With my salesman cap put aside, I am now preparing for my two talks (Barrett Branch Library on September 14, 1-2 pm, and October 12, 10 am at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum).
One of the points I will be making covers the areas of Old Town history that do not have an historical marker. Answering that question in full would require a symposium. I do, however, have a few choice candidates.
One of them is the Dulany House at 601 Duke Street. Observers have fawned over it since 1949 when Richard Pratt (“A Treasury of Early American Homes”) called it "one of the choice examples of early American elegance in the United States." That same year Gay Montague Moore ("Seaport in Virginia") wrote, “probably the best example of Georgian architecture in Alexandria.”
Smith and Miller ("A Seaport Saga") note the 2 and ½ story Georgian with an arched door, Aquia stone front porch and Flemish bond brickword, is “probably the least altered (both interior and exterior) of Alexandria’s finest residences.”
In 1779, David Arrell possessed the title to the lot at the northwest corner of Duke and South St. Asaph streets. Four years later he sold it to Benjamin Dulaney Sr., who built the town home a short time later.
Coming from Maryland and a prominent family (his father was a lawyer of much esteem), Benjamin Tasker Dulany (1752-1816) splashed onto the young town’s scene in 1773 when he wed Elizabeth French, a ward of George Washington. Her father, Daniel French, lived in Rose Hill.
In his diary, Washington penned:
“Our celebrated Fortune Miss French, whom half the world was in pursuit of, bestowed her hand on…. Mr. Ben Dulany.”
Dulany visited Mount Vernon many times and stayed overnight. On February 15, 1785, Washington wrote in his diary:
“Went to Alexandria with Mrs. Washington. Dined at Mr. Dulany’s.”
The late Worth Bailey, Alexandria’s esteemed architectural historian, noted of mounting evidence of French’s input into the building of the house. He also says that Benjamin Latrobe likely “had a hand” in the additions and alterations. (HABS VA-697)
In 1799, Dulany purchased and moved to Ludwell Lee’s mansion on Shuter’s Hill. While living there, he rented out 601 to Edward Stabler, who ran the Apothocary on South Fairfax Street for many years. In 1810, attorney Robert J. Taylor bought the property.
The house gained eternal fame in 1824 when General Marquis de Lafayette visited Alexandria. Moore writes that the city was “more excited about this visit than any other occurrence in her history.” Bailey wrote that this tradition “is firmly entrenched.”
Lafayette stayed at the (Lawrason) house across the street, which does have a marker noting the famous visit. When the crowds crushed in to hear him speak, it is said he walked across the street to 601 Duke and walked up the front porch steps to a more commanding and visible position.
In her book, Moore details the beauty of the interior, noting “it is a satisfaction to see these old rooms, graced by fine furniture, draperies, portraits, and silver of local origin, restored again to dignity and graciousness of days long past.”