After a morning walk in Old Town, one of my favorite places to rest my weary bones is the Starbucks at the corner of King and Union Street. Cozy with a fireplace and comfy chairs and surrounded with the historic Fitzgerald Warehouse’s exposed stone and brick, this place invites you to relax and stay.
The other day I was reminded of this cafe’s mellowing power. So much so that I evidently don’t use my brain much when I’m in there.
It says: The Seaport Inn Restaurant, 1765.
Now that I think about it, that date can't be right.
In 1765, Alexandria still had its crescent shaped bay. This spot would have been either underwater or mud flats during low tide.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, here we go, Jay’s cranking up his pedantic machine.
But hey, like a golfer, I have a duty to try and protect the field.
Not going to spend a lot of time with this one, but let me say if you so desire, a terrific primer on the history of the Fitzgerald Warehouse comes from the pen of Diane Riker.
She tells us the first restaurateur at this location appears to be Justis Schneider. A German immigrant, he arrived in Alexandria during the Civil War and opened up an eating establishment around 1867. Subsequent restaurants were Brille’s and Bill’s Old Anchor.
Fast forwarding to 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Albert D. Schmutzer opened The Seaport Inn restaurant in the historic Fitzgerald Restaurant at the southeast corner of King and Union.
His obit in The Washington Post (Feb 24, 2001) tells us Schmutzer was born in Montreal. After learning the ropes at Herzog’s Seafood Restaurant on the Maine Avenue Wharf in SW DC, he and his father bought the Old Heidelberg Rathskeller Restaurant at 515 11th NW DC (closed down in 1982.
The Historic American Building Survey report (1959) on the Fitzgerald Warehouse provides a clue as to the origin of the 1765 date for the building. It shows the year of erection as “prior to 1765.” Not sure if that was a typo or what. "A Seaport Saga" has it going up circa 1780.
Roberta and I can testify to the Seaport Inn’s popularity. In the late 1990s, friends from California visited us. On a warm summer night, we walked in and were told the wait was long.
A photograph on the web shows the Seaport Inn sign hanging outside. After a long run, the restaurant closed in 2000. The Starbucks moved in sometime after that. The Seaport Inn sign that had hung outside was placed inside.
Question now is what to do with it?
Leave it alone, we say. We're feeling mellow...