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George Washington’s Places: Touring Alexandria and South Fairfax County

October 12, 2022

Using the new guidebook, A History Lover’s Guide to Alexandria and South Fairfax County, historian and writer Laura A. Macaluso will take participants on a tour of the places that preserve and remember the life and legacy of the general and president.

Follow the tour from Old Town Alexandria, along the George Washington Parkway, to Mount Vernon and beyond. Starting in the Port City, visit Carlyle House, the scene from which Gen. Edward Braddock led an ill-fated campaign to Fort Duquesne, with a 23-year-old George Washington along for the experience—one that would shape not only his own life, but an imperial war, as well. As an adult, Washington would continue to use Alexandria as the hub for his economic and cultural needs. We’ll visit Christ Church Episcopal, inside, and out, where Washington worshipped, and Gadsby’s Tavern, where Washington and other Founding Fathers dined. Learn how Alexandria began preserving its historic architecture when a whole room was removed from the tavern and reinstalled in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it remains today as a showcase for 18th century design. Finish the visit to Alexandria with a stop at the George Washington Masonic Memorial—a monumental building that overlooks Old Town and serves as both a memorial museum to Washington and a contemporary Masonic Hall.

From Alexandria, travel along the George Washington Memorial Parkway heading south towards Mount Vernon. Stop along the way to understand the relationship between the river and the land, and the ways in which the parkway and the Mount Vernon Trail help residents and visitors experience history and nature in a busy area. With stops at Dyke Marsh, River View Farm and Fort Hunt, all originally a part of Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

Arrive at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the core plantation landscape and house remaining from his original 8,000 acres. Here we’ll review the house and grounds and talk about the continual preservation work needed to keep Mount Vernon intact—and ready for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. There is much to survey, but we’ll keep moving, so that there is time to see Washington’s whiskey distillery and gristmill, as well as a brief stop at Muddy Hole Farm, an open park preserve once part of the original five farms owned by Washington.

The tour itinerary ends at Woodlawn Plantation, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. The house and grounds were carved out of his acreage and given by Washington to his wife Martha’s granddaughter, who married his nephew.


Smithsonian Associates