Historical District in Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
A Place Through Time
13,000 years ago
The Paleoindian Period
A Native American hunter during the Paleoindian period discards a broken spear point, on a bluff overlooking a tributary to the Potomac River at the southern edge of present-day Alexandria.
4,000 years ago
Quartz and Quartzite Cobbles
People carry quartz and quartzite cobbles from a small tributary stream of the Potomac to a bluff top near the current intersection of Interstate 395 and Braddock Road. They chip off pieces of the cobbles to make stone spear points for use in hunting deer and small game and in fishing for shad and other spawning fish.
1,000 years ago
Native American Camp
Native Americans establish a small seasonal campsite at present-day Jones Point to hunt and exploit the resources of the adjacent marshland. They live in circular structures about 12 feet in diameter made of bent saplings, probably covered with bark or mats.
Exploration of the Chesapeake
Captain John Smith's shallop sails past what is now
First Land Grant
Margaret Brent, first female lawyer in American and advisor to the governor of Maryland, receives a grant of land from the Virginia governor that includes the future site of Alexandria.
John Alexander Buys Land
Scottish merchant John Alexander purchases some of the former Brent land from a Welsh ship captain for "six thousand pounds of Tobacco and Cask."
A New Town on the Potomac
George Washington, a teenage surveyor, draws plan of a new town called Alexandria.
Virginia's colonial government grants permission to a group of merchants and planters to establish a town called Alexandria.
French and Indian War
British General Edward Braddock arrives with several thousand Redcoats to quell the encroaching French and their Indian allies. He establishes his headquarters at the home of John Carlyle (present-day Carlyle House Historic Park). Braddock's arrogance and mortal defeat at the battle of Monongahela (near present-day Pittsburgh) are harbingers of Britain's decline.
"Alexandria is beyond all comparison
the handsomest town in Virginia
and indeed is among
-The Duc de la Rochefoucauld, 1796
Upset over British taxation, colonists hold a protest meeting at the courthouse (site of present-day City Hall) and approve George Mason's "Fairfax Resolves," the precursor to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
Friendship Fire Company
Alexandria's first volunteer fire company founded; in 1855 new firehouse is constructed (now Friendship Firehouse Museum).
American and French armies move southward to besiege British forces. Allied supply-wagon train forms a half-mile-wide camp at Alexandria, before moving on to Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War.
A Town Takes Shape
John Wise, local tavernkeeper and entrepreneur, constructs a tavern (now Gadsby's Tavern Museum) with the largest function room in Alexandria.
The Alexandria Academy, the town's first public school, opens.
Philip Richard Fendall builds house on Oronoco Street on lot purchased from his cousin, Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee (now Lee-Fendall House Museum).
President George Washington
George Washington becomes first president
New Nation, New City
First and southernmost cornerstone for new Federal capital is set at Alexandria's Jones Point with help of African-American surveyor and mathematician Benjamin Banneker; the town officially becomes part of the District of Columbia in 1801.
Successful Commerce on the Rise
Edward Stabler opens an apothecary, one of several successful commercial ventures by Quakers in Alexandria, that is operated by his descendants in the Leadbeater family until 1933 (now Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum).
The new City Tavern opens on Royal Street and becomes famous when managed by John Gadsby four years later (today known as Gadsby's Tavern Museum).
Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee moves to Alexandria with his family including young son Robert E. Lee.
Hero of the American Revolution
The Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, visits Alexandria for a Grand Reception and Celebration held in his honor
The Alexandria Lyceum
A group of gentlemen interested in public education and scientific inquiry organize themselves as the Alexandria Lyceum. Five years later, they build their own hall (now known as The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum), sharing it with the Alexandria Library.
With limited federal financial assistance and voting rights, Alexandrians vote to retrocede from the District of Columbia back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Edmonson Sisters
Sisters Emily and Mary Edmonson are held at an Alexandria slave jail after an escape attempt on schooner The Pearl. The girls' case captures the attention of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, and they ultimately gain their freedom.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the first national preservation organization in America, acquires Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, and it opens to the public two years later.
"There is no community to which my affections
composed of my earliest and oldest friends,
my kind school fellows and faithful neighbors."
-Robert E. Lee, 1870
From Civil War to Civil Rights
An Occupied City
One day after Virginia votes to secede from the Union, Federal troops seize Alexandria due to its strategic importance to the defense of Washington. Alexandria remains an occupied city throughout the Civil War.
Alexandria becomes a major headquarters, transportation center and hospital base for the Union Army, and a destination for refugees and runaway slaves. The Alexandria National Cemetery (1862) and the Contrabands and Freedman's Cemetery (1864) are established to accommodate the community's rising death toll.
Defenses of Washington
Fort Ward, fifth largest fort in an extensive ring of 164 forts and batteries to defend the national capital, is constructed near Braddock Road (now Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site).
Town of Potomac
Two streetcar suburbs, Del Ray and St. Elmo, merge to form the Town of Potomac. Town is annexed by the City of Alexandria in 1930.
Orville Wright's Flight
In a demonstration flight from Fort Myer in Arlington for the U.S. Army, Orville Wright flies to Shuter's Hill (now site of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial) and back, and the Wright brothers are awarded the first military airplane contract.
The Naval Torpedo Station opens on the Alexandria waterfront to build and repair this new type of weapon.
As part of the celebrations surrounding the bicentennial of George Washington's birth, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial is dedicated atop Shuter's Hill.
George Washington Memorial Parkway opens, connecting Washington, D.C., with Mount Vernon and using Washington Street as its course through Alexandria.
Civil Rights Movement Begins
Attorney Samuel W. Tucker leads five young African Americans to participate in a "sit in" at the segregated Barrett Library on Queen Street, the first organized act of civil disobedience in what became the Civil Rights movement.
John L. Lewis president of the United Mine Workers of America and founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, purchases Lee-Fendall House for his family home (now Lee-Fendall House Museum).
Robinson Library Opens
Robert Robinson Library is built for the city's African American residents. With desegregation in the 1960s, the building is then used for community purposes and later becomes the Alexandria Black History Museum.
The Naval Torpedo Station reopens to produce munitions throughout World War II.
City of Alexandria creates nation's third regulated Historic District to preserve and protect the appearance of its historic downtown area, now known as "Old Town."
Future music legend Jim Morrison of the band "The Doors" graduates from George Washington High School in Alexandria. Cass Elliot and John Phillips of "The Mamas & The Papas" also attended George Washington High School in the 1950s.
Civil War Centennial
Fort Ward, one of the largest Union earthwork forts in the Defenses of Washington, is restored by the City of Alexandria 100 years after the Civil War.
and its suburbs
have been absorbed to the thousand uses of war..."
-George Alfred Townsend, New York Herald correspondent characterizing Alexandria in 1863
"Remember the Titans"
After desegregating its public school system, Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School wins state football championship and captures fame in 2000 in the film, Remember the Titans.
President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford becomes U.S. President and serves his first 10 days while still living in his Alexandria home on Crown View Drive.
Arms to Artwork
The old Alexandria Naval Torpedo Station reopens as the Torpedo Factory Art Center, one of the nation's most successful projects in the adaptive reuse of a historic structure for arts purposes. This is one of Alexandria's contribution to the nationwide Bicentennial Celebration.
Alexandria establishes the country's first archaeological commission and community archaeology program, leading to the development of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.
Parker-Gray Historic District is established in historically black neighborhood to protect owner-occupied homes from development.
Alexandria emergency service personnel respond to terrorist attacks of September 11 at nearby Pentagon. Subsequent prisoners held and tried in federal court in Alexandria includes Zacarias Moussaoui and American Taliban prisoner John Walker Lindh.
"Alexandria is a vibrant,
diverse, historic and beautiful city with unique
neighborhoods and multiple urban villages
where we take pride in our great community."
-City of Alexandria Vision for 2015
13,000-year-old Clovis Point Discovered
Alexandria's archaeologists excavating Contrabands and Freedmen's Cemetery, on a bluff once overlooking a Potomac River tributary, recover a 13,000-year-old Clovis spear point discarded by a Native American Hunter. The stone tool is the earliest evidence of human presence in present-day Alexandria.
To view the Clovis point and more artifacts from Alexandria's past, visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 3rd floor Torpedo Factory Arts Center, Studio 327. www.AlexandriaArchaeology.org
Erected by City of Alexandria.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Anthropology & Archaeology • Civil Rights • Colonial Era • Native Americans • War, US Civil • Women. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #01 George Washington, the Former U.S. Presidents: #05 James Monroe, the Former U.S. Presidents: #38 Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and the Virginia, The City of Alexandria series lists.
Location. 38° 48.275′ N, 77° 2.385′ W. Marker is in the Historical District in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from North Union Street east of Fayette Alley, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 105 North Union Street, Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Plundered! (here, next to this marker); Alexandria Archaeology Museum (within shouting distance of this marker); River Ferries (within shouting distance of this marker); Torpedo Factory Art Center (within shouting distance of this marker); Torpedo Factory Art Center / United States Naval Torpedo Station (Building Two) (within shouting distance of this marker); John Fitzgerald (within shouting distance of this marker); Waterfront Walk (within shouting distance of this marker); War of 1812 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Historical District.
Also see . . . Alexandria Archaeology Museum. (Submitted on April 2, 2018.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 1, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 226 times since then and 59 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 1, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.