Old Town

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About Old Town

Old Town is located in the eastern/southeastern area of Alexandria along the Potomac River. It was originally laid out in 1749, making it the oldest section of the City. It is also a historic district., with landmarks that include the boyhood home of General Robert E. Lee, the Lee-Fendall House, Gadsby’s Tavern, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary and the Torpedo Factory.

The commercial center of the district is based on S. Washington and King Streets. King Street offers galleries, shops, restaurants and hotels as well as office spaces. A large plaza at the foot of King Street offers boat docking and public space. Restaurants and shops line the port. The Mount Vernon Trail also passes through the waterfront section of Old Town. Market Square is believed to be one of the oldest continuously operating marketplaces in the USA (c. 1753) and, sadly, once the site of the second-largest U.S. slave market. Today, Market Square features a Saturday morning farmers’ market and public space. Alexandria City Hall is adjacent to Market Square.

The Washington Metro King Street station (c.1983) services Old Town.

Alexandria has a long history, starting with its founding as a colonial town in 1749, as a port where goods shipped from Europe and the West Indies could be traded for tobacco and other products from western Virginia and beyond. George Washington made his home at Mount Vernon, eight miles south of Alexandria and became a member of the town’s governing body. Alexandria played roles in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Reconstruction and WWII.

By the 1920s, Alexandria saw an opportunity to capitalize on the tourist trade heading to Mount Vernon. American Legion Post 24 purchased the old City Hotel “Gadsby’s Tavern” as their headquarters and museum. It opened with a colonial costume ball in 1932, the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. This successful venture marked the beginning of the preservation movement in Alexandria.

The Old and Historic District was designated in 1946, the third historic district in the United States. The Alexandria Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District encompassing all of the city’s Old Town and some adjacent areas. It contains some of the nation’s best-preserved late 18th and early 19th century urban architecture. The district was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The Historic District boundaries are the Potomac River to the east, Queen Street to the north, Jones Point and the Capital Beltway to the south, and Alfred Street to the west. A few extensions, notably along Washington Street as far north as 2nd Street, also exist.

Architectural styles in Old Town include Georgian, Greek Revivial, Federal, Victorian, and Colonial Revival.