The city of Alexandria is rich with history, from the earliest settlers through the Civil War to the present day. Apart from the area’s famous landmarks that we all know, there are some unique and interesting attractions off the beaten path. Here are four that you probably didn’t know about.
Hollensbury Spite House
In 1830, brickmaker and city councilor John Hollensbury’s home was one of the two houses that directly bordered an alley that attracted an annoying amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers. To stop people from using the alleyway he built a 7-foot wide, two-story home using the existing brick walls for the adjacent houses as the sides of the new house. The living room walls of the house still have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs. The house, which is still standing and occupied, was dubbed the narrowest house in America by Ripleys Believe It or Not.
The Grave of the Female Stranger
Local legend has it that in 1816 a young couple arrived in Alexandria and rented a room in Gadsby’s Tavern at 138 North Royal St. The woman was seriously ill and her husband hired a local doctor to treat her–-on condition that the doctor doesn’t ask questions about their identities. The woman eventually died on October 14, 1816.
The husband borrowed money from a local businessman to bury her in town, repaying him with a cheque that later turned out to be a forgery. The woman’s grave can still be found in the St. Pauls Episcopal Church section of the town’s cemetery.
A slab bears the inscription “To the memory of a Female Stranger whose mortal sufferings terminated on the 14th day of October 1816 Aged 23 years and 8 months….”
Mount Vernon Slave Cemetery
For nearly 200 years, the woods at George Washington’s famous estate hid a secret. A graveyard for the former president’s slaves lay hidden beneath a thicket of bushes until an 1885 map of the estate revealed a burial ground. A marble marker was placed on the site in the 1920s but it also disappeared beneath a tangle of vegetation. In 2014, archeologists began a multi-year project to learn more about the cemetery. So far, they’ve found dozens of unmarked graves and estimate the graveyard to contain over 150 slaves.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary
This family business was founded in 1792 and operated continuously until 1933. However, competition from synthetic drug companies and the Great Depression led it to bankruptcy and it closed in 1933. In 1939, it reopened as a museum and now displays the original collection of herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass, and medical instruments that were there when the store closed.