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Historic Alexandria

Early Days

The earliest recorded history of present-day Alexandria occurs in 1654.  Margaret Brent, the first female colonial landowner and presumably the first female lawyer in the Colonies, secured a patent on 700 acres that included what is now know as Old Town Alexandria.

In 1699 an overlapping grant of 6,000 acres was made to English ship captain Robert Howsing by Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia.  The largess of the grant was thought to be in return for Howsing’s carrying 120 settlers to Virginia.

Howsing did not hold on to his land however and within a month he sold it to a Scotsman, John Alexander for 6,000 pounds of tobacco.

The City of Alexandria was formed by an act of the Colonial legislature in 1749, taking its name from the Alexander family.
John West, a surveyor, laid out Alexandria on 60 acres and his work is preserved as a 1749 map of the town.  Present day West Street, a major component of the historic Parker Gray neighborhood, bears his name.  Tradition holds that a seventeen year old youth by the name of George Washington assisted West in preparing this map.

Young Alexandria grew quickly and soon became the most important town in Fairfax County.  The first school was built in 1761.  The first proper church building, Christ Church, was erected in 1773.

George Washington

George Washington is undoubtedly Alexandria’s favorite son.  He moved to Alexandria at the age of twelve and lived with his half-brother Lawrence at Mt. Vernon.  Washington inherited Mt. Vernon at Lawrence’s death and continued to expand and develop the property until his death in 1799.  The plantation eventually consisted of 8,000 acres containing five farms and a host of agricultural enterprises.

Washington also maintained a house in Alexandria but Mrs. Washington was so opposed to his spending time away from Mt. Vernon that the house contained no kitchen, bath or bedroom and was used strictly as an office.  A replica stands on the original site at 508 Cameron St.

French and Indian War

In March of 1755, thousands of British regulars arrived in 17 ships under the command of Major General Edward Braddock.  In April of the same year a meeting was convened at the Carlyle House.  Attendees included the royal governors of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia and the head of the British Navy in North America.

The purpose of the meeting was to plan the “British strategy” which included capturing four French forts.

Please check back for more, this is a work in progress . . .

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