It is difficult not to lose your sense of time as you stroll the brick walkways of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Even though the town’s main road, King Street, is now lined with endless modern shops and restaurants, stories dating as far back as 1749 remain preserved in it’s historic buildings. You can almost see the tales of George Washington and other predominant figures unfolding along the cobblestone streets and scattered gas-burning lanterns.
The Ramsay House
For those looking to soak up all the history this charming port city has to offer, I highly recommend starting at the oldest house in Alexandria, the Ramsay House, which now serves as the town’s visitor center. From there you can pick up a map of historical sites for your stroll or catch one of the guided tours that are offered–I took the ghost tour around Halloween and was very pleased. The city also offers several resources, including a dial-in historical tour via your cell phone, for free.
The Carlyle House
Next we go from the oldest house in the city to the only house in Old Town with a front yard, The Carlyle House. The home was built by John Carlyle, a Scottish merchant and friend of George Washington, prior to the city’s rule that buildings must abut their front sidewalk. It was used by Major General Edward Braddock and his aide-de-camp, George Washington, as a headquarters building during the French Indian War. Another fun fact about this historical home–there is a cat buried in the walls! Why? It is a Scottish good luck charm believed to provide protection to the home. If these facts have you curious, the Carlyle House offers tours for those wanting to dig deeper into it’s history.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop
One block up from the Ramsay House is another noteworthy spot, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop. The shop was in operation from 1793 – 1933 and served members of the community, to include George and Martha Washington. Unfortunately, the museum was closed briefly for renovations during my last visit so I did not get the opportunity to tour inside. I learned from the free cell phone tour that the apothecary’s original jars and contents have been preserved, and that it is noted as the largest and most valuable medical collection of its kind! I plan to return and tour the museum soon after it re-opens.
The last stop I want to highlight is Gadby’s Tavern and Hotel, now a fully operational restaurant and museum. The once hotel, now offers a mouthwatering menu with features like Martha’s Puff Pastry and George Washington’s Favorite, grilled breast of duck, that should clue you in on one of the tavern’s famous guests. Along with George Washington, the tavern’s past presidential visitors include Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe. The tavern side of the building, is now the museum which is known to host classic events like ladies tea and ballroom dancing.
I hope these sites gave you a peak at why Old Town Alexandria should be on every history buff’s dream list.
Until next Friday, happy wanderlust!