(This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Alexandria Living Magazine.)
George Washington’s visit to the New America after his inauguration in 1789 cemented our national identity and gave rise to the cliché “George Washington slept here.”
But Alexandria, where he lived, worked and played, required a variety of billboards to reflect Washington’s many local activities. In fact, there are too many connections to detail in one article, so we’ll provide a sample, relying on the internet and many worthy guidebooks to the area, to cover them comprehensively.
Lived here (will remain here): Mount Vernon Estate, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
From about the age of 15 until his death, George Washington called this area his home, his “vine and fig tree.” He began his Mount Vernon lease in 1754 and inherited it in 1761, eventually owning 8,000 acres of land. When he couldn’t come here in person, he was thinking of Mount Vernon. While fighting in revolutions and performing his duties as President of the United States, Washington sent back detailed instructions to those who would manage his homes, lands and slaves.He issued his December 14, 1799 died in bed at Mount Vernon on , and his remains were placed in an old family vault. His will included instructions for a new vault completed in 1831. He is sleeping there today.
I was instructed here: Ruins of Belvoir Manor – Patrick Lord of Fort Belvoir
Fort Belvoir’s current location contains the ruins of Belvoir Manor, the residence of Colonel William Fairfax, who petitioned for the creation of Fairfax County in 1742 and the city of Alexandria in 1749. Thomas Fairfax’s lands were in the West, and he used his influence to appoint the young George as a surveyor and later a major in the state’s militia. as well as providing him with the connections and social skills he needed to marry and succeed in society. As a bonus, his two of the Colonel’s sons, George William Fairfax and Brian Fairfax, proved to be lifelong friends and correspondents.
Hunted Here (also raced): Accotink – intersection of Richmond Highway and Backlick Road (Fort Belvoir Tulley Gate)
One of the main pastimes among young Virginia gentlemen was hunting, especially fox hunting. While surrounded by available land, Washington specifically mentions in his diary Akotink hunting near his creek. Also, Old He apparently has a racetrack behind the Bogesta Barn on Colchester Road, which turned out to be an opportunity for horse racing and sports betting. Sadly, nothing remains of the Bogges Tavern, but Old Colchester Road looks much the same as it did in Washington’s time.
Worship Here: – Pohic Church – 9301 Richmond Hwy.
Like his previous father, Augustine Washington, and younger brother Lawrence. George Washington became a minister of the Pohic Church, where he served from 1762 until 1784. The church was originally located on Mason Neck near Gunston Hall. Washington famously successfully lobbied for a more focused place between himself and Mason. The Pohic Church he completed in 1772. The pews purchased by the Washington family are still stamped today.
Giveaway: Woodlawn Mansion 9000 Richmond Highway
Washington’s adopted granddaughter Nellie Custis and her new husband Lawrence Lewis were married at Mount Vernon on her February 1799 birthday. Washington gifted the couple a home plot. He chose the site and architect to build what would become his manor in Woodlawn. Sadly, Washington died before the mansion was completed.
Milling and Distilling Here: George Washington’s Distillery and Grist Mill. 5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway.
In the early 18th century, George Washington’s father owned a dilapidated factory. In 1769 GW wanted to move away from growing tobacco and decided to build a factory in Dogue Run, a short distance away. There he could grind his own wheat and corn into flour and flour and charge his neighbors to do the same. Washington used hired slave labor to carry out the operation. In 1797, Washington decided to enter the distilling business. He became one of the country’s largest distilleries, supplying the East Coast with rye, whiskey and brandy.
Cross here: near Gum Springs–fordson Road 8100
The Old Mount Vernon Road to Alexandria crossed Little Hunting Creek at Gum Springs much like the Richmond Highway does today. Gum Springs may not only have been a convenient location for crossing streams, but also rough roads for horse racing. Gum Springs is now known as a historic black community founded by West Ford in 1833. Westford was formerly enslaved by the Washington family.
Picnic Location: Johnson’s Spring – approximately south of Collingwood Picnic Area George Washington Memorial Parkway
When not rushing to catch the ferry to Maryland, Washington enjoyed spending time with friends by the water. He notes his one such outing, beginning with a weather forecast for September 10, 1785.
“The thermometer reads 68 degrees in the morning, 70 degrees at noon, and 72 degrees at night. It’s calm and warm, and the rain seems to have disappeared in the evening.
With Fanny Bassett, Mr. Taylor, and Mr. Shaw, I met a party from Alexandria at Johnson’s Spring (my land where Clifton used to live), where they ate a cold supper brought by water from town. , spent the afternoon pleasantly—returned home by sunset or a little later.”
The area became an African-American beach resort called Collingwood Beach in the late 19th century.
Built here: Wellington at River Farm – American Horticultural Society 7931 E. Boulevard Dr.
On October 15, 1785, George Washington’s favorite nephew, George Augustine Washington, married Martha Washington’s favorite niece, Frances (Fanny) Bassett. Around the couple’s first anniversary, Washington wrote to George Augustine, revealing his intention to give his farm property of 2,000 to 3,000 acres to the two of him after his death. Did. He supported the couple with loans for supplies and slave labor to build the house. Unfortunately, George Augustine died before the house was completed, but his widow married Washington’s secretary, Tobias Lear, a few years later, and they lived in the house for a short time. .
Dine Here: Mt. Eagle Site – Around Montebello Condominiums, 5905 Mt. Eagle Dr.
A lifelong friend of George Washington, Brian Fairfax lived at Mount Eagle from 1790 to 1802. Their correspondence spans over 41 years and covers their strong feelings for the revolution.George and Martha were godmothers to Ferdinand Fairfax, Brian’s third son. In the last week of Washington’s life, the men dined together twice, the first hosted by Brian at Mount Eagle and the last at Mount Vernon on December 11, 1799, three days before George’s death. Washington entertained.
Explore here: Old Town Alexandria in general
In 1748, one of the first subjects of George Washington’s new survey technique was the future city of Alexandria. He made a topographic map depicting the land and rivers before the town was laid out. It may have been used by Washington’s half-brother, Lawrence, who led petitioners to claim the founding of Alexandria. Washington later served as Assistant Surveyor of Fairfax County, John West, Jr.
Where we had breakfast: Ramsay House, 221 King St.
The William and Elizabeth Ramsay House is believed to be the oldest in Alexandria. William served as the town’s first mayor and entertained Washington on many occasions. Perhaps most notably his May 5, 1775, when the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army stopped for breakfast on his way to Philadelphia. A son of the Ramsay family, Dennis, later as mayor, sent Washington to his inauguration on February 16, 1789, with an address from his tavern in the City.
Overnight here: GW’s Townhouse (now a replica), 508 Cameron St.
Washington must have found it convenient to have a place to stay in the city during bad weather and poor road conditions. He purchased Lot 118 for his £10 shillings in his 1763 and built a townhouse on it in his two years of need. Alexandria Gazette At one point, he praised the house for being “very simple in design, with very little decoration.” Washington also rented the house out to his friends and relatives. Fanny, Martha’s niece, her Bassett and her two sons, from 1794 to her 1795, from when Martha became her widow to Tobias, Sheriff of Washington, who married her Leah lived there during The house he demolished in 1855 and rebuilt in 1960.
Drill Here: Market Square
The land for both Market Square and Town Hall was set aside for that purpose in the original city plan. In 1754, George Washington, a Colonel in the Virginia Militia, used Market Square to train his troops and his Tavern in the City as his headquarters.
Worshiped here: Christ Church 118 N. Washington St.
When the Truro parish, including Pohic Church, was split in 1765, George Washington was caught in a dilemma. Mount Vernon was temporarily considered to belong to the new Fairfax Diocese, which included Alexandria, and Washington was elected a priest of the later Church of Christ. The line was then redrawn and Mount Vernon returned to Truro parish. Nevertheless, George Washington chose the pews of the new church and attended both Pohic and Christ churches. When construction was completed around 1773, it was often called the “Church in the Woods”. Brian Fairfax he served as pastor from 1790 until he was 1792. Washington attended his last service here on November 17, 1799.
Memorialized here: Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 323 S. Fairfax St.
When news of Washington’s death reached Alexandria, the bells of the only meetinghouse in Alexandria at the time rang. It didn’t stop until his funeral, which was held here instead of in a church in Washington. Alexandria Times “Walking is bad for the Episcopal Church. George Washington’s funeral sermon will be preached tomorrow at 11:30 in the Presbyterian meetinghouse.” Two services were held. The first was led by Reverend Davis, Anglican, and the second afternoon service was led by Reverend Muir of the Old Presbyterian Church.
Celebrated here: Gadsby’s Tavern, 138 N. Royal St
The two buildings on the corner of Royal and Cameron Streets have a long history of providing hospitality to residents of the City of Alexandria. Over the years, the building has been given various names. City Tavern, Wise’s Tavern and, since 1794, Gadsby’s Tavern. Some sources say the Fairfax Resolution, which eventually became the Virginia Bill of Rights, was hammered out in a tavern. Gay Montague Moore, in his book The Seaports of Virginia: George Washington’s Alexandria, notes that Fairfax, Mason, Ramsay, Leeds and others gathered here to dance, eat and drink. On February 11, 1799, Washington celebrated his birthday at his tavern. He wrote in his diary: Many operations were carried out by uniformed troops, and elegant balls and banquets were held in the evenings. He did not know that it would be his last birthday, nor that the day would be celebrated for over two centuries in the future.
About the Author: Tammy Mannarino enjoyed the nomadic life of an “army brat” before her family settled in Fairfax County. Following her engineering career in information security, she is deeply immersed in her local history, sharing stories and images on her own website, BackyardMountVernon.com. Whether she’s on the trail, kayaking, or at her desk, she says she’s lucky to live here.