The 10 oldest houses in Alexandria – Alexandria Living Magazine
People may first think of the Murray-Dick-Fawcett House at 517 Prince Street as the oldest house in Alexandria, but that’s not exactly the case. Built in 1775, the Murray-Dick-Fawcett House is the oldest unchanged house in Alexandria, but not the oldest.
Learning this, we set out to find out which houses are really the oldest in the city of Alexandria. These 10 houses were all built before 1800.
Ramsay House – 1695-1751
The oldest house in Alexandria is the Ramsay House, now the Alexandria Visitor Center, at 221 King St. The Ramsay House was the residence of William Ramsay, one of the Scottish merchants who founded Alexandria in 1749 The house is said to have been built in Dumfries, VA and brought to Alexandria on a barge, but one family claimed that the house was built in Alexandria. There are no old enough records. The Historical Society of Alexandria suspects that the house was built between 1695 and 1751.
William Ramsay married Ann McCarty Ball, cousin of George Washington. Washington and his wife often dined at the Ramsay House after Sunday mass, according to The novel of historic Alexandria by Reverend Eugene Jackson.
The house has been enlarged over the years, once used as a cigar factory. More controversially, it served as a brothel during WWII for workers at the torpedo factory.
In 1950, the Ramsay House was in ruins following a destructive fire in 1942 and deteriorating inclement weather. It took years to complete the renovation, delayed by funding issues and proposed road projects, according to a Out of the attic article written by the city of Alexandria and the historic city of Alexandria.
Although there was some disappointment that the building was remodeled in the style of a Colonial Williamsburg home, not matching the historic Alexandrian style. Ramsay House was designated as a reception center in 1973.
Friendly spirits have also been reported to haunt the house. HauntedHouses.com has found reports of protests looking out of second story windows toward the river and even turning on the coffeemaker for the staff in the morning.
Carlyle House – 1753
John Carlyle bought the most expensive land for sale in 1794, during the formation of Alexandria. These lots, located between the Potomac River and the Marketplace at 121 N Fairfax St., is the site where Carlyle built his stone mansion.
Carlyle, one of the city’s founders, moved in upon completion of construction in 1753 and that same night his first wife, Sarah Fairfax Carlyle, gave birth to their first son, according to NOVA Parks History of the Carlyle House.
Carlyle’s house was the site of a conference between five colonial governors and the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America fighting in the French and Indian War. This conference was one of the first events showing tensions between the colonies and Britain, as Braddock called the governors there to talk about paying for the war.
It was not the only time that Carlyle House was used for military operations. During the Civil War, senior officials of the Union troops lived in the house. A hotel on the property, which has since been demolished, served as a hospital.
Like the Ramsay House, the Carlyle House was in disrepair by the mid-1900s. Restoration of the property by NOVA Parks began in 1970 and the house was opened to the public in 1976 in honor of the 200e birthday.
Murray-Dick-Fawcett House – 1775
The Murrary-Dick-Fawcett House is known locally as the oldest intact house in Alexandria, and possibly all of northern Virginia. “With roof trusses attached with hand-worked nails, the original pine slatted floor and doors, a toilet and a smoking room, all showing wear and tear from people living mostly under fire. the celebrity ramp, ”according to the city.
Some notable features of the house include five fireplaces, gas light fixtures, and a doorbell system for calling servants.
Located at 517 Prince Street, the house is named after the original owner, a blacksmith by the name of Patrick Murray, and a later owner physician, Elisha Cullen Dick. Dick was the doctor who saw the George Washington when he died.
The house was then sold to John Douglas Brown in 1816 and remained in the possession of Brown’s descendants for 184 years, according to an article in Out of the Attic. During this time, few changes have been made to the property. Lewis Fawcett is the descendant of Brown who opened the house in 1936 to be documented in the Historical American Buildings Survey.
The Murray-Dick-Fawcett house has been described by historians as “a fascinating microcosm of the complete single-family house, containing in addition to the living room, dining room and usual bedrooms a kitchen, a kit, rooms for slaves or servants. and storage rooms, all under one roof. ”
The city took possession of the property in 2017 and the house is occasionally open to the public during various events – pre-COVID – throughout the year.
Benjamin Dulany House – 1784/1785
This house, located at 601 Duke Street, has the claim to fame that the Marquis de Lafayette came to visit Alexandria in 1824 that he used this door to address the city. He was staying in a neighboring house, but the steps there were much higher.
Benjamin Dulany, who built the house, was a close friend of George Washington. Dulany hosted George and Martha Washington at the residence, according to Historic Alexandria. Copies of letters between Dulany and Washington are available at the National Archives.
Other notable owners of the house included Edward Stabler, who operated a town apothecary, and notable town lawyer Robert Taylor.
Colonel Michael Swope House – 1784/1786
Colonel Michael Swope was a Revolutionary War battalion commander. Swope and nearly 3000 were taken prisoner by the British on November 16, 1776 at the Battle of Fort Washington.
Although it is said that Swope was traded for New Jersey Governor William Franklin, the loyalist son of Benjamin Franklin, it is not certain. Either way, the exchange took place. He was not released until January 1781, according to documents from the National Archives. He and his family moved to Alexandria in 1784 to the property at 210 Prince Street.
The house is said to be haunted by Swope’s ghost. The stories of Swope’s appearances are recounted in The ghosts of Alexandria, by Michael Lee Pope. The Pope documented the sightings of the tour guides and the tales of the house guests. The ghost was reportedly spotted in the War of Independence uniform in the music room on the third floor, Swope’s favorite floor of the house.
This spirt would have been friendly, unless you were British. It appeared that Swope was still angry with the British over his time as a prisoner. HauntedHouses.com recounts an incident where a British woman was visiting the house and Swope’s spirit prevented her from entering the third floor.
“She told the estate agent that she has psychic abilities, and Swope’s entity told her that he didn’t like her because of her British roots and didn’t want her to buy his house. Says the site.
Fairfax-Moore-Montague House – Mid 1780s
The Fairfax-Moore-Montague House was built by John Harper, a naval captain from Philadelphia. The house was built on land that originally belonged to George William Fairfax, the son of William Fairfax who acted as a land agent for his cousin Thomas Fairfax who owned the property. George William Fairfax was a friend of George Washington and arranged for him to survey the land belonging to Thomas Fairfax, included in this area which would become Alexandria.
Although George William Fairfax did not build the house which now stands at 207 Prince Street, his name was still associated with the property.
The property is named after Charles Beatty Moore and his wife Gay Montague Moore, who lived in the house from 1919 to 1988. Montague Moore was a historian and curator who preserved the house. Part of his credit for helping Alexandria Historic District be named a National Historic Landmark in 1966, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The house was commonly referred to only as the Fairfax-Moore House, as it was not until 1991 that Montague Moore was directly credited for its restoration efforts. A common reference book on historic houses, Historic Alexandria Virginia Street by Street, by Ethelyn Cox refers to Montague Moore as Mrs. Charles Beatty Moore.
It was when the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 that the name was changed to include Montague Moore.
Lee-Fendall House – 1785
It is one of the few houses in the area with ties to the Lee family. Now a private museum, the Lee-Fendall House sits on a property that once belonged to Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, who became Governor of Virginia. Henry Lee is also the father of Robert E Lee, a Confederate general.
The land was sold to Philip Richard Fendall, another Washington friend, who built the house at 614 Oronoco Street. American History, ”according to the museum’s website.
It was after Lewis’ death in 1969 that the house was finally purchased by the Virginia Trust for Historic Preservation. It opened as a museum in 1974.
You can now tour the house and see many of the Lee family artifacts.
Potts-Fitzhugh House – 1795
This twin home at 609 and 607 Oronoco St. is known for the eastern half, 607, being the childhood home of Robert E. Lee.
Other prominent residents include Ada Hitchcock LacLeish, who helped establish the United Nations.
Robert E. Lee’s childhood home was once owned by the Lee-Jackson Foundation, a Civil War preservation group, but was sold in 2000 for $ 2.5 million. The foundation was unable to pay for the upkeep of the home and felt it was in the property’s best interest to sell it, according to a New York Times article.
The house was put back on the market in 2018 and sold for $ 4.7 million in July, nearly half of the original asking price of $ 8.7 million.
Lloyd House – 1796
This home at 222 N Washington St. was built by John Wise and is another home with Lee family ties. Charles Lee, Henry Lee’s brother and not the same Charles Henry Lee who was a Revolutionary War General as shown in Hamilton, lived here.
Charles Lee served as Attorney General in the Washington and Adams administrations. After returning to private practice, he even argued in a key Supreme Court case in Marbury v. Madison, who instilled in the Supreme Court powers of judicial review – a review against Congress.
The house is named after the Lloyd family, who owned the property from 1833 to 1918.
In the 1940s, the house was used to house female naval reservists who worked at the torpedo factory, according to Historic Alexandria.
Like many of the homes on this list, the Lloyd House was in need of restoration in the 1950s. It was at one point that it needed to be demolished, but the Historic Alexandria Foundation bought out the demolition contract. The Alexandria Historic Restoration and Preservation Commission purchased the house in 1966 and completed much of the restoration.
Lloyd House now houses the administrative offices of the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Correction: In the May / June print edition of Alexandria Living Magazine, the photo of the Swope house is incorrect. The correct photo is above.