Attics and Alleys Tour Returning to Alexandria, Virginia This May

by Lee Hernly, Editor
Attics and Alleys in Alexandria

What mysteries lie behind closed doors or in the attics of Alexandria’s historic sites? Attics and Alleys is a three-hour walking tour featuring the rarely seen spaces of four sites—the Lee-Fendall House, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, and Carlyle House—revealing the remnants of stories otherwise hidden. This behind-the-scenes access is in honor of National Preservation Month, and tickets are limited and reservations are required.

Tours will be offered every Saturday in May beginning at 9:00 AM and ending around noon. Tickets are $35 per person.

Tour includes stairs, access to confined spaces, and walking over many city blocks, including through alleys. Walking shoes required. Tour hosted rain or shine.

Seldom-told stories will be featured at each site. At the Lee-Fendall House (614 Oronoco Street), learn the meaning of the words “shabby dwelling” when you pass through the original service quarters of the home and see how staff would have been on call. Then, enter into the basement by ducking under an original staircase fragment to see the basement rooms installed by the 20th century families and ghostly evidence of changes made.

Next, visitors walk to Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (134 N. Royal Street), passing the townhomes of some of Alexandria’s most prominent early citizens, including Lord Fairfax, Henry Lee, and George Washington. The “spite” house, built to enclose an alleyway and to adjoin two neighboring houses, is also an architectural curiosity to be seen. Gadsby’s portion features access to the attic of the 1792 City Hotel building, which housed numerous hotel guests and longer-term residents. Guests will be able to examine the architectural and restoration details up close in this rarely-viewed space.

A short walk away is the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax Street), which is opening the third floor of its 19th century pharmacy retail shop and laboratory for the first time in over 70 years. The third floor is a turn-of-the-century time capsule of a wholesale drug business and visitors will discover a myriad of objects from the Museum’s original collection, from graffiti-covered beams to the wheel and axel once part of a manual freight elevator.

Visitors then wind their way through back alleys to see architectural elements from Alexandria’s past and end at Carlyle House (121 N. Fairfax Street), where the tour concludes with a journey under the terrace to see the “rubble room.” Here original stone elements and items from the 1970s renovation are stored to preserve the original fabric of the building.

For information and tickets, please contact Gadsby’s Tavern Museum at 703.746.4242. Tickets for this event can also be purchased at the online shop. Reservations are required.


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