Bulova said. “We have the opportunity to be a part of that, which [would have] a huge economic impact for our city.”

Bulova said one of the ports along the way is Norfolk, but the southern Virginia port can’t hold the whole Sail 250 fleet, which is where Alexandria comes in.

“There are 50 ships planned to sail and Norfolk cannot support 50 ships,” Bulova said. “We’re looking at up to four ships in June 2026. There will be some waterfront remediation going on, we are aware of that, we’ve talked about that. The size and location of the ships will be coordinated well in advance as well.”

Next year also marks the anniversary of the Fairfax Resolves, a set of resolutions penned by George Mason in 1774 that rejected British claim to authority over the American colonies.

“On July 18, 2024 we’ll do something about the Fairfax Resolves,” said Bulova. “That’s really significant in history… 30 other jurisdictions in Virginia did this, but apparently we were the most aggressive. So that’s something to be proud of.”

D-Day reenactors in Market Square (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria is commemorating the anniversary of D-Day next month with swing music, reenactors and more.

The annual event is organized by the city’s Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee which promotes cultural exchanges between — as the name might suggest — Alexandria and Caen, France.

The commemorative event is scheduled for Sunday, June 4, at Market Square (300 King Street) from 2-4 p.m.

“The city of Caen, in western Normandy, was the center of some of the heaviest fighting after the Allies landed on the nearby beaches that marked the beginning of the end of World War II, 79 years ago,” the city said in a release.

The commemoration is an annual event and will feature live music.

“The program includes period swing music and exhibition dancers, static displays and reenactors, performances by the U.S, Army Fife and Drum Corps and the Alexandria Citizens Band, and a short formal ceremony with the mayor and city officials,” the release said.

N. Early Street (image via Google Maps)

Jubal Early was a Confederate military leader who not only fled the country to avoid surrendering but eventually came to be one of the early vocal proponents of the Lost Cause myth and an outspoken white supremacist.

N. Early Street — a road between Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard Campus and, ironically, the Union’s Fort Ward — honors Early. It is one of the 41 roads throughout Alexandria confirmed in a new report to be named for a Confederate leader.

Alexandria’s City Council is set to receive the report, along with a map of the roads, as part of a “scope of work” for the city’s plan to rename streets honoring Confederates.

All but eight of the streets are west of Quaker Lane.

City leaders previously stated their goal as being the renaming of three Confederate-honoring streets per year. With 41 streets confirmed as being named for a Confederate leader, it’s a process that should take around 14 years.

The list includes previous names for some of the roads, such as Lincolnia Road for Van Dorn Street until it was renamed for Brigadier General Earl Van Dorn in 1953.

There have been questions about which Lee Old Town’s Lee Street could be named for, and report notes that the street was previously Water Street until it was renamed upon the death of Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna Custis Lee 1874.

There are 27 additional names that could be linked to confederate figures, but the report says that further research would be required to confirm attribution. Ivor Street, for example, could be named for Sergeant James W. Ivor, a Confederate infantryman from Alexandria who was allegedly the model for the Appomattox painting — which later inspired the Appomattox statue.

The report also comes with a draft FAQ for those wondering what they need to do if their street is renamed, including who residents do and don’t need to contact after the name is changed.

Map of Confederate street names (image via City of Alexandria)

Image via Google Maps

The Kate Waller Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

In the Alexandria Gazette’s newsroom is a wall filled with archives of the news organization dating back to the early 19th century.

It’s an invaluable resource and a chance to look back at Alexandrians describing the city in their era in their own words, from local advertisements to gossip at the port. As more news is reported exclusively online, the Alexandria Library is hoping to recapture that sort of archive for the digital age.

The Alexandria Community Web Archives is described by the library system as part of an ongoing mission to document the history and culture of Alexandria. The archive captures images of various websites covering Alexandria to keep them available for posterity.

ALXnow spoke with Patricia Walker, branch manager of Local History/Special Collections, about the new archive.

ALXnow: How did this project get started? Has this been on your mind for a while or was it something that was spurred on by a particular incident?

Walker: Web archiving has been on our radar for several years, because it is very important for documenting local communities. However, we needed time to update the Local History/Special Collections Branch’s digital archiving technology.

Fortunately, the timing worked out well because we were able to hire a new archivist around the same time as the Internet Archive opened up applications for public libraries to apply for the Mellon-funded Community Webs program. This program is very beneficial to public libraries because it helps establish these Community Web programs by taking care of the costs for the software and storage support for the first two years.

ALXnow: When did this project start?

Walker: We applied to be a Community Webs member on August 26, 2022. We began compiling a list of sites we knew we wanted to document in September 2022. Because these types of projects can require a lot of technical and descriptive work, it takes time to launch them. In fact it took us almost a year to launch, which happened on 4/7/2023.

ALXnow: As this project gets going, what are you hoping will be the benefit to people a generation or two removed as they look back at this collection?

Walker: People will have access to the information they need. Essentially we are capturing snapshots of our community in all its variety – whether that is obituaries on funeral home sites; information on food insecurity, immigration, or civil rights needs captured through non-profit sites; or the changing architecture and cuisine within the city captured through the sites of businesses and restaurants. We want people to make site suggestions to make sure we are representing everyone.

ALXnow: Are there any goals for how often the archive will document sites? Right now it looks like there are only a handful of sites with archives captured and there are some, like ours or Patch, that update every day. Will every day eventually be accessible?

Walker: We have guidelines for how often we capture a site based on if it updates daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. We don’t want to capture most sites every day since many do not update that often. Also, with projects like this one, there are subscription and storage costs involved so we need to balance cost against how often we capture a site.

Fortunately, the first two years will be funded by the Mellon Foundation, but they have set data limits we still have to work within for this project. We want to make sure that we manage the project in such a way that we can anticipate the future costs and data needs the Library will be responsible for after the second year of the project.

While it appears that we only have 23 sites being captured, we actually have 197 sites on our list to be evaluated, and we are still actively adding more as we find them. We are contacting site owners in advance so we can answer questions and address any concerns they may have about the project before capturing their site.

114 N. Payne Street (via Google Maps)

In April 1979, the City of Alexandria listed 114 N. Payne Street in Old Town as a historic building due to its unique architectural roofline.

One month later, the city approved a permit to destroy that roofline.

The phantom roofline, however, haunted the approval process for the homeowner trying to make modifications three decades later.

The homeowner plans to replace the building’s front aluminum siding to cement siding, remove a short fence installed in 2019 and replace a grassy area with parking. A neighbor from the Old Town Civic Association appealed the plans, arguing the changes should not be made, citing the historic significance of the home.

City Council dismissed the argument on the grounds that the feature that made the home historic no longer exists and ultimately approved the modifications (docket item 15). The whole process left some city employees and City Council members scratching their heads at the baffling decision by city leaders in 1979.

“The main reason based on the nomination paperwork that it was placed on the 100-Year Building list was that roofline, which has been altered,” a city staffer said.

The roofline was listed as a rare example of Gothic revival architecture in Alexandria.

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

“We think the permit may have been issued a month after it was placed on the 100-Year Building list?” Mayor Justin Wilson asked. “So it was placed on the 100-Year Building list in April 1979… for the roofline, and then a month later we issued a permit to destroy that roofline?”

“I believe so,” the staffer said. “Our records do show that, I just didn’t want to say that.”

Without that roof, Board of Architectural Review (BAR) member Andrew Scott said, there is little of historical note about the building.

“The reason this building is on the 100-year protected building list was because of this very unique and distinctive gothic roofline that no longer exists,” said Scott. “We don’t know why it doesn’t exist, but absent that, there’s nothing really particularly historical remaining about this building.”

Siding with the architectural review board, the Council ultimately voted unanimously to deny the neighbor’s appeal and allow the homeowner to make the changes.

“I thank the BAR for making a good decision here,” City Council member Kirk McPike said, “and I apologize on some level to the applicant that they had to spend time and money to come here and present this case again.”

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

Image via Google Maps

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