18 March 2013

Winter Walk Off

My walk is around a three block radius of my office in historic Old Town Alexandria. A bit of history lesson: Alexandria is on the Potomac River, was settled and became a thriving city in the 1700s through 1800s. It was a shipping (sugar and tobacco) and trading port with refineries and warehouses. It's old city homes reflected the very conservative population, and not the "flamboyant extravagance" found in Savannah and Charleston. Yes, George Washington lived down the road, had an overnight cottage in town, and not only slept here, but shopped and partied here.

This is my walk off, wishfully without sounding like a tourist magazine. Some of the photos were taken on sunny Friday's walk, and the remainder on cloudy rainy today. Frequent walks are taken on lunch hours; the pedestrian scale allows appreciation of details.

View other Winter Walk-offs at A Tidewater Gardener

A few cobblestone alleys like this have houses on them, in addition to the main streets. The several cobblestone alleys and two full cobblestone streets in town are murder to drive on and walk on. I can't imagine riding down in a wood-wheeled vehicle.

Two of the older homes sit across the street from my office. The industrial revolution brought the decoration and style on newer townhomes, but colonial-era buildings like these were simpler. When the street was eventually paved, its level was lowered, partially exposing the stone foundations on these.

How do you like the knockers? Norfolk is not the only place with mermaids.

I like the railing on the entrance of this house, although I don't know if it is original. This is a typical wealthy row house, brick, 3-story, probably 1800-1840. Gas lamps from 1800s are popular around town, running 24/7. I don't know where the gas comes from or who pays.

Hitch up your horse and hop down ...

... and scrape off your boots before coming in.

I call this flag alley because almost everyone displays a flag. These were the working class houses - usually wood, 2-story. These 'shacks' that appear to be falling down fetch about $600,000 on the real estate market.


These are fire marks from insurance / fire companies. They would be placed on your house above the first floor. When your house caught fire, the fire mark would identify that you paid for protection, and what company would be responsible for arriving to fight the fire.

Mostly brick sidewalks - every pattern a 4x8 can make. Women are always getting their heels stuck in between the bricks. Bricks are loose laid, so street trees get some water when it rains.

This poor soul is stuck in a planter surrounded by solid concrete, and probably had a mulch volcano in its younger days.

A cooking equipment store. Window boxes look like Europe. Pots in the summer used to be filled with cooking herbs but have heuchera now.

A view of the top of Second Empire style city hall from my office mens room window - the best view from any toilet in town. This roof top can't be seen well from anywhere on the streets.

City hall is a melange of buildings stuck together. The clock tower reminds me of New Orleans but I don't know why. It would look better with some palms in the foreground.

The back of city hall fronts a square hosting the oldest continuous farmers market in the country. When the fountain and pond are full of water, mallards from the river come up for a swim.

The 'Cherry Blossom' riverboat docked at the Potomac. I don't believe the Potomac historically had riverboats paddling around, but the tourists don't know that.

Old Town is very dog friendly. Many stores and residents put out water bowls in the summer. This station was dedicated to 'Molly,' a retriever I believe, and even has a high drinking fountain for owners!

9 comments:

Les said...
Thanks for posting a Winter Walk-Off post, especially one that took place in one of my favorite Va. towns. I have had my fair share of drinks in Old Town, I love the Torpedo Factory, and my cousin was married at Gadsby's Tavern.
sharon said...
I had no idea I was born at GWM hopital and my parents lived in Alexandria for 9 months till we moved...
Cherry Lane said...
This is great! Learned a few new tidbits about my city, too. (The fire insurance signs, for example.) I love your office view.
scottweberpdx said...
I'm super-jealous...your town is ridiculously adorable!
Swimray said...
Les,
Glad we brought back great memories.

Sharon,
Stop in some day and see where your first home was.

Cheery,
I am always learning something new.

Scott,
Thanks. Wish I could afford to live in it.
pq said...
I love old town. I hate turning my ankle in old town, but i love it nonetheless. the fire insurance signs were new to me, too; gotta keep my eyes peeled the next time we head down your way for dinner at Virtue.
flwrjane said...
What a great tour. I don't get to Alexandria enough.

By the time the weather is nice enough to wanna walk around I'm a slave to the garden.
xo Jane
Swimray said...
pq,
It's nice to learn something by reading blogs. Sounds like you are not too far away.

Jane,
And I don't get to Arlington enough, especially the funky fun parts.
Janet QueenofSeaford said...
Ray, I thoroughly enjoyed your walk! I love Old Town. What a charming area of Alexandria that many don't know about.
I NEED that mermaid doorknocker. Have you seen my mermaid? :-)