Work continues on my book, tentatively titled, “A Walking Guide to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia: Featuring Over 275 Historical Markers.” To get folks interested, I’ve been posting the occasional note about a marker.
I’m currently re-walking the sidewalks to verify addresses and look for any markers recently erected. My biggest concern is the lag time between this process and publication. The area I cover is something like 18 by 14 blocks, so I expect to spend a few months on this aspect.
No one is an island (although it has felt like it at times), and I got a great assist last week from Ruth Reeder of Alexandria Archaeology. A tireless organizer of events and a true friend of the historic community, she let me know the Carlyle House has put up three new markers. I was there about a month ago, so I leapt for joy when I read her e-mail.
Interpretive signs take a lot of work. The reward is often new information that builds on old. This is the case with one of the new markers at the Carlyle House titled, “A Very Different View: Living and Working in 1700s Alexandria.” Its location is in the garden behind the Carlyle House, one of the more relaxing and shady spots in town.
The old marker there, “The 18th Century Shoreline,” discussed the two-story warehouse John Carlyle built at the corner of Cameron and Water (Lee) Streets. The new marker adds to our knowledge with text on “Lay of the Land,” and “People not Property.”
The inventory list is both poignant and haunting, and the marker concludes with:
“One enslaved worker, Penny, was purchased from a nearby plantation when she was just a young teenager. She lived and worked here her entire life. If we could hear her voice, what would she say?”
The vast majority of markers in Old Town are located in areas where the lay of the land has not changed. This part of Alexandria only hints at what caught the eye of the town's founders - a crescent-shaped deep water bay and 10 to 15 foot cliffs running down from what they would name Fairfax Street, and along Cameron Street. Take some time with this marker as you create your own photograph.
We owe a big thanks to the folks at the Carlyle House for these three new markers. I’m very pleased they will be included in my book.
Thank you Ruth!