Wayfinding: Freedom House Museum

Before the Civil War, 1315 Duke Street housed the headquarters of one of the largest slave traders in America. Freedom House Museum opened in 2008 to educate visitors about slavery.

Page updated on Sep 23, 2020 at 7:46 PM

Freedom House Museum

1315 Duke Street

02 Freedom House sign (click for larger image)The building at 1315 Duke Street, two blocks south of here, was originally built around 1812 as a residence for General Robert Young, commander of Alexandria’s militia, who died in 1824. This three-story brick building then became the headquarters for one of the largest slave traders in America. 

In 1828, Isaac Franklin and John Armfield formed a partnership to facilitate the interstate slave trade. Though importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808, the domestic trade flourished. As the need for slave labor in northern tobacco regions decreased in the 1820’s, demand grew in the Cotton Belt. Traders took advantage of this trend, acquiring slaves who were then shipped south where they could demand a much higher price. It is estimated that in the 1830s, Franklin and Armfield saw profits of more than $100,000 per year from the domestic slave trade. 

Franklin and Armfield began to withdraw from trading in the late 1830s and by 1858, their old slave pen operated as Price, Birch, and Co. Abandoned at the start of the Civil War, the building then served as a Union jail.

Freedom House

Today the building is owned by the City of Alexandria. The former owner, the Northern Virginia Urban League, opened the Freedom House Museum in 2008 to educate visitors about slavery. The building is dedicated to Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey—a former slave who was sold through the slave pen to a family in Texas. Freed in 1863, he walked back to Alexandria and founded several churches and schools in Virginia, still in existence today.

Where to Find This Sign

In Old Town, mini kiosks are located at designated intersections along King Street, Cameron Street, and the Waterfront to provide an orientation for pedestrians. 

This wayfinding sign is located on the south side of King at West Street. (For those taking the King Street Trolley, please check the schedule as times may have changed.)