Newsletter
Freedom House at 1315 Duke Street (photo via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria has announced that the long-awaited Freedom House Museum (1315 Duke Street) is scheduled to reopen near the end of this month.

The museum is scheduled to fully reopen on Friday, May 27, with a grand opening event scheduled for Monday, June 20, which is Juneteenth. The opening comes a little over a year after the museum was originally scheduled to reopening.

The new museum is an overhaul of an earlier exhibit at the building, which was once part of the Franklin and Armfield complex dedicated to trafficking Black men, women and children between 1828 and 1861, the city said in a release. Part of the museum’s overhaul is a greater focus on the lives of the victims of slavery rather than a focus on the lives and actions of the slavers.

“The museum will be open to the public Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays and Mondays from 1 to 5 p.m.” the city said in a release. “Admission is $5 per adult, $3 per child ages 5-12, and free for City of Alexandria residents. Due to high demand and limited capacity, it is highly recommended that guests reserve tickets in advance online.”

The museum includes stories from Black Americans who were impacted by the slave trade operating in Alexandria.

The museum originally closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic and, at the end of the month, the City of Alexandria purchased the building from the Urban League of Northern Virginia.

“Throughout the pandemic, work continued to protect and interpret the building including the completion of the Historic Structures Report, research, and the creation of three new exhibits,” the release said. “The Freedom House Museum site is integral to the understanding of Black history in Alexandria and the United States, and is part of Alexandria’s large collection of historic sites, tours, markers and more that depict stories of the Colonial era, through the Civil War and Civil Rights eras, to today.”

0 Comments

There are a number of ghost signs on buildings all over Old Town, and a home to one of them just went on the market for $1.1 milion.

That’s a far cry from the $414,000 that 601 S. St. Asaph Street was sold for in 2014 — and the $11,093 it sold for in 1962.

The value of the property doubled after a comprehensive renovation project in 2015. While peeling away paint on the exterior of the building, a large and faded painted advertisement was discovered. The town home was built in 1842, and was a grocery store during the early 20th century.

The sign reads “W.L. WILSON GROCER/COAL WOOD/CHEW/GRAPE.”

“The building was initially built as a residence in the historically African-American neighborhood of the Hill, but changed uses over time,” the Alexandria Archaeology Museum said on Facebook. “W.L. Wilson is likely William L. Wilson who is listed in the 1904 City Directory as operating a grocery store here with his brother Wadsworth. Grape Chew was a type of chewing tobacco manufactured by the R.A. Patterson Tobacco Company of Richmond.”

The two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home went on the market on April 28, and is owned by former Washington Nationals broadcaster and MLB player F.P. Santangelo.

Via Facebook

3 Comments

Fieldwork started earlier this week on a project to put the Old Town ships back underwater, and a public event scheduled next Sunday will give locals a chance to discuss the process with city archaeologists.

The public event, called “SeeWorthy in the Park,” is scheduled for Sunday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at Ben Brenman Park (4800 Brenman Park Drive). The name SeeWorthy is derived from a new exhibit in the Torpedo Factory featuring digital reconstructions of the ships.

“The free event will include opportunities to talk with archaeologists about ship research and preservation, as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based activities for all ages, such as shoreline engineering, wood preservation, and forklift hydraulics,” the city said in a release.

After the ships were uncovered in 2018, they were kept in tanks of water to prevent the wood from decaying. The timbers keep their shape when submerged but if the wood dries out they could crumble. Some pieces of the largest ship have been undergoing restorative treatment and study at Texas A&M, but timbers from the other two ships have been taking up space in a DASH bus facility since their discovery.

In an earlier meeting, City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen said Ben Brenman Park Pond was chosen as having the least risk of contamination or damage to the frames while also being the easiest to access. Breen said signage will be added to the park explaining the history of the ship fragments. Meanwhile, a study of a potential waterfront museum is scheduled to start later this year and could be a permanent home for at least one of the ship hulls.

Work on the re-sinking started on Monday, May 2, and is scheduled to continue for around 4-6 weeks.

“These rare and unique artifacts represent Alexandria’s historic seaport,” Breen said in a release. “We look forward to sharing the story of their discovery, excavation, and preservation with Alexandria residents and visitors in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and in many other ways.”

0 Comments

Work is scheduled to start next month on one of Alexandria’s more bizarre projects: putting a set of historic ship hulls recovered in Old Town back underwater.

Ben Brenman Park Pond (4800 Brenman Park Drive) near Cameron Station will be playing the part of Davy Jones’ Locker for the project. The city is hosting a meeting on-site next week to discuss the project.

“The public is invited to attend a Community Pre-Construction Meeting about the upcoming project to place the Robinson Landing Site historic ship timbers in Ben Brenman Park Pond,” the city said in a release. “The meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 19, 5:30 p.m. at Ben Brenman Park at the maintenance access point on the pond along Deer Run Court.”

After the ships were uncovered in 2018, they were kept in tanks of water to prevent the wood from decaying. The timbers keep their shape when submerged but if the wood dries out they could crumble. Some pieces of the largest ship have been undergoing restorative treatment and study at Texas A&M, but timbers from the other two ships have been taking up space in a DASH bus facility since their discovery.

In an earlier meeting, City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen said Ben Brenman Park Pond was chosen as having the least risk of contamination or damage to the frames while also being the easiest to access. Breen said signage will be added to the park explaining the history of the ship fragments. Meanwhile, a study of a potential waterfront museum is scheduled to start later this year and could be a permanent home for at least one of the ship hulls.

The city release said fieldwork at the park is expected to run from May 2 to May 27.

2 Comment

With all the new residential development coming up in Old Town North, new local residents wandering around their home might be surprised to see a sign marking the neighborhood’s very own elusive cryptid: the bizarre goosepigs.

Goosepigs, as the name suggests, are a rumored fusion of pigs and goose, an impossible biological feat said to be accomplished when the pair of species were driven into the fringes of the city by local ordinance.

The source listed on the sign is the 1972 book Pets in Old Alexandria by Dickman and Nicholson, but City Historian Daniel Lee said the story has older roots.

The only known source for the goosepig story is Mary Powell’s The History of Old Alexandria, Virginia, published in 1928. Lee said Powell was codifying older stories she’d heard.

Given that it’s a book from 1928, much of the language in the excerpts, including the section about goosepigs, has its share of racist language.

In Powell’s history, geese and pigs running amok in the street was a lingering issue even years after an Act of General Assembly prohibiting their presence.

A legend preserved by some [Black immigrants] not many generations from their native Africa, and who were full of folk tales, stated that after the manner of the “Pied Piper of Hammelin” they were tolled off to the arch under the canal basin, where they took up their abode. They cross-bred, retaining the legs of the pig and the webbed feet and bill of the goose.

They were said to be very good natured, and if approached diplomaticaly, would assist people in recovering lost property. Occationally youth of the town south to verify this story but were never successful. So after many years the legend of the Goosepigs at Spa Spring died out. It is worth re-counting, however, as an interesting bit of folklore.

Lee said the prohibitions on swine and geese started as early as 1811 in Alexandria, though some bans of pigs in the streets may have started earlier. However, there’s no evidence in the 1811 laws of Alexandria’s miraculous creatures being specifically targeted.

0 Comments

Friends and city officials gathered outside City Hall yesterday to celebrate one of Alexandria’s most storied centenarians: J. David Bailey, the oldest surviving veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.

Bailey, who turned 100 on January 3, was 22 when he was deployed to the European theater with the 422nd Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division. His battalion was captured by German troops while en route to St. Vith, Belgium, on Dec. 16, 1944. Bailey later escaped captivity and eventually appeared on the cover of the victory edition of Stars and Stripes.

When asked how he escaped captivity, Bailey told ALXnow “I happened to be going the right direction at the right speed at the right time.”

Since then, Bailey has won numerous awards for his military service and has attended ceremonies commemorating the Second World War.

At the ceremony, Bailey was presented with folded flags from the state and national capitals, along with a challenge coin from the Alexandria American Legion Post 24 and a key to the city.

Upbeat music from the Alexandria City High School Jazz Band accompanied the ceremony. Congressman Don Beyer was around 50 years when Bailey was born and congratulated him on hitting twice that.

“This is not only to honor me, but the 10 million Americans who lived a regimented lifestyle,” Bailey said. “Tom Brokaw was right when he declared it the greatest generation… Thank you, not just from me, but from the greatest generation of which I’m proud to be a member.”

0 Comments

Nearly three years after Alexandria’s Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) launched a program to create reparations and research related to Black Americans enslaved or compelled to work at the school, a new lecture program this week is scheduled to look at what kind of progress has been made on that front.

On Wednesday, March 30, the Alexandria Historical Society, the Alexandria Black History Museum and the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project are hosting a virtual lecture to examine what that program has accomplished since it launched in September 2019.

“In September 2019, Virginia Theological Seminary announced the creation of a reparations endowment fund and the intent to research, uncover, and recognize African Americans who toiled under the oppression of VTS during slavery and throughout the Jim Crow era,” the city said in a release. “The March 30th lecture looks at the program’s progress providing reparations to descendants since March 2021’s lecture and overview.”

Ebonee Davis, an associate for Multicultural Ministries Programming and Historical Research for Reparations with VTS, is scheduled to present some of the program’s findings and speak with one of the descendants who received reparations about the program’s impact.

The program is scheduled for 7-8:15 p.m. and is free, but advance registration is required.

0 Comments
The original sculpture of Earl Lloyd at Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Photo via City of Alexandria)

A marker will be unveiled in front of NBA trailblazer Earl Francis Lloyd’s childhood home in Alexandria.

The city announced today (Friday) that the historical state marker will be at 1020 Montgomery Street and an event will be held for its unveiling, featuring remarks from Mayor Justin Wilson, Kevin Lloyd, son of Earl Loyd, and others.

The unveiling will take place between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Saturday, April 2, according to a news release.

Last year, the city unveiled a statue of Lloyd at the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. In 2020, the city named the 1000 block of Montgomery Street after him, Earl F. Lloyd Way.

The history of Lloyd’s NBA career is outlined in the release and can be read below.

Earl Lloyd was born in Alexandria in 1928 to Theodore Lloyd Sr. and Daisy Lloyd. At Parker-Gray, Lloyd played on the basketball team and earned All-South Atlantic Conference honors three times, and All-State Virginia Interscholastic Conference honors twice.

Earl’s defensive prowess earned him the nickname “Moon Fixer” due to his size and shot blocking ability. His success led to a scholarship in 1946 to West Virginia State, which he led to two Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships. In 1949 and 1950, the Pittsburgh Courier named him to its All-American team.

After graduating in 1950, Earl was drafted by the Washington Capitols. He was one of only four black players drafted to the NBA that year. Due to a scheduling coincidence, his start on Oct. 31, 1950, made him the first African American to play in an NBA game. He achieved that honor one day before “Chuck” Cooper played for the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat Clifton played for the New York Knicks.

After playing only seven NBA games, Lloyd was drafted into the army during the Korean War. After two years in the army, he returned to the NBA in 1952 with the Syracuse Nationals, following the dissolution of the Capitols in 1951. Earl played six seasons with the Nationals, winning the championship in 1955 alongside Jim Tucker. Lloyd and Tucker were the first two African Americans to win an NBA championship. Lloyd passed away in 2015.

0 Comments

Almost exactly four years after archeologists recovered three 18th-century ships from under the Old Town Waterfront, Alexandria is planning on sending at least two of them back to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Three ships were discovered under the Robinson Landing construction site in March 2018. While the most intact of the trio was sent to Texas A&M for study and will get a new Torpedo Factory exhibit next month, the other two have sat in water tanks in the DASH bus barn. At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission, City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen said that sometime this year the city will start moving the ships out of their 12×24-foot tanks and out to Ben Brenman Pond (4800 Brenman Park Drive).

“Based on [an] assessment, the recommendation was that [the ships] be stored at the bottom of Ben Brenman Pond; at the south end of the pond,” Breen said. “Jack [Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities] summarized it perfectly the other day: ‘We’re resinking three ships in a pond five miles west of where they were found.”

Breen noted this isn’t the first time rediscovered ships from this time period have been resubmerged. A Revolutionary War-era barge was discovered then re-submerged near Baltimore. Breen said the pond was chosen because it was the least risky to the timbers and would be the easiest to access. The “ponding” project received funding in the FY 2021 CIP.

“We’re finalizing the project schedule, including a date for pre-construction meeting on-site,” Breen said. “It will begin in April and last 4-6 months. We will offer a family-friendly event during ‘ponding’ process and in the future will be installing site interpretation.”

Meanwhile, Breen said a feasibility study for a potential new waterfront museum could start later this year with the idea of the museum eventually being home to the most intact ship. The study will look at potential funding and business models, as well as reviewing the sustainability of a waterfront museum.

4 Comments

During the Civil War, the former home of Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee was converted into a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. On Saturday (March 19), the Lee-Fendall House will briefly be converted into a hospital with living history reenactors.

The home of the former Virginia governor, and father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was also the site of the first-known successful blood transfusion.

The event is one of the following historical discussions taking place at the Lee-Fendall House this month:

  • Friday, March 18 —  Historian Dianne Murphy will conduct a lecture on the Civil War’s impact on modern medicine at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 19 — The living history event will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Friday, March 25 —  Historian Amanda Roper will conduct a lecture on “The Fight for Freedom at L’Ouverture Hospital” at 6 p.m. The hospital was where United States Colored Troops and African American civilians  were treated during the war in Alexandria

The events cost $10 for adults and $5 for students ages 17 and under.

 

2 Comment
×

Subscribe to our mailing list