This is the ninth stop on our tour of distinctive and distinguished homes and buildings in Old Town. The list of occupants for the Lloyd House is rather lengthy, so bear with us on the not-so-in-depth coverage of each one.
I do want to thank Amy Bertsch of the Office of Historic Alexandria, who provided insights, and for all the work she does to preserve and promote Alexandria’s rich history.
For photos of inside the Lloyd House and a much better primer on its history, see her article at Alexandria.gov.
220 N. Washington
SW Corner of N. Washington and Queen
About fifty years after the founding of Alexandria in 1749, a handsome brick dwelling, designed in the Georgian style, rose up on the west side of town. The nomination form from the National Park Service notes it “was one of the finest examples of Federal domestic architecture in Alexandria and a splendid example of the post-colonial style.”
If you will pardon the expression, the story of this historic home is “much more than Lloyd.” Although he lived there the longest period of time, a handful of other prominent citizens also called it home, including John Wise, Benjamin Hallowell, Jacob Hoffman, and Charles Lee.
The history behind Alexandria’s prominent homes and buildings is not always fully researched. In this case, we are most fortunate to have the work of Timothy Denee, who penned two pieces on the Lloyd House in the “Historic Alexandria Quarterly” newsletter. The following is a summary of his findings.
John Wise owned the City Hotel (Gadsby’s Tavern). Known as the “Tavern King,” he kept Alexandrians in good spirits and retired a wealthy man. It is believed he built this house around 1797.
Around this time, few dwellings existed west of Washington Street. Wise first leased it (1798 to 1800) to Charles Lee, uncle of Robert E. Lee and younger brother of Henry “Light-Horse.” Lee served in both the Washington and Adams administrations, as well as being a Federal Judge.
Economic fluctuations led to a variety of owners and renters. In 1810, Jacob Hoffman bought the house and built one of the largest and most profitable sugar refineries in the area.
After James Hewitt Hooe, a close relative of Colonel Robert Townshend Hooe moved out, the renowned Quaker educator Benjamin Hallowell opened a school in the house. One of his students was Robert E. Lee, who only had a two-block walk from the family house on Oronoco.
In 1833, John Lloyd, whose parents died when he was a young child, bought the house. The Donald Trump of his day, he also owned a row of five townhomes on S. Washington, as well as other properties and a 1,300-acre farm. His wife, Anna Harriotte Lee, a force in her own right, was a first cousin of Robert E. Lee. Lloyd passed away in 1860, but the family lived here until 1918.
William A. Smoot, Jr., Mayor of the city, became the next owner. He entertained President Hoover here in 1928.
During World War II, one can guess the lights went out early at night, as the house became a barracks for the “WAVES,” – Navy Women’s Reserves who worked at the Navy Torpedo Station on Union. After the war, stewardesses from Capital Airlines slept her, as well as military and government workers.
In the 1950s, urban redevelopers eyeballed the historic two and a half-story house. Intervention by Wyoming geologist Robert Valentine, and the Historic Alexandria Foundation raised funds to purchase the contract, allowing New to renovate for use as offices.
In 1966, the Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission lent their power and resources to purchase the building. Once restored, the corner spot was used as a home for the Alexandria Library’s Historical Collection. In 1990, they moved over to the Barrett Branch on Queen Street.
After another restoration in 2003, the house rolled out the carpet for a most welcomed new tenant - the Office of Historic Alexandria. It's perfect marriage of the past and the present.