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Alexandria History

Founded in 1749 as a port for area planters, Alexandria, Virginia was laid out by a young surveyor name George Washington.  The market square, where our the tour begins, is still in use as a public market every Saturday morning.

From is harbor, colonial sea captains plied the triangle trade routes carrying local crops to England, and returned with manufactured goods and the produce of the English Caribbean colonies. The pineapple, a common motif in Alexandria, is a symbol of welcome and hospitality. It recalls the open house given for neighbors that marked a captain's return from a sea voyage, and this exotic fruit served as the table's centerpiece.

John Carlye's house hosted the first meeting of colonial governors, assembled to hear demands for financial support from General Braddock. The General had come with troops from England to mount a campaign against the French and their Indian allies on the colonial frontier. The refusal of the governors to provide financial backing lead to the notorious "Stamp Act," the Boston Tea Party, and the American Revolution. Braddock lost his life on the expedition and gave his name to the road his troops carved into the wilderness.

The first casualty of the American Civil War occurred in Alexandria. A detachment of Union troops crossed the Potomac to haul down the flag of the new Confederacy that was flying from the roof of the Marshall House (at the site of the Hotel Monaco). "in defense of his property," as the coroner's jury would find, proprietor James W. Jackson shot and killed the young Union commander who was a particular favorite of President Lincoln. The Union soldiers executed Jackson on the spot.

A marker on the Southeast corner of the Hotel Monaco commemorates this event from Alexandria's perspective.

The city spent the rest of the War behind Union lines, an was spared devastation. However, its ties to the conflict were direct and substantial. Its buildings include Robert E. Lee's boyhood home, to which the General returned at war's end.

In the streets of Alexandria, history lives. Entire city blocks evoke a time long ago, when Washington, the colonial sea captains, and General Lee would feel right at home.