Top 4 Mercy Street Inspired Sites to Visit in Alexandria
PBS original drama Mercy Street is inspired by real events from Alexandria’s Civil War history. Today visitors to Alexandria can experience the Mercy Street story up close at the historic sites where the real-life soldiers, doctors and nurses depicted in the series lived out divided loyalties and moral dilemmas during the longest Union occupation of any Confederate city. Below are the top four Mercy Street sites to explore in Alexandria.
More Mercy Street Inspired Experiences in Alexandria.
The Site of the Mansion House Hospital
Mansion House Hospital during Civil War
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Mansion House Hospital today
Remaining portion of the building at 133 N. Fairfax St.
Mercy Street takes place at James Green’s Mansion House Hotel, a luxury hotel seized as a hospital for Union troops. A portion of the Mansion House Hospital still stands at the corner of N. Fairfax and Cameron streets (133 N. Fairfax Street) as the only remaining Mansion House building used as a hospital by the US Army. Also known as the historic Bank of Alexandria building, it is now leased to a private business. Mercy Street characters Mary Phinney, a nurse and Dorothea Dix, known as “Miss Dix,” the formidable superintendent of Union Army nurses, are based on real women who were at Mansion House Hospital. The hotel and hospital was once a larger building, stretching across the front lawn of the Carlyle House, blocking the home from street view. The Carlyle House, owned by the Green family, was housing for the doctors, surgeons and VIP guests and patients. Today, the Carlyle House is open for tours and and features an exhibit on the Mansion House Hospital.
Carlyle House - The Green Family Home
Mansion House owner James Green resided at the adjacent Carlyle House along with his wife and daughter Emma (all characters on the PBS show). Today, Carlyle House still stands on the grounds of the former hospital, operating as a museum. Visitors can see an exhibit of Civil War artifacts from Mansion House hospital, including Frank Stringfellow’s spy supplies and Civil War era medical instruments, and they can explore older stories of Alexandria’s history. The exhibit, "Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital" features an interpretation of period hospital rooms and doctor/officer housing, plus stories of nurse Mary Phinney.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary remained open and operational when Alexandria was occupied during the Civil War. The Green Family and Union hospital staff shopped here to purchase everything from Laudanum to Cologne. Today, visitors can take a guided tour and experience the historic space where occupied Alexandria came to shop. In 2017, view a new exhibit “This Terrible Disease” opening on January 13 and explore the themes of Mercy Street with the “Apothecary of Mercy Specialty Tour” at 12:15 p.m. the 2nd Sunday January, February, March and April.
Alexandria Black History Museum
Mercy Street actor L. Scott Caldwell (also known as Rose on the hit TV show Lost) visited Alexandria’s Black History Museum and met with museum director Audrey Davis to research her role on the show. Ms. Caldwell plays Belinda, a former slave and current servant of the Green family who owned the Mansion House Hospital. Museum Director Audrey Davis was a historical consultant on the show, due to her expertise on the unique juxtaposition of enslaved and free African Americans co-existing in Alexandria during the Civil War. Today, visitors can explore the museum’s exhibits detailing the courageous journey from Civil War to Civil Rights.
View the new exhibit “Before the Spirits Are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings by Sherry Z. Sanabria” through May 29, 2017, featuring over 20 paintings by artist Sherry Z. Sanabria (1937-2014) who worked in the DC metro area since 1975. The paintings in this series honor the lives of African Americans who survived slavery and years of racial injustice, but whose presence defined the American landscape.