Tour King Street in Alexandria, VA

King Street is Old Town Alexandria's main street. It offers a full day's sightseeing in just one mile!

Find some comfy shoes (cobblestone streets are hard on high heels) and take the tour from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial all the way to the Torpedo Factory Art Center on the banks of the beautiful Potomac River!

Directions to Get Started:

To get to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, take the walkway under the King Street Metro Station overpass to the corner of King Street and Callahan Drive. At the traffic light, cross Callahan Drive, bear left to Carlisle Drive, and walk up Carlisle Drive to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at the top of Shuter's Hill. You can't miss the building-it features Alexandria's most famous landmark, a 333-foot tower!

George Washington Masonic Memorial 1. George Washington Masonic National Memorial 
101 Callahan Drive 
Five tours daily at 9:30 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm and 4 pm.
Admission/tour fee is $15 per person, children 12 and under are free

Congress decided to move the Capitol of the United States from New York City to the District of Columbia, after George Washington was inaugurated in 1789. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both recommended Shuter's Hill as the site of the new capitol. President Washington rejected the idea, because his family owned property on and around the hill. Ironically, the cornerstone of the Memorial, which is dedicated to his memory and contains many Washington family artifacts, was laid using the same silver trowel which he used to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol.

Walk down Carlyle Drive to King Street; at the traffic light, cross Callahan Drive to Alexandria Union Station.


2. Alexandria Union Station 
110 Callahan Drive 
6 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Daily

To compete with Baltimore, MD as a major commercial center, Alexandria invested in a variety of railroad projects during the 1840's. Unfortunately, this made the city congested with rails and yards. In 1901, the railroads serving the region consolidated their operations and built a new passenger terminal in what was then Arlington County. Unlike most of the train stations of that era, this one-story brick building was constructed in the Federal Revival style. In 1915, Alexandria annexed the land on which the station stands and eventually took over and restored the building.

Return to King Street by following the sidewalk under the King Street Metro Station overpass. Bear right along the perimeter of the Metro parking lot to the intersection of Daingerfield Road and Diagonal Road. Cross Daingerfield Road to King Street Gardens Park.

3. King Street Gardens Park 
1806 King Street 
Farmers Market Wed. 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Aug.-Oct.

This 15,000 square-foot triangular plot of land was dedicated on October 4, 1997 as an urban park and work of public art. The tall, vine-covered structures oriented toward the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and the Metro overpass symbolize a tri-cornered hat, plowshare, and ship's prow. These items represent the three facets of George Washington: patriot, farmer, and leader. The paving bricks, laid out in a treelike design, were purchased by local people and businesses and feature imprinted messages you can read.

At the east end of King Street Gardens Park, cross Diagonal Road to the south side of King Street. Proceed east on King Street about 3 blocks to West Street; turn right at the corner of West Street; walk 2 blocks south on West Street to Duke Street; turn left onto Duke Street; proceed east about halfway down the block.

Freedom House Museum

4. Freedom House Museum
1315 Duke Street 
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. 
Admission: Free; donations accepted

Robert Young, who commanded the cavalry in George Washington's funeral procession, built this house around 1812. Not long afterwards, he ran into financial difficulties and leased the house to Franklin & Armfield, the largest domestic slave trading company in the U.S. The company reportedly shipped at least 100 slaves to New Orleans every two weeks, and by the 1830s, Alexandria had become the slave trading center of the U.S. After the Civil War, the "slave pens" that surrounded the house were torn down and the six houses at 1301-1311 Duke Street were built.

Walk east on Duke Street to the corner of Payne Street. Turn left at the corner of Payne Street and walk 2 blocks north on Payne Street to King Street. Turn right onto King Street and walk 4 blocks east to the corner of Alfred Street. Turn right onto Alfred Street and proceed south down the block.

5. Friendship Firehouse Museum
107 S. Alfred Street 
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sun., except major holidays 
Admission: $2.00

Alexandria's first volunteer fire company established in 1774. The current firehouse was built in 1855 and houses a variety of historic firefighting equipment, including hand-drawn fire engines, leather water buckets, and sections of early rubber hose. The second-floor Meeting Room is furnished the way it was during the 19th century and is a window into Friendship's heyday as a community organization. Ceremonial objects are on display, including parade uniforms, caps, banners, and other regalia. In the 20th century, the members decided to make the firehouse into a "shrine" to George Washington, honoring him as Alexandria's greatest citizen.

Walk south on Alfred Street to the corner of Prince Street. Turn left at the corner of Prince Street and walk 2 blocks east on Prince Street to Washington Street. Turn right onto Washington Street and proceed south down the block.

The Lyceum: Alexandria's History Museum

6. The Lyceum: Alexandria's History Museum 
201 S. Washington Street 
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun.; except major holidays 
Admission: $2

In 1839, a group of citizens built The Lyceum as a place for quiet reading, scientific experiments, and lectures for notable speakers including John Quincy Adams. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital. Later it was converted into a private home, then an office building, the nation's first Bicentennial Center, and finally Alexandria's History Museum.

Return to the corner of S. Washington Street and Prince Street. Here you will see the historic marker for the Confederate Statue.

7. Confederate Statue 
Intersection of Prince Street and S. Washington Street

M. Casper Buberl's sculpture was based on a figure in a painting by John Elder titled, "Appomattox." The statue was erected in 1889 by the Robert E. Lee Camp United Confederate Veterans at the location where units from Alexandria left to join the Confederate Army on May 24, 1861. The names of Alexandrians who died in service for the Confederacy are inscribed on the statue's base. Like many similar memorials in towns throughout the South, the soldier faces toward the battlefields where his comrades fell.

Walk north on Washington Street about 3 blocks.

8. Christ Episcopal Church
118 N. Washington Street 
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Sun. 
Admission: Free

Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were regular worshippers at Christ Episcopal Church, and both their pews are marked. Washington's pew has been preserved in its original state. The first church in Alexandria, Christ Episcopal Church originally stood in a grove of trees on a hill two blocks beyond what was then the city limits. The design by James Wren is in the colonial Georgian style. The building was constructed of native brick, and the stone trim came from the Aquia Creek quarry south of Alexandria. The bell tower was constructed in 1818.

Walk north on N. Washington Street to the corner of Cameron Street. Cross Washington Street and continue east on the south side of Cameron Street approximately 1 block.

9. Washington's Town House 
508 Cameron Street 
Private residence with historic marker

George Washington purchased this lot in 1763, and his townhouse was completed in 1769. He kept an office with a secretary here to receive and accommodate visitors to Mt. Vernon arriving behind schedule. The house, noted for its simplicity of design, was torn down in 1855. The owner at the time, Benjamin Waters, let his friends to take parts of the framework as souvenirs. In 1960, Governor and Mrs. Richard Barrett Lowe had the house rebuilt on the original foundation. Bricks and stones from the excavation were used in its construction.

Walk east on Cameron Street about 2 blocks to N. Royal Street.

10. Gadsby's Tavern Ice House 
Corner of Cameron Street and N. Royal Street

A very important part of Gadsby's Tavern was the brick-walled underground ice house, which was filled every winter with ice from the Potomac River. The blocks of ice were lowered into place through a chute on Cameron Street and then packed in straw for insulation. When the tavern needed ice, employees could find the supply in the basement down a narrow flight of steps.

Turn right at the corner of N. Royal Street.

Gadsby's Tavern Museum

11. Gadsby's Tavern Museum
134 N. Royal Street 
Nov.-Mar.: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sun.; last tour at 3:45 p.m. 
Apr.-Oct.: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun.-Mon.; last tour at 4:45 p.m. 
Closed major holidays 
Tours start at a quarter after the hour and a quarter before the hour, lasting approximately 30 minutes 
Admission: Adults $5; children ages 11-17 $3; children under age 11 free with paying adult

Although John Gadsby never owned the City Tavern (ca. 1785) and adjoining City Hotel (1792), his management style made the businesses famous around the world. This was the site of birth night balls for George Washington and an inaugural party for Thomas Jefferson. Other famous guests included the Marquis de Lafayette, who stopped by on his way to Philadelphia to volunteer his services to the Continental Army; Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the national Capitol; and Francis Scott Key, shortly before he composed the  Star Spangled Banner. The restaurant offers authentic fare, and the servers wear 18th-century attire.

Walk east on Cameron Street 1 block to N. Fairfax Street. Cross N. Fairfax Street and turn right.

12. Carlyle House Historic Park
121 N. Fairfax Street 
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Sun. 
Admission: Adults $5; children ages 11-17 $3; children under age 11 free with paying adult

Built between 1751 and 1753 by one of Alexandria's founders and first landowners, John Carlyle, this is the only Georgian Palladian-style mansion in Alexandria. When construction started, Alexandria did not have a law requiring homes to be built in line with the street. Restored for the U.S. Bicentennial, the property includes furniture, paintings, and other personal possessions of the Carlyle family. The grounds feature an extensive 18th-century style garden. Guided tours explore family life of the colonial Virginia aristocracy, merchants, slavery and servants, and town property.

Walk south on N. Fairfax Street 1 block to King Street. At the intersection, cross N. Fairfax Street and climb the steps toward the fountain.

13. Alexandria City Hall and Market Square 
301 King Street 
City Hall open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily 
Farmers Market 5 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Sat. year-round

Market Square has been a feature of Alexandria from the beginning. On July 13, 1749, when the first lots were auctioned for the town, two half-acre lots were set aside for Town Hall and Market Place. Since then, the Square has undergone many changes, but the Farmers Market has stayed essentially the same and is thought to be the oldest continuously-operating one in the nation. George Washington sent wagon-loads of produce from Mount Vernon to be sold here. The current City Hall was built in 1873, and safely locked in its vault is the original minute book of the town trustees.

Return to the intersection of King Street and N. Fairfax Street. Cross N. Fairfax Street and proceed to the house near the corner.

14. Alexandria Visitors Center at Ramsay House
221 King Street 
9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except major holidays 
Admission: Free

William Ramsay, one of the first 11 trustees of Alexandria, purchased this lot at the first auction in 1749. He was so excited to become a member of the community, he had a small building loaded onto a barge, towed it up the Potomac River to Alexandria, and placed it on a heavy stone foundation. The rest of the white clapboard house was later built on the original residence and business office. In addition to his mercantile enterprises, Ramsay served as town overseer, census taker, postmaster, and member of the Committee of Safety. George Washington attended his funeral in 1795.

Return to the intersection of King Street and N. Fairfax Street. Cross King Street and cross to the west side of S. Fairfax Street. Walk south partway down the block.

Products from the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop

15. Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop
105-107 S. Fairfax Street 
Nov.-Mar.: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-4 p.m.-Sun.; closed major holidays 
Apr.-Oct.: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun.-Mon.; closed major holidays 
Admission: Adults $5; children ages 11-17 $32; children under age 11 free with paying adult

Founded in 1792, this apothecary shop's customer list includes George and Martha Washington. When it closed in 1933, it was the oldest shop in Virginia and the second oldest in the U.S. It has been carefully-maintained and holds the largest, most valuable collection of medicinal glass in the country. On the counter where powdered medications were mixed, there's a tile for prescriptions for humans and a tile for animals - generally horses.

Walk south on S. Fairfax Street 1 block to Prince Street. Turn left and continue east on Prince Street.

16. Gentry Row & Captains Row

Along the block between S. Fairfax Street and S. Lee Street are private homes that are handsomely furnished and well-maintained, earning this block the title "Gentry Row." Walking east on Prince Street to the corner of S. Union Street, you'll encounter "Captains Row," so-named because some of the captains whose vessels docked at the Alexandria wharves built their homes here. The cobblestones are said to be imported ballast, laid by Hessians taken prisoner during the American Revolution.

At the northeast corner of Prince Street and S. Union Street, turn left. Walk north 1 block to King Street. Cross King Street to N. Union Street and walk partway up the block.

. Alexandria Torpedo Factory Art Center

17. Torpedo Factory Art Center/Alexandria Archaeology
105 N. Union St. 
10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except major holidays 
Admission: Free 
Alexandria Archaeology: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues-Fri.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.; closed major holidays 
Admission: Free

The Torpedo Factory Art Center really was a torpedo factory, built in 1918 by the U.S. Navy to make torpedo parts. Today, approximately 200 artists work in studios, displaying and selling their artwork in galleries throughout the three-story building. On the third floor is the Alexandria Archaeology museum and lab, one of the very few research centers in the U.S. devoted to the research and preservation of archaeological sites in an urban environment. Behind the Center is a boardwalk, offering views of Maryland and the District of Columbia across the Potomac River.

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