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Archive for February, 2008

Clinton, Obama, McCain – There’s Room for All in This Alexandria Neighborhood!


This Russell Road home gives new meaning to “freedom of speech”  –

George would have been proud!

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Alexandria Celebrates George Washington with a Hometown Parade

On Monday, tourists and residents alike lined an 80 year old parade route to honor the birthday of Alexandria’s most famous resident, George Washington. 

 The Larson family with Gatsby, their flat coated retriever getting ready for the parade (look closely, he really is there.)

With clear skies and balmy winds (at least for the first half of the day), onlookers were treated to local marching bands, lamas decked out in red, white and blue, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts,
local officials, Abe Lincoln and Civil War re-enactors (we don’t mind mixing eras), Shriner’s and well, just about anyone else who decided they wanted to be part of the festivities. 

       U.S. Congressman Jim Moran

Following a European tradition, the citizens of Alexandria first began celebrating Washington’s birthday during his presidency with a “Birthnight Ball” – a tradition that later led to the national holiday we now know as President’s Day. 

 Gatsby’s Tavern was one of the oldest establishments in Colonial Alexandria.                                                                                         

After serving two terms as President of the United States, George Washington “retired” to Mt. Vernon, his plantation home on the Potomac River but traveled frequently into the City of Alexandria.  To accommodate these trips – two hours each way by boat – Washington built a small cottage at 508 Cameron Street where he kept business appointments and stayed overnight when warranted.

 George  Washington Middle School, located on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, serves all of the City of Alexandria.


Washington was just 21 years of age when he was dispatched by the royal governor to take an ultimatum to the French that they withdraw to Canada.

Bagpipes are just part of the legacy left by Scottish settlers.

The old and the new – always a part of Alexandria

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Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Alexandria Has 8 New Additions to ZAGAT’s 2008 Dining Guide

The 2008 Zagat guide for the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas features 8 new listings for Alexandria restaurants for an overall total of 47.

Nina and Tim Zagat, fanatic New York “foodies” started the first guide in 1979 as a hobby involving 200 friends and friends of friends. Today more than 300,000 individuals contribute to the surveys for 15 U.S. cities and 6 cities around the globe. Zagat is considered the world’s leading provider of consumer survey-based information on where to eat, drink, stay and play worldwide.

As The New York Times said, the Zagat Survey is “a necessity second only to a valid credit card!”

So, what are Alexandrian’s raving about? In alphabetical order:

1201 North Royal Street, 703.519.3776

Charming rusticity transports diners to provincial France at this wine bar and bistro. The menu reflects the recent Parisian revolution in Gallic fare as the chef-owners reinvigorate the classics with Mediterranean flavors. Outdoor patio. Conveniently located next to a wonderful store, Abaca Imports, which is located next to Metro Stage. Shop, have dinner, go to the theater and never leave the block.

901 Slaters Lane, 703.600.2899

Industrial-chic, WiFi-equipped coffeehouse, dessert lounge and bakery is an unofficial community center for nearby and newly minted neighborhood, Potomac Greens. A recently added wine bar serves wine and cocktails. I can vouch for the cupcakes!

EAMONN’S, A Dublin Chipper
728 King Street, 703.299.8384

Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong (owners of other local fav’s Restaurant Eve and the Majestic) bring Dublin to town via this small, spare recreation of Irish fast food. Fish ‘n’ chips, battered burgers, Irish beer. Tip – when the blue light outside an unmarked door on Columbus Street is “on”, patrons can buzz for entry to the upstairs PX, a speakeasy-themed lounge. Easily the best fish ‘n’ chips anywhere; very casual.

Farrah Olivia
600 Franklin Street, 703.778.2233

A white tablecloth setting for distinctive New American cuisine featuring influences from France and chef-owner Moruo Quattara’s native Ivory Coast. Quattara was a recent contestant on Iron Chef America.

4906 Brenman Park Drive, 703.461.3663

Cafe, wine bar and gourmet market in Cameron Station with a 15-seat room serving communal diners with locally sourced ingredients. Co-owners, Christy and Tom Przystawik were formerly with Cafe Atlantico in the District.

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Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 19 Comments »

It’s OFFICIAL – Alexandria is the Most Romantic City in America!

Alexandria has been named the Most Romantic City in America by Amazon.com. Beginning January 1, 2008 and targeting cities with 100,000 or more residents, Amazon compiled per capita sales data on romance novels, relationship books and sex books – and Alexandria led the field – no surprise to those of us who LOVE living here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Alexandria Named One of Nation’s “100 Best Communities for Young People”

On January 24th 2008, after a year long competition, Alexandria was recognized as a “One Hundred Best Communities for Young People” by the America’s Promise Alliance.  The Alliance was founded in 1997 by General Colin Powell and is committed to children and the fundamental resources they need to succeed. 

The Alliance is a catalyst for community-based efforts to demonstrate how children receive what are known as the 5 Promises:

                                              CARING ADULTS





Alexandria’s commitment to creating partnerships and collaborations to address youth issues was sparked by the Early Childhood Commission and Youth Policy which, in turn, established an Early Childhood Development Plan and Asset Development Initiative.   

The initiative created two funds to channel money into specific areas.  The Children’s Fund has awarded more than $6.3 million to organizations to help provide quality childhood programs and services to at risk youth and the Youth Fund which has awarded nearly $1.6 million to youth programs that help build assets for youth.  Among the initiatives are an array of programs and services in teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile delinquency, education, post-secondary education, mentoring and youth development.

More than 300 communities in all 50 states applied for the honor.  The 100 winning communities span 37 states.  

In offering his congratulations, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine noted, “The Commonwealth is fortunate to have such an honor bestowed upon one of its most vital cities.  I commend the City of Alexandria for encouraging, educating and protecting the lives of youngsters.”

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Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

“Walkability” – What It Means for Home Owners – and Buyers – in Alexandria

The benefit of living in a walkable neighborhood has gone to a whole new level with the Web site Walk Score, www.walkscore.com.  Launched in the summer of 2007 by a group of tech geeks in Seattle, the site got over 1,000,000 hits in just four weeks from visitors who wanted to know a property’s Walk Score! 


 The site uses Google Maps and business listings to compute a Walk Score for  any address in the   United States.  It bases the assigned points on the distance to local amenities and then averages the score.   Matt Lerner, one of the co-founders, says that since the site launched they have received lots of emails from users saying that walkability is the number one priority they focus on when buying a house.

That should come as no surprise to residents of Old Town Alexandria and Del Ray in particular, who have always boasted about walking to their favorite restaurant, coffee shop, bank, or farmer’s market as an everyday occcurence. 

Seattle based Lerner noted that while some of the benefits were obvious, like walking is good exercise and helps to reduce environmental pollution, walkability also supports local businesses and local culture.

While the MLS doesn’t offer a Walk Score yet, it’s a great way to start thinking about your own property. 

Our home in Del Ray got an 80.  What about yours? 

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Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Alexandria’s Parker-Gray Neighborhood Applies for Historic Designation

     The City of Alexandria announced that the Department of Planning and Zoning has begun the process of nominating the Uptown/Parker-Gray neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places.  A community meeting to discuss the National Register Process and findings of historic research will be held on Monday, February 4, 2008 from 7-9p.m. at the Jefferson-Houston School, 1501 Cameron Street.

Bordered on the north by First Street, on the south by Cameron, on the east by Columbus and on the west by Buchannon/Oronoco and parts of West Street, the area ultimately known as Parker-Gray was sparsely settled and and primarily rural throughout the Colonial, Federal and Antebellum periods.  Few structures survive from those eras but one of the most interesting would have been Alexandria’s gun powder house, built in the 1790’s at what is today the corner of N. Fayette and Queen Streets.  Deemed a potential fire hazard it was deliberately located at a safe distance from the many wooden structures built along the Potomac River.

  Parker-Gray Homes

The largest historically black neighborhood in Alexandria, Parker-Gray was originally a haven for escaped slaves and freedman during and immediately after the Civil War.  Wartime conditions in Alexandria were grim and families crowded into flimsy shanties and shacks.  Few if any of these structures have survived and most of the historic buildings present today were built later in the 19th century.

 Local Market

In past years, the more popular nickname for the Parker-Gray neighborhood was “Uptown” to distinguish it from the “downtown” areas closer to the Potomac River.  The official moniker comes from two schools whose names, in turn, honored leading black educators in the community:  Sarah Gray, principal of Hallowell School for Girls and John Parker, principal of the Snowden School for Boys.

Alexandria built the first black high school in 1950at 1207 Madison Street, which was named  Parker-Gray.  Prior to this, young African-American’s who wanted to continue their education past the eighth grade were forced to go into the  District of Columbia for high school.

Parker-Gray High School was re-designated as a middle school in 1965 and was closed completely in 1979.  A memorial plaque designates the school’s former location among the townhouses now standing on Madison Street.

  West Street

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Photograhs courtesy of MarieMcC 

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New Bridge Between Del Ray and Alexandria is the DETOUR from HELL!

        The Monroe Street Bridge, a landmark on the U.S Route 1 corridor between Old Town Alexandria/Del Ray/Ronald Regan National Airport and Washington, D.C. has a new look and a new locationOnce known for it’s ‘dog leg’ configuration, the bridge is being moved, straightened and updated. 

U.S. Route 1 is a major north-south highway serving the entire east coast of the United States.  It runs over 2,000 miles from Key West, FL north to Fort Kent, ME and was laid out in the 1920’s.  In our area it is paralleled by Interstates 95 and 395 and after swinging past the Pentagon crosses the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge. 


Traveling north on Rt. 1, motorists can no longer turn left onto Monroe Ave. but must cross over the bridge, turn left at Custis Ave. and then wind their way back through Del Ray (my neighborhood) to reach Mt. Vernon Ave. the major commercial thoroughfare for Del Ray.

I live one street over from Custis and each day I see at least 10 – 12 disoriented, anquished faces peering from behind a windshield as they try and find the next orange detour sign.  I’m tempted to set up a Coldwell Banker information booth on the corner!                    


Traveling south is a bit better, but only just.  The entrance to Monroe Ave. veers to the right but is not well marked or lighted and at night you are just as likely to find yourself crossing the bridge and then backtracking through yet another unsuspecting neighborhood.   Talk about being  an “Accidental Tourist.”!!!!!


When the bridge is finished this next summer it will have both north and south exits for Monroe Ave, four lanes of traffic, pedestrian walkways and wonderful, old-fashioned street lamps.  But, until then, it is the DETOUR from HELL!

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

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