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As plans move forward to revamp the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a petition is gaining steam to get support to save spaces for artists.

As of Today (Monday, Nov. 15), more than 3,200 people have signed a petition asking the city to keep artists in studios on the first floor instead of replacing those studios with amenities, including a completely remodeled first floor, a new restaurant and a roof deck.

“Some of these plans include reduce the number of individual artist studios in the building by up to 40%, as well as sweeping aside ALL artist studios on the first floor and replacing it with cheap money-making venues such as restaurants,” notes the Change.org petition, which was launched three weeks ago by artist M. Alexander Gray.

Per the plan, the second floor of the art center would be artist studios, and the Art League school would move up to the third floor.

“Make your voice heard!” states the petition. “DO NOT let hardworking artists get booted out and replaced with cheap entertainments! DO NOT let the City tamper with this unique cultural treasure!”

City staff acknowledge that there will be a reduction in space for artists, and Council will review the plans in December.

The art center, which receives an estimated 500,000 visitors annually, has been managed by the City since 2018, taking over for the nonprofit Torpedo Factory Art Center Board, which ran it for five years. For a dozen years before that it was managed by the Torpedo Factory Artists Association, and previously was managed by the City for more than two decades.

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After sailing through perilous economic waters, the Tall Ship Providence just shored up weekly tours until next spring.

The nonprofit is still tabulating the numbers, but expects that since launching in June 2020, thousands of visitors have been welcomed aboard the Tall Ship for tours and cruises. The Providence is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775, and visitors are welcomed aboard by an actor portraying Captain John Paul Jones.

“We were delighted to be able to have as many guests and customers aboard the ship as possible this summer and fall,” Claire Sassin, president and CEO of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, told ALXnow. “It was a great joy, but there was also sadness because we just want to keep sailing.”

In August, the ship passed inspection with the U.S. Coast Guard and can now coast without a motor along the Potomac River with its sails unfurled. While still open for weekend and private cruises through next spring, the ship recently closed during the week.

“Being able to put the sails up is a completely different experience, and you do get to see what sailing was like back during the American Revolution,” Sassin said.

The pandemic forced the Foundation to alter its business plan to focus on small events, like private tours, wine tastings and beer cruises.

“We had not thought really about doing private tours until the pandemic came about,” Sassin said. “We’ve also added a whole layer of sanitizing in between every single tour, both at our Visitor Center and on the ship.”

In the days ahead, Sassin hopes to see the Tall Ship move to Waterfront Park by 2023, as massive plans are in the works to construct a barge, a new pier and cottages to house the ship and the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center.

Future travelers in the cold months ahead can rest assured, as the ship has heating in the lower deck. In the short term, on December 11, 12, 18 and 19, Captain Jones will tell visitors the Christmas tale of the Schooner Rouse Simmons, which made perilous runs to deliver late-season Christmas trees, until it sank in a storm.

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If you missed the rare tour opportunity for the defunct GenOn plant back in June, Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) has announced a new set of tours for later this month.

The vine-overgrown plant’s days are numbered: HRP is hoping to spearhead redevelopment of the site starting with demolition in 2023.

While the building isn’t safe to go inside, earlier tours guided visitors around the grounds while outlining plans for future mixed-use development. The one part of the site still in active use is a Pepco substation, which will remain in operation throughout redevelopment.

HRP said tours will be hosted on Saturday, Nov 13, and guests can register for the tour online.

“On November 13th, Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) will host guided tours of the Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site in Old Town North,” HRP said. “The tours will offer members of the public an opportunity to visit the site, which has been closed off from Old Town North and the waterfront for decades and hear about HRP’s plans for redevelopment.”

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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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Alexandria’s recovery from the pandemic is going faster than expected, according to Visit Alexandria.

Alexandria’s tourism bureau, in its annual meeting last week, reported that consumption-based tax revenue for fiscal year 2021 came in at $59 million. That’s $6 million more than the initial forecast of $53 million, but well below the all-time high of $66 million in fiscal year 2019.

“So far, leisure travel has been the backbone of our recovery,” said Patricia Washington, president and CEO of Visit Alexandria. “But as we move into fall and winter, some return of business travel will be critical.”

Washington said that a number of initiatives kept businesses afloat, including the ALX Promise health accreditation program, the opening of the 100 block of King Street to pedestrian-only traffic, and the gradual return of public events.

In the meantime, Visit Alexandria focused advertising on the city’s dining, waterfront and historic tour experiences.

It also helps that Conde’ Nast has chosen the city as one of the best small cities in the country several years in a row, Washington said.

As for hotel occupancy, the bottom fell out of the market in April 2020, and Alexandria’s recovery has been gradual. Now occupancy is back to just over 50% for the first time since the pandemic began — a far cry from more than 80% occupancy in 2019.

“Clearly we still have a long way to go,” Washington said.

Alexandria lost 4% of its businesses during the pandemic, which Washington said is a testimony to the resilience of businesses, loyal customers and the responsiveness of city agencies.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation is also expecting a gradual recovery, anticipating an improvement of more than 20% in tourism in fiscal year 2022, but still more than 20% down from 2019 levels.

Visit Alexandria’s blog also achieved record annual page views, with 785,000 digital marketing impressions in FY21, an increase of more than 110%.

Last year, the bureau also created Shop Small Week to expand the momentum of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday into a full week.

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Alexandria is reclaimed its third-place ranking in this year’s Condé Nast survey of best small cities in the United States after being bumped down to fifth.

The city took 5th place in last year’s survey after winning 3rd in 2019. The survey tallied over 800,000 votes, the publication said.

The publication’s description of the city seems to be almost identical to previous years but adds a few new notes like suggesting a tour of the Torpedo Factory Art Center and visiting Gadsby’s Tavern:

Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike. Most folks start to imagine moving there just after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink–don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

Not mentioned is the city’s new Potomac Yard development or sewer tunnel, but maybe next year.

As in previous years, the city still lingers behind Charleston, South Carolina, in the number two spot. This year’s number one spot went to Aspen, Colorado, citing primarily the city’s access to ski slopes and fine cuisine.

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Morning Notes

Contaminated Legacy: From slave plantation to industrial pollution, a hidden history of North Old Town — “The land where the power plant is now located was once a slave plantation owned by the first rector of Christ Church, Townshend Dade. In the 1920s, the area experienced rapid industrialization. The American Chlorophyll Company set up operation on the spot where the power plant would later locate the coal pile. And the Potomac River Clay Works had an operation on what is now the parking lot of the power plant. Neighbors in North Old Town say they want all that contaminated soil cleaned up rather than capped in place and left where it is, a common way to deal with these kinds of heavily polluted sites.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra opens fall season — “So thrilled the @Alex_Symphony is back, live and in-person at the Schlesinger Center! Live music is back, masked and vaccinated and better than ever!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy early. Scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 81F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low around 65F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Alexandria haunted pub tour guide — “We specialize in performing haunted pub tours. Think ghost tour combined with Pub Crawl and there you have it. Our website is www.NightlySpirits.com and we are currently looking for tour guides to work 2-3 days per week, but possibly more depending on the season. Our pub tours operate Wednesday-Sunday evenings, so you must have evening and weekend availability. Tours run roughly 3 hours. We are looking for exciting, life-of-the-party tour guides. If people find you boring, don’t bother applying. You also must be able to learn quickly, memorize a script and ACT IT OUT, as well as be able to interact with the group. Typically our tour guides have worked in a bar/restaurant or have some acting skills as well as the ability to herd cats.” [jobshq.com]

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As Alexandria’s museums and historical localities start to reopen, some are looking for public help to handle new visitors.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105 S Fairfax Street), part of the Office of Historic Alexandria, is looking for volunteers to help lead guided tours of the historic site, an 19th century pharmacy turned museum of medicinal herbs and apothecary accoutrements.

Training for the job starts on Saturday, Sept. 25, with an in-person workshop followed by virtual evening classes and a second in-person workshop on Nov. 6.

“Volunteers with both weekend and weekday availability are needed, particularly Sundays and Mondays,” the city said in a press release. “A minimum of one shift per month (approximately four hours) is required once training is complete. Current City COVID protocols require volunteers to submit proof of vaccination and wear a mask during on-site shifts.”

Those interested in becoming volunteer tour guides can apply online.

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Morning Notes

Local school systems face bus driver shortages, but say they’re ready to roll — “ACPS recognizes there is a national shortage of school bus drivers, making it challenging to recruit and fill bus driver positions. ACPS has about 90% of our drivers available and 100% of bus monitor positions filled…” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria recommends cooling centers during heatwave — “The next few days are going to be hot and humid. The City offers several locations as options to those without cooling in their homes, including rec centers and libraries, as well as assistance for adults 60+ and some low-income households. Learn more at alexandriava.gov/122602.” [Twitter]

Mayor conducting town hall meeting on the run — “This Thursday night I am bringing back my ‘Running Town Hall!’ Lace up your running shoes and meet us at Pacers Running at 1301 King Street at 7 PM. We’ll run and discuss the issues facing our City. See you there!” [Facebook]

Virginia liquor store sales hit record — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority reported revenue of $1.4 billion during the 2021 fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of $163 million from the previous year, the Virginia ABC announced Tuesday.” [Patch]

Anticipating fall, Visit Alexandria releases deets for events thru November — “Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau, has released details for local events into November. Take a look. There are plenty of things to do.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. Hot and humid. High around 95F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Server at Chadwicks — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority. We currently have more business than we can handle! Following a brief training regimen, you may pick up as many hours as you can handle. Start making very competitive server pay ASAP!” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Residents divided over plan to rename Lee Street — “For some residents, the news came as a welcome surprise and a step toward removing Confederate namesakes from the city’s streets and honoring figures or ideas they deem more worthy. For others, the petition represented an attempt to erase the city’s connection to commander of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee, who grew up in Alexandria and has long been a focal point of the city’s history tourism.” [Alex Times]

Basic income pilot starts this fall in Alexandria — “Bolstered by nearly $60 million in federal pandemic relief money, the independent jurisdiction in Northern Virginia plans to begin sending $500 debit cards to 150 families each month for two years, starting sometime this fall… Alexandria is funding its new basic income initiative with $3 million in American Rescue Plan money.” (dcist)

Grocery delivery store Foxtrot under construction in Old Town — “According to a report by Supermarket News, Foxtrot’s expansion to Virginia is part of a larger effort to open 50 new stores within the next two years. Foxtrot’s new Alexandria location will be situated prominently at the intersection of King Street and Washington Street.” [Alexandria Living]

‘Holy Cow’ names burger after Noah Lyles — “Congrats to Alexandrian Noah Lyles for bringing home the Bronze!!! Holy Cow Del Ray is celebrating with a BOTM in his honor. #visitdelray #titanpride #olympics2020″ [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny skies. High 91F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph… Mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 68F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Alexandria police latent print examiner — “WE’RE HIRING! Come join our team here at the Alexandria Police Department. We have a job opening for a Latent Print Examiner. Click the link for details about the job and how to apply: bit.ly/3lwxXty” [Twitter]

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