Thursday, November 12, 2015

10 fun facts about Old Town Alexandria

I've written a lot about Old Town Alexandria on this blog. It's one of my favorite places in Northern Virginia. What is it about Old Town? For me it's a lot of things, but definitely the ambiance and history. Not to mention all of the cool things there are to do. 

The historic ballroom at Gadsby's Tavern
Over the years I've visited most of the museums, attended community events, done some shopping, eaten at some great restaurants and just walked its quaint streets for fun. Here's a bit more about this section of the city -

10 fun facts about Old Town Alexandria 

 1. This section of Alexandria dates back long before the city was officially founded in 1749. It's earliest Native American civilizations date back 13,200 years ago and European settlers first arrived in 1669.

2. Robert Howson, an English ship captain, was given the tract of land where Alexandria is by Sir William Berkeley, the Governor of Virginia in 1669. Howson quickly turned around and sold the land to John Alexander. He received 6,000 pounds of tobacco in return for the land. 

3. George Washington, long before he was a General and the first U.S. president, was a surveyor in his youth. He did much of the planning for Alexandria's streets and was an active community member throughout his lifetime. Alexandria was also the city where Washington was first publicly addressed as President (this occurred at Wise's Tavern).

Marker found at 201 N. Fairfax Street where Wise's Tavern used to be
4. Speaking of Washington, the church he attended, Christ Church, is still an active congregation with services held every Sunday.  Robert E. Lee also belonged to this church. During times there are not services, tours are given of this beautiful historic building.

Interior of Christ Church

5. Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary is quite a noteworthy building. Established in 1792, this business was continuously run by the same family for 141 years until it couldn't survive the Great Depression. Today one of the business' buildings has been restored as an incredible museum.

Main room at Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary
6. Alexandria, for a time, was once part of the District of Columbia. This was established in the late 1700s. In 1847 Alexandria was returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

7. There is a real torpedo factory in Old Town Alexandria. Built in 1918, it produced torpedoes used during World War II. Today the torpedo production has long stopped, but the building still stands tall and is open to visitors. It is a huge art center with more than 80 studios, art galleries and an archaeology museum.  

Rear view of the Torpedo Factory Art Center

8. Long before modern paving technologies were discovered, Alexandria was comprised of lovely cobblestone roads which were built in the 1790s. Just two remain. One can be found in lower Prince Street (also known as "Captain's Row") and the other is at Princess Street. I'm not sure about the one on Prince Street (reminder: go back and see this!), but the one at Princess Sreet has only been touched once since it's creation and it was restored using it's original cobbles. 

Marker at Princess Street

9. Carlyle House was built in the 1750s, but almost didn't survive to modern day. This house was long neglected and was even blocked from view by another building for many years. Fortunately, it was saved, beautifully restored by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and is open for tours. If this house could speak, it would have some tales to tell! A lot of history happened between its walls.  

Carlyle House
10. The Ramsay House Visitors Center is a great place to stop by to learn more about what to see and do in Old Town. There is a lot of great information here.


  1. Great addition to your fun facts series. I need to do some of these things.

  2. My family is coming down March 20th and we that you for the information.

    1. You've picked a great time of the year to visit! Spring is beautiful in the area. If you have any questions beforehand, I'd be happy to answer if I can.

      Have a wonderful trip!

    2. Thank you also for stopping by :)


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