Chain of Title for 1315 Duke Street

The Chain of Title for 1315 Duke Street, now the Freedom House Museum.

Page updated on Nov 16, 2020 at 5:37 PM

Chain of Title 

1315 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia

The following is a timeline summarizing the Chain of Title, followed by details of ownership. Also view a Chain of Title Narrative for more information, and read biographies for 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.


1804 William Thornton Alexander sells lot to John Mills

1812 Gen. Robert Young buys lot

1813 Young starts building on lot

1819 Young moves into his three-story brick house

1824 Young dies; bank owns the lot

1828-1837 Headquarters of Franklin and Armfield, enslavers

1837-1859 George Kephart continues their business

1859-1861 Price, Birch and Co. continue the business

1861 Charles M. Price flees South, sells the property to Solomon Stover

1861-1866 Occupation by the Union army, which operates a military prison and contraband barracks

1866 Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands returns land to Stover

1866-1869 Site is in dilapidated condition

1869 Thomas W. Swann buys the property

1871-1878 Apartments          

1878-1884 Hospital

1895-1984 Apartments and boardinghouse

1978 Secretary of the Interior designates 1315 Duke Street Apartments as a National Historic Landmark, as Franklin and Armfield Office

1984-2020 Offices

1988 Building is named Freedom House in honor of the Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey, who was enslaved in the pen as a child 

1997 Northern Virginia Urban League purchases property for offices

2008 Museum exhibit opens in basement

2020 City of Alexandria purchases site

1804-1828 Residence

1804 March 5 William Thornton Alexander and his wife Lucy sell two parcels of land to John Mills, a merchant, for $800. They include a one-acre lot on the north side of Duke Street, west side of Paine (Payne) Street, and east side of West Street, and a half-acre lot on the northwest corner of Duke and West. (Alexandria Deed Book J:445)

1812 Feb. 4 Gen. Robert Young acquires the one-acre lot located fronting on Duke Street that is on the north side of Duke Street, west side of Paine (Payne) Street, and east side of West Street from John Mills Senior and Nelly, his wife. He also obtains a half-acre lot that begins at the Duke and West intersection. Mills is a former Alexandria merchant who returns to London; his son, identified as John Mills Junior, along with Thomas Swann Esquire, are appointed to complete the transaction. Young agrees to pay $115 a year ground rent forever for the unimproved lot. (Alexandria Deed Book W:84)

1813 Property is assessed at $3,000 because Young starts building a house. (1813 Ward IV tax list p. 10)

1817 May 22 Young and his wife Elizabeth convey the one-acre lot in trust to James Carson for the benefit of Adam Lynn, who endorses six promissory notes drawn by Young at the Mechanics Bank of Alexandria for $13,647, plus one for $3,000 at the branch of the Bank of the United States at Washington. (Alexandria Deed Book F2:120)

1821 Aug 17 Young and his wife sell three lots to the Mechanics Bank of Alexandria, including the one with a dwelling fronting Duke Street, for $12,000. James Carson, trustee, assigns his interest to the bank (Alexandria Deed Book L2:230).  In 1819, Young sells his house at King and Washington streets (Alexandria Deed Book G2:406) and moves to his new three-story brick house on Duke Street (1820 Ward IV Tax List p. 3a).  He lives there with his wife, two daughters, two enslaved women, and two boys under age 10 (1820 Census, p. 280). Young dies in 1824. Brickmaker Benjamin Baden lives in the house in 1825. (1825 Ward IV tax list p. 9)

1828-1861 Business: Traders of Enslaved Persons

1828 June 11 Mechanics Bank of Alexandria agrees to pay John Mills $1,265. The bank agrees to take yearly rent of $115 for two lots, the same two that Mills had acquired in 1804 from William Thornton Alexander. This gives Mills the right to retain the land, to use as he wishes. (Alexandria Deed Book R2:228)

Franklin and Armfield
Isaac Franklin and John Armfield lease the properties from the bank. The 1829 Ward IV tax list stated that “Franklin’s black hole” had an assessed value of $3,600. (1829 Ward IV tax list p. 9 Mechanics Bank and 1829 Ward IV tax list)

1832 March 4 James Irwin and his wife Ann sell land to Isaac Franklin and John Armfield for $1,000, “near the town of Alexandria bounded as follows: Beginning at the West side of the George-town road…” Consisting of nine acres, Irwin obtained the land on Jan. 17, 1831. (Alexandria Land Record V2:257)

The following transaction was contained within it starting on page 260.

1832 Oct. 31; recorded 1835 May 6 Mechanics Bank of Alexandria conveys to Robert G. Taylor, Thomas Vowell, George Brent, Louis Beeler, and Robert Brockett, in trust after public auction, to Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, for $2,500. (Alexandria Land Record V2:260)

1832 Nov. 10; recorded Nov. 24 Smith Franklin and John Armfield agree to pay annual rent of $100 to the Mechanics Bank, “as well as certain improvements to be made by the said Franklin & Armfield on a certain tenement and lot,” five years starting the next May 10. Smith Franklin is a nephew of Isaac Franklin and is also Armfield’s brother-in-law. (Alexandria Deed Book U2:89)

George Kephart
1846 March 12
Isaac Franklin and Adelisia [but signed Adelicia] Franklin, his wife, of the Parish of Orleans in the State of Louisiana, and John Armfield and Martha R., his wife, of the State of Tennessee, sell to George Kephart of Frederick County, Maryland, for $9,000 and yearly rent of $115 (Alexandria Deed Book G3:328)

Price, Birch and Company
1858 May 1
George Kephart  now “of Loudoun County” sells for $7,000 a building “now occupied by Walker R. Millin (Millan) as a dwelling and Negro Jail, being a half square of ground more or less, with all the buildings” to Charles M. Price and John C. Cook, who trade as Price, Birch and Company. Kephart is also still a partner. (Alexandria Deed Book T3:353)

1859 November 24 George Kephart and his wife, Margaret, both of Loudoun, sell to John C. Cook, of Washington in the District of Columbia, and Charles M. Price, of Montgomery County, Maryland, the real estate acquired by Kephart on May 1, 1858, for $7,000. It includes a three-story brick building dwelling, jail, and other improvements. (Alexandria Deed Book U3:198)

1860 January 17 John C. Cook and Cecelia M. Cook, his wife, sell to Charles M. Price for $1,000 with interest due three, six, 12, and 18 months after the date, “and each note dated on or about the 12th day of December last 1859.” Cook and Price take the notes “for the payment of the purchase money” for the same lot Kephart and his wife sell them. (Alexandria Deed Book U3:232)

1861-1866 Military Prison and Underused Property

1861 May 24 The Union Army liberates the jail used to hold enslaved people, surprising the Confederate cavalry there during breakfast.

1861 June 3 Charles M. Price of Montgomery County, Maryland, sells to his brother-in-law Solomon Stover of Washington City in the District of Columbia for $6,000 “the same lately occupied by said Charles M. Price, as a Negro Jail” (Alexandria Deed Book V3:29). The deed is acknowledged in Loudoun County the same day by Price, presumably as he fled, but not recorded in Alexandria until January 16, 1862.

1861-1866 The Union uses the site to hold military prisoners and contrabands during and after the Civil War.

1866 May 28 The Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands restores property rights to Stover. 

1866-1977 Boardinghouse and Tenement, Hospital and Apartments

1866 to 1869 Newspaper accounts report criminal activities on the site.

1866 to 1978 Brick building is used as a boardinghouse and tenement under a succession of owners and investors.

1869 Nov. 4 Solomon Stover, denied a war claim for rents and damages because he said the Union occupied and destroyed his property, sells the lot and buildings to Thomas W. (William) Swann, a Washington investor, railroad builder and prominent citizen, for $3,100. (Alexandria Deed Book Z3:563)

1878 to 1884 Alexandria Infirmary and Hospital operates on the site.

1884 to 1984 Brick building is once again used as a boardinghouse and tenement under a succession of owners and investors.

1905 July 21 Susan P.A. Calvert and her husband George E. Calvert mortgage the property and two Duke Street lots, including the one Stover sold in 1869 to her father, Thomas W. Swann, to trustee C. S. Taylor Burke, to secure payment of $6,000 with interest payable semi-annually. (Alexandria Deed Book 54:146)

1915 May 22 Calvert defaults on the mortgage and C.S. Taylor Burke sells property at public auction to attorney Douglass Stuart for $3,900. (Alexandria Deed Book 64:381)

1915 June 2 Burke assigns the purchase to Max Rosenfeld, a merchant who operates a dry goods store in the 500 block of King Street (Alexandria Deed Book 64 483). The property is known as Norman Apartments, named after his only child. Max dies May 27, 1924. His will written on Aug. 29, 1924 leaves the property to his wife Jennie E. Rosenfeld; will is probated June 14, 1926. (Alexandria Will Book 4:311)

1941 October 13 Jennie E. Rosenfeld sells the lot with Young’s three-story building to B.G. Mendelson, Norman Mendelson, Howard Mendelson, and Mary Mendelson, widow, as tenants in common. (Alexandria Deed Book 180:233)

1975 December 3 Mendelsons Properties Incorporated, Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership, and Norman L. Mendelson, Bennie G. Mendelson (aka Benjamin G. Mendelson) and Howard S. Mendelson, convey parcels including Parcel F, Young’s lot, for $70,000. Property is subdivided. (Alexandria Deed Book 767:28)

1975 July 11 Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership sells to investors Edward J. Hunter and James B. Knox. Lots 500 and 501 identified as Norman Subdivision. Three-story brick building of Young on page 683 of plat. (Alexandria Deed Book 802:676)

1977 May 20 Hunter and Knox trade the property to investors Iran D. Black and Niloufar Leibel for other property plus $10,000. Use as apartments. (Alexandria Deed Book 858:339)

1978 June 2 Secretary of the Interior designates 1315 Duke Street Apartments as a National Historic Landmark, as Franklin and Armfield Office.

1984-2020 Offices

1984 May 29 Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership, (owners of lot 501, which is 1321 Duke St.), Carey Meushaw, and Thomas J. Stanton, (owner of lot 500, which is 1315 Duke St. and 1311 Duke St., both identified as the Norman subdivision) become trustees for Elizabeth Guhring; purchaser is J. Peter Dunston. Lots 500 and 501 are recorded as the Norman subdivision. Office use. (Some of this transaction is for 1317 to 1321 Duke St.; see plat). (Alexandria Deed Book 1127:323)

1984 June 25 Deed of lease between Elizabeth Guhring and J. Peter Dunston, for rent of $33,000 per year. (Alexandria Deed Book 1126:1127)

1985 May 10 J. Peter Dunston and Betty Mailhouse Dunston take a $400,000 loan from Maryland National Bank for lot 500, the Norman subdivision, which includes Robert Young’s house. Trustees are David W. Loughran and Maureen Guion of Fairfax County. (Alexandria Deed Book 1150:293)

1987 Ann E. W. Stone rents 1315 Duke St. for offices for her Republican direct-response marketing firm, with plans to buy it (but does not). She works with the Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage to learn more about the site.

1988 December Building is named Freedom House in honor of the Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey, who was enslaved in the pen as a child before being sent to Texas. Bailey returned to Alexandria at age 21, reportedly on foot, when he was freed in 1863. He founded seven churches for Black persons. Anne Bailey Rose, his daughter (then age 94; she died in 1989), dedicated the plaque placed on the building.

1997 October 23 J. Peter Dunston, trustee, sells the building to the Northern Virginia Urban League, a nonprofit social service organization, for $925,000.  (Alexandria Deed Book 1617:1878)

2008 February 12 Northern Virginia Urban League opens museum exhibit in basement.

2018 February City of Alexandria partners with Northern Virginia Urban League to manage the museum and interpret the site.  

2020 -  City-Owned Museum

2020 March 24 The City of Alexandria buys the building, parking lot, and museum exhibit from the Northern Virginia Urban League for $1.8 million with plans to preserve and interpret the landmark for future generations. (Alexandria Deed Book 4779:82)