The other day I took a photo of a new historical marker steps from the corner of Cameron and N. Fairfax streets (And by the way what a great job by OHA — more than two dozen of them, mostly along King Street).
The marker touches on City Hall, the Bank of Alexandria and Wise’s Tavern. I was very pleased to see this one.
Standing there, it occurred to me this was a very special part of the original layout of Alexandria in 1749. I remember thinking about this corner when I was conducting my search for historical markers several years ago. The three buildings are adorned with a bronze plaque.
Anyway, here is a brief rundown on these three corner spots plus the northwest corner. I take it a bit further than just City Hall, and include Market Square.
So much history here, the historic center of town, site of a Market House, Fairfax County Court House, Town Hall and government offices, coffee house, school, fire companies, police station, prison, headquarters of Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge and its museum, marching green, jail and public whipping post. Today, the Farmer’s Market continues a tradition held since around 1752. City Hall was destroyed by fire in 1871 and rebuilt in 1874. The Market Square Urban Renewal project took place in the 1960s (Dedicated in 1967).
Of course, we should restrict this to the corners.
Tiffany Pache (The Market Square Cookbook) does a wonderful job of providing maps and info. From 1750-1817, a townhouse stood at the southwest corner. The Alexandria School held classes on the first floor and Presbyterian worship services were held on the second.
From 1785-1817, the school continued and the second floor held Chamber of Common Council Meetings (in 1802).
The corner spot was vacant until the construction of the current City Hall in 1871.
(Note: Two other excellent sources on the Market Square are Alexandria Virginia’s Market Square by Penny Merrill, the NRHP Nomination Form.)
A Seaport Saga tells us this is one of Alexandria’s oldest structures. In 1789, a select group of townsmen raised their pints to George Washington, who had been elected as the first President of the United States. The building was modified in 1916 and held the Anne Lee Memorial Home.
Bank of Alexandria
Completed in 1807, this bank was the first institution authorized by the General Assembly. Washington was listed as a depositor and stockholder. Mercy Street’s setting is the Carlyle House and the Mansion House Hotel. This is the only part of the hotel that survives.
According to Ethelyn Cox, 301 Cameron was built before 1865.
As the marker notes, city planners eyed this corner as the main intersection of town. Cameron split the middle of the crescent shaped bay and Fairfax Street ran along the edge of ten to fifteen foot heights overlooking the Potomac.
King Street gets all the attention in Alexandria, but Cameron packs a historical punch, with these places, plus Gadsby’s Tavern, Christ Church and others.
I can also tell you it’s a lot more quiet…