Alexandria, Virginia - Walking Tour of Old Town

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    Overview and Visitors Center

    Ramsay House - Alexandria Visitors Center
    ••• Ramsay House - Alexandria Visitors Center. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Overview

    This self-guided walking tour of picturesque and historic Old Town Alexandria takes anywhere from about one and one-half to several hours, depending on how long you spend at each stop.

    If you are planning to have lunch along the way, it is a good idea to make reservations in advance, especially on the weekends.

    Essentials for an enjoyable tour include:
    • Comfortable shoes
    • Your camera and plenty batteries or film
    • A small carry bag packed with only the essential items you need for the day
    • A fair weather day

    Begin the Tour at the Ramsay House Visitors Center

    • Location - 221 King Street at the corner of North Fairfax Street
    • Hours - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
    • Telephone - 703-838-4200
    Enter the building from King Street to collect some useful brochures and maps. Travel counselors are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Out-of-town visitors may obtain free parking passes for metered street spaces.

    Brief History of Ramsay House - The...MORE original house was built by William Ramsay, a Scottish merchant, respected Alexandrian and close friend of George Washington's. Architectural studies of the house indicate that the earlier portions were built elsewhere in about 1724 and later moved to the current location. It was placed facing the river to give Mr. Ramsay a good view of his ships sailing in and out of the harbor.

    During the 19th and 20th centuries, the house became a tavern, grocery store, rooming house and cigar factory. After a 1942 fire destroyed much of the original building, the City of Alexandria purchased and restored the house. Today, in addition to housing the Visitors Center, it is a historic site marking Alexandria's oldest house.

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: Carlyle House - Turn right (north) on North Fairfax Street and walk to the next corner at Cameron and North Fairfax Streets.
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  • 02 of 10

    Carlyle House Historic Park

    Carlyle House
    ••• Carlyle House Historic Park. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Carlyle House

    • Location - 121 North Fairfax Street at the corner of Cameron Street
    • Hours - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
    • Admission - $5 Age 13 and over; $3 Children 5 - 12; Children 4 and under are free; Call to find out about group rates.
    • Telephone - 703-549-2997
    Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Carlyle House offers a glimpse into the mid 18th-century family life of successful landowner and businessman, Scottish born John Carlyle. The mansion, completed in 1753, is Alexandria's only stone 18th-century Georgian Palladian style house.

    A charming 3/4 acre garden is designed and appointed in the style of the pre-Revolutionary period and the museum gift shop is a good place to browse for items inspired by colonial Virginia such as hand-blown glass, pottery, wooden toys, books and more. Tours are offered on the hour and on the half hour and two of the museum's three floors are wheelchair accessible.

    Additional Information - Carlyle...MORE House Web Site

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: Gadsby's Tavern Museum - From Carlyle House Historic Park, turn left heading west on Cameron Street and walk one block to North Royal Street.
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  • 03 of 10

    Gadsby's Tavern Museum

    Gadsby's Tavern Museum
    ••• Gadsby's Tavern Museum. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

    Gadsby's Tavern Museum

    • Location - 134 North Royal Street at the southwest corner of Cameron Street
    • Hours - November to March - Wednesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.; Last tour at 3:45 p.m.; Closed Monday and Tuesday
    • Hours - Vary seasonally
    • Closed - New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas
    • Admission - $5 Adults; $3 Children 5 - 12; Children under age 5 are free with a paying adult
    • Discounts - Discounts are available to AAA Members, visitors who have dined at Gadsby's Tavern Restaurant or have coupons issued by other museums. Gadsby's Tavern also participates in a block ticket program providing a discount when two or more Alexandria museums are visited. Find out about the E-Savings Coupon
    • Telephone - 703-838-4242
    Two historic buildings, the circa 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Hotel comprise the Gadsby's Tavern Museum. Operated by Englishman John Gadsby from 1796 to 1808, Gadsby's facilities provided a venue for theatrical and musical...MORE performances, dancing assemblies and meetings and was at the heart of colonial life n Alexandria. Prominent members of Alexandria's social and political life including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson James Madison and the Marquis de Lafayette, patronized Gadsby's Tavern throughout the years.

    Tours of Gadsby's explore the history, architecture, arts, customs, food and more, and are fun for all ages. For a truly historical dining experience, plan to have lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch at Gadsby's Tavern.

    Additional Tour Information - Gadsby's Tavern Museum Web Site

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stops: Washington's Townhouse and Lee's Boyhood Home - From Gadsby's Tavern Museum, return to Cameron Street, turn left (west) and walk one and one-half blocks farther on Cameron Street.
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  • 04 of 10

    George Washington's Townhouse and Lee's Boyhood Home

    George Washington's Modest Townhouse in Old Town
    ••• George Washington's Modest Townhouse in Old Town. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    George Washington's Townhouse

    • Location - 508 Cameron Street between North Pitt and North St. Asaph Streets
    • Private - No entry: view from street only
    This house is a recreation of the in-town dwelling, originally built by George Washington in 1769. Washington built the modest house in Alexandria to have a place to stay when he was not able to go home to his Mount Vernon estate because of inclement weather or pressing business.

    Walking Tour - Continue on Cameron Street to the next cross street, which is North St. Asaph Street and turn right (heading north). Stay on North St. Asaph Street, crossing Queen Street and Princess Street until you reach Oronoco Street. Turn left onto Oronoco Street (heading west).

    Robert E. Lee's Boyhood Home

    • Location - 607 Oronoco Street on the north side of the street
    • Private - No entry: view from street only
    The Robert E. Lee Boyhood Home was originally built circa 1795 for John Potts, Jr., the first secretary of the Potomac Navigation Company, a scheme...MORE of George Washington's to link the ports of the Potomac River to the western territories. It is an impressive example of Federal architecture in Alexandria.

    The young family of General Henry Light Horse Harry Lee occupied the house for nine years in the early 19th century. Lee's son, Robert E. Lee who later became the leader of the Confederate States of America, prepared for his entrance to the United States Military Academy while living in this house. Today the house is privately owned, however for many years it was a historic house museum operated by the Lee Jackson Foundation.

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: Lee-Fendall House - Continue on Oronoco Street in the same direction (west) to the end of the block at North Washington Street.
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    Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden

    Lee-Fendall House Museum
    ••• Lee-Fendall House Museum. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden

    • Location - 614 Oronoco at the southeast corner of Oronoco and North Washington Streets
    • Hours - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday (The museum advises to call in advance to confirm the museum will be open if you are planning a weekend visit as there are occasional private weekend functions.)
    • Admission for Guided Tours - $5 Adults; $3 Children 11 - 17; Children 10 and under are free; Private tours and rates are available for groups of ten or more. Advance reservations are required. Call for additional information.
    • Telephone - 703-548-1789
    The Lee-Fendall House, built by Henry Light Horse Harry Lee's cousin Philip Richard Fendall, in 1785. From the time it was built until 1903, 37 members of the Lee family lived in the house at different times. The only exception occurred during the Civil War when the Union Army seized the house to use as a hospital.

    Today the restored house offers an interpretive glimpse into the years...MORE between 1850 and 1870, highlighting the Victorian style and elegance of the time. Visitors are able to explore Lee family heirlooms including needlepoint and hand-sewn articles, original furnishings, artwork and more. Special seasonal events include afternoon tea, candlelight tours and an array of workshops and educational programs.

    Additional Information - Lee-Fendall House Web Site

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: Christ Church - From Lee-Fendall House, turn left (heading south) on North Washington Street and walk three blocks back to Cameron Street.
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  • 06 of 10

    Christ Church

    Christ Church
    ••• Christ Church. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

    Christ Church

    • Location - 118 North Washington Street at the intersection of North Washington and Cameron Streets
    • Hours - Hours vary and are subject to change. (Tours are suspended during weddings, funerals and other events.)
    • Telephone - 703-549-1450
    Designed by James Wren in the colonial Georgian style and built during the period between 1767 and 1773, Christ Church was the first Episcopal Church in Alexandria. Many prominent figures have worshipped regularly at Christ Church including George Washington, Robert E. Lee, George Mason and many U.S. presidents. Traditionally, the President of the United States visits Christ Church at some point during his administration, often near the anniversary of George Washington's birthday.

    Visitors to this historic church are able to take docent lead tours that highlight the church's interesting architectural features and history.

    Additional Information - Christ Church Web Site

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stops: Friendship Firehouse and The...MORE Lyceum - From Christ Church, walk one block south on North Washington Street to King Street. Turn right (west) and walk two blocks to Alfred Street. From King Street, you will have a straight view of the majestic George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Turn left onto South Alfred Street.
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  • 07 of 10

    Friendship Firehouse and The Lyceum

    The Lyceum - Alexandria's History Museum
    ••• The Lyceum - Alexandria's History Museum. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Friendship Firehouse Museum

    • Location - 107 South Alfred Street, between King and Prince Streets
    • Hours - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 - 4 p.m. Sunday; Closed Monday - Thursday, New Year's Day and Christmas
    • Admission - $2
    • Telephone - 703-838-3891
    Established in 1774, the Friendship Fire Company was Alexandria's first volunteer fire company. The existing building was constructed in 1855, remodeled 16 years later and renovated in 1992. Historic fire-fighting equipment exhibits in the museum includes hand-drawn fire engines, leather water buckets and more. From the outside of the Firehouse, be sure to notice the fireman weathervane.

    Additional Information - Friendship Firehouse Museum Web Site

    Walking Tour - From the Firehouse, continue walking south to the end of the block at Prince Street. Turn left (east) and walk two blocks to South Washington Street.

    The Lyceum - Alexandria's History Museum (pictured above)

    • Location - 201 South Washington Street, on the corner of...MORE South Washington and Prince Streets
    • Hours - 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 - 5 p.m. Sunday; Closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas
    • Admission - $2
    • Telephone - 703-838-4994
    Dating back to 1839, the Lyceum is one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Originally planned as a hall for lectures, experiments and reading, the Lyceum became Alexandria's History Museum in 1985. Highlights of the collection include antique silver, 19th-century stoneware, furniture and photographs.

    Additional Information - The Lyceum Web Site

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum - Continue walking east on Prince Street, stopping to take a look at the sculpture of The Confederate Soldier at South Washington and Prince Streets. Continue on Prince Street four blocks to South Fairfax Street and turn left.
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  • 08 of 10

    Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and The Old Presbyterian Meeting House

    Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
    ••• Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

    • Location - 105-107 South Fairfax Street, between Prince and King Streets
    • Hours - Vary seasonally
    • Closed - New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas
    • Admission - $5 Adults; $3 Children 5 - 12; Free for Children under age 5; Group rates available
    • Telephone - 703-838-3852
    Opened in 1792 by Quaker pharmacist Edward Stabler, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop operated continuously until it closed in 1933 during the depression. In 1939, it reopened as a museum and its collection includes more than 8,000 objects including pill rollers, mortars and pestles, glass bottles, journals, letters, and more.

    Additional Information - Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Web Site

    Walking Tour - From Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, walk south on South Fairfax Street to the end of the block at Prince Street. Continue one and one-half blocks to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House at 321 South Fairfax Street.

    The Old Presbyterian Meeting House

    Founded in 1772 by...MORE Scottish settlers, built in 1775 and rebuilt following a fire in 1835, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House holds historical significance in Alexandria. Among other things, it was the site of Alexandria's memorial services for George Washington. In the burial ground, there is a Memorial to an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. In December, members of the St. Andrew's society hold a ceremony at the grave of the society's founder, during the Annual Campagna Center Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend.

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stops: Gentry Row, the Athenaeum and Captain's Row - Walk back to Prince Street and turn right heading east.
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  • 09 of 10

    Gentry Row - The Athenaeum - Captain's Row

    Picturesque street in Alexandria, Virginia
    ••• One of Alexandria's most picturesque streets. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Gentry Row - The Athenaeum - Captain's Row

    • Location - Along Prince Street, between South Fairfax Street and Union Street
    Gentry Row - Walking along Prince Street's 200 block, known as Gentry Row, you will see house after house marked with Historic Alexandria Foundation plaques, indicating authenticated historical or architectural significance. Houses along this block were owned by such prominent figures as William Fairfax, one of Alexandria's founding trustees, and Dr. James Craik, surgeon-general during the American Revolution.

    The Athenaeum - Sitting on the corner of Prince and Lee Streets is the Athenaeum. Dating back to 1851-52 and one of only two surviving examples of Greek revival neo-classic architecture open to the public, the Athenaeum was originally built to house the Bank of the Old Dominion, where many prominent people including Robert E. Lee conducted their banking. Today the Athenaeum, which is listed on both the Virginia Trust and National Register of Historic...MORE Places, is the home of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association. Visit the Athenaeum Web Site for additional information.

    Captain's Row - Along Prince Street, between Lee and Union Streets is the block known as Captain's Row, where many sea captains built Federal style houses. Complete with cobblestones and charming architectural details, this is probably one of the most picturesque colonial village blocks anywhere.

    Walking Tour Directions to Next Stop: The Torpedo Factory Art Center - Continue down Prince Street and turn left, heading north, onto Union Street. Walk one and one-half blocks, crossing King Street to the block between King and Cameron Streets.
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    The Torpedo Factory Art Center

    The Torpedo Factory Art Center
    ••• The Torpedo Factory Art Center. Photo Credit: © 2006 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The Torpedo Factory

    • Location - 105 North Union Street, between King and Cameron Streets, along the docks of the Potomac River
    • Hours - Daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Thursdays open until 9 p.m. (will close at 5 p.m. when the building is rented for a private event that evening. Call ahead if this could affect your visit: 703-838-4565 x1.) Individual working studio hours may vary; Closed Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving
    • Admission - Free
    • Telephone - 703-838-4565
    Allow plenty of time to explore this wonderful art center housed in a renovated torpedo factory. The highlight of Alexandria's scenic Potomac River waterfront area, the Torpedo Factory attracts roughly 700,000 annual visitors to browse the wonderful array of ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture.

    Brief History

    Originally built in 1918, the buildings served as the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station where torpedoes were manufactured and maintained during World War I...MORE and World War II. Once peace was declared in 1945, the buildings were used as government storage space for valuable items such as dinosaur bones and art objects from the Smithsonian and Congressional documents.

    Several years after purchasing the building in 1969, the City of Alexandria together with local artists renovated the factory buildings to create an art center. Today the Torpedo Factory is one of the most successful visual arts centers in the United States, accommodating about 165 artists in 82 working studios, six cooperative galleries and two workshops. It also is the home of the Art League School and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.

    Additional Information - The Torpedo Factory Web Site

    Walking Tour - This is the final stop of the Alexandria, Virginia Walking Tour. Go to the Beginning of the Tour