If you were to ask me -- Has Alexandria done a good job with erecting markers? -- I would say, Yes, most definitely. In fact, a fantastic job. Per square mile, Old Town might have the most in the country.
Curiosity drives us however, and in this case we want to know who or what else deserves a marker.
I’ve touched on this previously, noting Benjamin Hallowell certainly deserves one, as well as the Dulany House.
Another method I thought of is to take the list of Nation Register for Historic Places in Alexandria and compare it to the list of markers.
There are 45 sites on that list, with 34 located in the Old Town/Parker Gray area. Of those 34, 27 have a marker. Let’s take a look at the seven that aren’t. Four are clustered in the Bottoms neighborhood, so we will start with those.
Built in the mid 19th-century, this well-maintained Italianate-style rowhouse was the home of Dr. Albert Johnson, one of the city's first licensed African American physicians, and one of the few black doctors in the city. A native of Alexandria and graduate of Howard University, he lived here 1896 to 1940. The lower level was his medical office. The house was located on the edge of "the Bottoms," the oldest African American neighborhood in Alexandria. Dr. Johnson sold his house to Annie B. Rose in 1941. She is memorialized with a street named after her in Potomac Yard.
A two-block walk from the Johnson house takes you to the historic Odd Fellows Hall. The walk, downhill at the last part, reveals the dip in the landscape, a reminder of “the Bottoms” neighborhood.
Once just a one story structure, this two and a half story brick building was built in 1864. George Seaton, a prominent African-American whose home on South Royal has a marker, designed the enlargement in 1870 using the Second Empire style. One of its features is a slate mansard roof. The hall was converted into apartments in the 1980s, with the entrances on the side.
Local historians cherish this building because it is “one of the only surviving structures from the period 1790 to1953 associated with African American communal organizations.” The Odd Fellows Hall aided black Alexandrians in terms of their social, political and economic needs.
Another short walk takes us to the Beulah Baptist Church at 320 South Washington. Its all brick front includes a gabled roof and a stained-glassed window.
The church was established in 1863, a fact proudly displayed outside. The pastor and Parker worked with Harriet Jacobs and Julia Wilbur, two pioneers in their fields of educating the poor.
Worshippers came from the Bottoms. The Church provided education when blacks could not obtain one otherwise. The Union occupation of Alexandria allowed the creation of The First Select Colored School in 1862.
Like Beulah Baptist Church, Davis Chapel stands out among the crowd on South Washington with lots of brick. Built in 1834, it reflects both the late Victorian and Gothic styles. Stained-glass windows are presented in several forms.
The church is the oldest African-American church structure in Alexandria.
Moses Hepburn, who has been honored with a marker on North Pitt, was a founder. Worshippers came from the Bottoms and Hayti. The church is the site of one of the oldest existing schools in the city.
A warm thank you to the Historical Alexandria Foundation for their work to get these four sites added to the NRHP.