History of 1315 Duke Street
The Franklin and Armfield Slave Pen at 1315 Duke Street was one of the largest slave trading companies in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The three-story brick building with mansard roof was built as the residence of Robert Young, Brigadier General of the second Militia of the District of Columbia. By 1828, it was leased by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield and used as a "Negro Jail" or slave pen for slaves being shipped from Northern Virginia to Louisiana. Franklin and Armfield were active until 1836, exporting over 3,750 slaves to cotton and sugar plantations in the Deep South. Later, other firms continued trading in slaves here. A sign seen in Civil War period photographs has the name of Price, Birch & Co. During the Civil War the building and its surrounding site were used as a military prison for deserters, the L'Ouverture Hospital for black soldiers and the barrack for contraband-slaves who fled the confederate states and sought refuge with Union troops.
(Civil War era image of 1315 Duke Street)
Building and Property History
Building and Property History, 1315 Duke Street. Benjamin Skolnik, Office of Historic Alexandria (2021)
- Appendix A: 1315 Duke Street Chain of Title, Prepared by Sue Shuman, Office of Historic Alexandria
- Appendix B: Conjectural Plans
- Appendix C: 1984 Renovation Plans
- Appendix D: 2005 Renovation Plans
- Appendix E: 2020 City of Alexandria Renovation Plans
Chain of Title
Ideologies in Tension and Moments of Change
The Slave Jail at 1315 Duke Street
Alexandria Archaeology's Dr. Benjamin Skolnik and University of Maryland graduate student Samantha Lee briefly discuss how the Franklin & Armfield slave jail complex at the 1300 block of Duke Street facilitated a fundamental change in America’s domestic slave trade.
Building a Structure's History
Learn more about the detective work behind reconstructing 1315 Duke Street's history. Get a video sneak peak of how Dr. Ben Skolnik combed through images, documents, + the archaeological record to better understand the development of the site.
Historic Alexandria Foundation Awards Grant to Freedom House
In 2020, Freedom House Museum was awarded a $5,000 grant that will go toward digitizing about 151 folders of archival materials. The Office of Historic Alexandria has a new digital scanner to use for this purpose.
Read biographies for three owners of 1315 Duke Street.
Robert Young (1812-1824) built the three story brick house, and lived there with his family from 1819 until 1824. Isaac Franklin and John Armfield (1828-1837) were the first to use the property as a slave pen.
History and Research: Primary Sources
Research into the history of this building and the people who were trafficked through it is ongoing. Below is a sampling of how researchers are using primary sources to piece together the stories of those impacted by the domestic slave trade.
The 1830 Census
The 1830 Census enumerates the enslaved people held at the Franklin & Armfield slave pen.
Tracking the Brig Uncas in Historic Newspapers
Franklin & Armfield's two ships, the Uncas and the Tribune, carried enslaved people to New Orleans and goods like sugar back to Alexandria.
Burdett and William Henry Washington
William Henry Washington, a ten-year old enslaved boy, sailed to New Orleans on the Uncas, as his father Burdett worked to free him.
Archaeological Site Reports
The Alexandria Slave Pen, 1315 Duke Street (Freedom House Museum)
- Artemel, Janice G., Elizabeth A. Crowell and Jeff Parker. The Alexandria Slave Pen: The Archaeology of Urban Captivity. Engineering-Science, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1987 (Archaeological Site Report, 44AX75)
- Traum, Sarah, Joseph Balicki and Brian Corle. A Documentary Study, Archeological Evaluation and Resource Management Plan for 1323 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia. John Milner Associates, Inc., Alexandria, VA., 2007
The Bruin Slave Jail, 1701 Duke Street
- Kraus, Lisa, John Bedell and Charles LeeDecker.
Archaeology of the Bruin Slave Jail (Site 44AX0172). The Louis Berger Group, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2010.
Public Summary (Archaeological Site Report, 44AX172)
- Resources for the Study of Alexandria's African American History
"A Loathsome Prison:” Slave Trading in Antebellum Alexandria, a lesson plan for teachers.
- Slaves in the Alexandria Jail, 1861. This article, from the National Republican of January 20, 1862, was taken from a letter addressed to Massachusetts’ anti-slavery Senator Henry Wilson. It expresses outrage at the poor conditions and inhumanity of treatment of slaves in the Alexandria Jail, even under federal occupation. (Courtesy, Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery)