We were fortunate enough to rent a beautiful historic, Old Town townhouse (211 S. Lee Street ) in Alexandria Virginis for several months when we briefly contemplated moving to the area. And we love coming back to stroll the streets of historic Old Town, explore the beautiful Colonial-era homes and businesses, and just absorb the atmosphere of another era.
A Walkthrough American Colonial History
Alexandra Virginia was first settled in 1669. It was designated as a city in 1749 and rapidly became a major port, trade, and political center. Between 1801 and 1847, it was incorporated into Washington DC. After its role as a port declined, it became an important rail center. George Washington considered it his early home and became a trustee of the city and Robert E. Lee grew up in the city.
We took our own self-guided walking tour through some of Old Town’s most important historic sights and its historic paved and cobblestone streets. These include:
- George Washington Masonic National Memorial which at 333 feet, towers over a city in which few buildings are more than five stories. The memorial’s museum portrays Washington’s life and also the history of the Freemasonry.
- Christ Church is a lovely, 18th-century brick Georgian church with a Palladian window. Its congregation included George Washington and later, Robert E. Lee. It has been routinely visited by sitting presidents and visiting dignitaries, including FDR and Winston Churchill for the World Day of Prayer for Peace during WWII.
- Spite House is a mere 7 feet wide house that was built to keep horse-drawn wagons and vagrants out of an alley.
- Gadsby’s Tavern is an 18th-century Federal-style hotel and tavern that was frequented by the likes of Washington and Jefferson. Today it is a museum.
- Tall Ship Providence is a reproduction of the first ship in the Continental Navy.
- Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former WWII torpedo factory, today houses several dozen artist galleries and studios over three floors.
- The 100 block of King Street is lined with centuries-old architecture and outdoor restaurant and bar seating.
- Captain’s Row is a charming cobblestone street lined with pretty, 18-century houses.
- The Athenaeum, a mid-19th-century Greek Revival that served as a bank, was taken over by the Union in the Civil War and is now home to the Virginia Fine Arts Association.
- Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, a lovely 18th-century building that once served as a pharmacy and is now a museum that appears as it did 250 years ago.
- The Lyceum was a Civil War hospital that now serves as the city’s history museum.
Alexandria Virginia Restaurants
Del Ray Café. We had a wonderful, multi-course dinner here. We began with sautéed foie gras with blueberry compote, roasted quail on organic spinach with mustard sauce Roasted Alaskan halibut with roasted almonds and quinoa, and saffron sauce, followed by a raspberry soufflé. All were very good, combined with good service, a pleasant outdoor atmosphere, and a nice bottle of 2014 Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir. While Joyce felt the foie gras was slightly overcooked, Tom will take a meal like that anytime—and for a reasonable price.
The Warehouse Bar and Grill was a lunch stop. We initially ordered crayfish and shrimp beignets and a softshell crab BLT on Potato Roll. Both were dry and barely warm, which suggested they may have been overcooked and/or left to sit before being brought to us. We sent both back: the sandwich to be remade and substituted she-crab soup for the beignets. We enjoyed both of them.
Laporta was another pleasant lunch stop, a few short blocks from Alexandria’s King Street Metro station. We enjoyed both our dishes: the sauteed Virginia Brook Trout fillets rolled in French mustard and breadcrumbs with lime beurre blanc and especially the large Maryland Crab Cake with mustard seed cream.
The Alexandrian. On our 2021 trip, we stayed in Old Town at the Alexandria Autograph Collection. It is a beautiful place in a great location. With covid, not all of the amenities were available, but that is OK. The room was very comfortable and had nice robes. We will definitely return.
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