Alexandria Historic Timeline



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13,000 Years Ago
The Paleoindian Period

A Native American hunter during the Paleoindian period discards a broken spear point, known today as a Clovis point, on a bluff overlooking a tributary to the Potomac River at the southern edge of present-day Alexandria.


4,000 Years Ago
Quartz and Quartzite

Cobbles People carry quarts and quartzite cobbles from a small tributary stream off the Potomac to a bluff top near the current intersection of Interstate 395 and Braddock Road. They chip off pieces of the cobbles to make stone spear points for use in hunting deer and small game and in fishing for shad and other spawning fish.


1,000 Years Ago
Native American Camp
Native Americans establish a small seasonal camp site at present-day Jones Point to hunt and exploit the resources of the adjacent marshland. They live in circular structures about 12 feet in diameter made of bent saplings, probably covered with bark and mats.


1608
Exploration of Chesapeake

Captain John Smith's shallop sails past what is now Alexandria in his quest for precious minerals and a Northwest Passage.


1654
First Land Grant

Margaret Brent, first female lawyer in America and advisor to the governor of Maryland, receives a grant of land from the Virginia governor that includes the future site of Alexandria.


1669
John Alexander Buys Land

Scottish merchant John Alexander purchases some of the former Brent land from a Welsh ship captain for "six thousand pounds of Tobacco and Cask."


1748
A New Town on the Potomac

George Washington, a teenage surveyor, draws plans of a new town called Alexandria.


1749
Alexandria Established

Virginia's colonial government grants permission to a group of merchants and planters to establish a town called Alexandria.


1755
French and Indian War

British General Edward Braddock arrives with several thousand Red coats to quell the encroaching French and their Indian allies. He establishes his headquarters at the home of John Carlyle (present-day Carlyle House Historic Park). Braddock's arrogance and mortal defeat at the battle of Monongahela (near present-day Pittsburgh) are harbingers of Britain's decline.


1774
"Fairfax Resolves"

Upset over British taxation, colonists hold a protest meeting at the courthouse (site of present-day City Hall) and approve George Mason's "Fairfax Resolves," the precursor to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.


Friendship Fire Company

Alexandria's first volunteer fire company founded; in 1855 new firehouse is constructed (now Friendship Firehouse Museum).


1781
Washington-Rochambeau Route

American and French armies move southward to besiege British forces. Allied supply-wagon train forms a half-mile-wide camp at Alexandria, before moving on to Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War.


1785
A Town Takes Shape

John Wise, local tavern keeper and entrepreneur, constructs a tavern (now Gadsby's Tavern Museum) with the largest function room in Alexandria. The Alexandria Academy, the town's first public school, opens. Philip Richard Fendall builds house on Oronoco Street on lot purchased from his cousin, Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee (now Lee-Fendall House Museum).


1789
President George Washington

George Washington becomes first president of the United States of America and leaves Alexandria for New York. Before his presidency, he maintained a town house on Cameron Street, had a family pew at Christ Church, and dined, danced and conducted business at many of Alexandria's taverns.


1791
Federal City

First and southern most cornerstone for new Federal capital is set at Alexandria's Jones Point with help of African-American surveyor and mathematician Benjamin Banneker; the town officially becomes part of the District of Columbia in 1801.


1792
Successful Commerce on the Rise
Edward Stabler opens and apothecary, one of several successful commercial ventures by Quakers in Alexandria, that is operated by his descendants in the Leadbeater family until 1933 (now Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum).


1810
Lee Family
Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee moves to Alexandria with his family, including young son Robert E. Lee.


1824
Hero of the American Revolution

The Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, visits Alexandria for a Grand Reception and Celebration held in his honor and, while here, calls on the widow of his old comrade Henry Lee.

Lafayette, the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War, was invited by President James Monroe to be "The Nation's Guest," attending parades, ceremonies and receptions in every state.


1834
The Alexandria Lyceum

A group of gentleman interested in public education and scientific inquiry organize themselves as The Alexandria Lyceum. Five year later, they build their own hall (now known as The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum), sharing it with the Alexandria Library.


1847
Retrocession

With limited federal financial assistance and voting rights, Alexandrians vote to retrocede from the District of Columbia back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.


1848
The Edmonson Sisters

Sisters Emily and Mary Edmonson are held at an Alexandria slave jail after and escape attempt on schooner The Pearl. The girls' case captures the attention of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, and they ultimately gain their freedom.


1858
Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the first national preservation organization in America, acquires Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, and opens it to the public two years later.


1861-1865
An Occupied City

One day after Virginia votes to secede from the Union, Federal troops seize Alexandria due to its strategic importance to the defense of Washington. Alexandria remains an occupied city throughout the Civil War. Alexandria becomes a major headquarters, transportation center, and hospital base for the Union Arms, and a destination for refugees and runaway slaves. The Alexandria National Cemetery (1862) and the Contrabands and Freedmen's Cemetery (1864) are established to accommodate the community's rising death toll.


Defenses of Washington

Fort Ward, fifth largest fort in an extensive ring of 164 forts and batteries to defend the national capital, is constructed near Braddock Road (now Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site).


1908
Town of Potomac

Two streetcar suburbs, Del Ray and St. Elmo, merge to form the Town of Potomac. Town is annexed by the City of Alexandria in 1930.


1909
Orville Wright's Flight
In a demonstration flight from Fort Myer in Arlington for the U.S. Army, Orville Wright flies to Shuter's Hill (now site of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial) and back, and the Wright brothers are awarded the world's first military airplane contract.


1919
Underwater Warfare
The Naval Torpedo Station opens on the Alexandria waterfront to build and repair this new type of weapon.


1932
Washington Tributes

As part of the celebrations surrounding the bicentennial of George Washington's birth, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial is dedicated a top Shuter's Hill. George Washington Memorial Parkway opens, connecting Washington D.C., with Mount Vernon and using Washington Street as its course through Alexandria.


1939
Civil Rights Movement Begins
Attorney Samuel W. Tucker leads five young African Americans to participate in a "sit in" at the segregated Barrett Library on Queen Street, the first organized act of the Civil Rights movement.

John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America and founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, purchases Lee-Fendall House for his family home (now Lee-Fendall House Museum).


1940
Robinson Library Opens

Robert Robinson Library is built for the city's African American residents. With desegregation in the 1960s, the building is then used for community purposes and later becomes the Alexandria Black History Museum.


1946
"Old Town"

City of Alexandria creates nation's third regulated Historic District to preserve and protect the appearance of its historic downtown area, now known as "Old Town."


1961
Jim Morrison
Future music legend Jim Morrison of the band "The Doors" graduates from George Washington High School in Alexandria. Cass Elliot and John Phillips of "The Mamas & The Papas" also attend George Washington High School in the 1950s.


1971
"Remember the Titans"

After desegregating its public school system, Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School wins state football championship and captures national fame in 2000 in the film, Remember the Titans.


1974
President Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford becomes U.S. President and serves his first 10 days while still living in his Alexandria home on Crown View Drive.


Arms to Artwork

The old Alexandria Naval Torpedo Station reopens as the Torpedo Factory Art Center, one of the nation's most successful projects in the adaptive reuse of a historic structure for arts purposes. This is one of Alexandria's contributions to the nationwide Bicentennial Celebration.


1975
Alexandria Archaeology

Alexandria establishes the country's first archaeological commission and community archaeology program, leading to the development of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.


1984
Parker-Gray Established

Parker-Gray Historic District is established in historically black neighborhood to protect owner-occupied homes from development.


2001
September 11th

Alexandria emergency service personnel respond to terrorist attacks of September 11 at nearby Pentagon. Subsequent prisoners held and tried in federal court in Alexandria include Zacarias Moussaoui and American Taliban prisoner John Walker Lindh.


2007
13,000-year-old Clovis Point Discovered

In River tributary, recover a 13,000-year-old Clovis spear point discarded by a Native American hunter. The stone tool is the earliest evidence of human presence in present-day Alexandria.

Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
221 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
703-746-3301 or 800-388-9119
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