Chain of Title Narrative, 1315 Duke Street

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

Page updated on Nov 16, 2020 at 5:39 PM

Chain of Title Narrative

1315 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia

Also view a timeline summarizing the Chain of Title followed by details of ownership, 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.

1804-1828 Residence

In 1812 Gen. Robert Young acquired two parcels of land, one-acre and a one-half acre, from John Mills (senior; his son helped complete the transaction), a former Alexandria merchant who had returned to London.  (District of Columbia Land Deed W:84. dated February 4, 1812)

The one acre was located on the north side of Duke Street, west side of Payne Street (misspelled Paine in the deed), and east side of West Street. It consisted of two city lots, measuring one-half acre each, and comprised the southern half of the block bounded by Duke, Payne, Prince, and West streets. It started from the Duke and Payne intersection and ran westward on Duke 246 feet and 10 inches, then northward on West Street for 176 feet and 7 inches, then eastward with a line parallel to Duke 246 feet 10 inches. The half-acre parcel started at the Duke and West streets intersection and then ran eastward on Duke 123 feet and 5 inches, then southward on West Street 176 feet seven inches.

Mills had had bought the same parcels on March 5, 1804 from William Thornton Alexander and his wife, Lucy.  (Alexandria County in the District of Columbia Land Deed J:445, dated March 5, 1804)

Young agreed to pay Mills ground rent of $115 starting on January. 1, 1813 and yearly thereafter. The assessed value of the one-acre parcel for tax purposes was $1,000. (1812 Alexandria Ward IV tax list, p. 11) Young started building a house by the next year on it and the value increased to $3,000. (1813 Ward IV tax list, p. 10)

In 1813 Young owned that lot and three others: A vacant half acre at West and Payne streets assessed at $400; one acre on the west side of West Street, vacant, valued at $600; and a one-acre lot at Alfred and Duke to Wolf street, not vacant (but with an illegible notation), valued at $1,500.

Young was a merchant with business interests in and around Alexandria. In 1798 he was a captain of the Alexandria Dragoons and by 1813 had been promoted to brigadier general. He commanded the Second Legion (also called the 2nd Brigade) of the District of Columbia Militia, defending Washington against the British in August 1814 during the War of 1812. (Alexandria and The War of 1812: A Series of Articles Telling How Alexandrians Were Affected 200 Years Ago by the War of 1812, by Ted Pulliam, Alexandria Archaeology Publications No. 117, Office of Historic Alexandria, 2014; Brochure: War of 1812 Burials in the Presbyterian Cemetery)

Perhaps because the building of his three-story brick house was interrupted by the war, or perhaps because he was too busy with the war, he stayed in his house at King and Washington streets until 1819. He sold that house to John A. Stewart, according to a deed made on July 12, 1819. (Alexandria Deed Book G2:406)  By then the value on his Duke Street property had increased to $4,000. (1819 Ward IV tax list, p. 8)

Young still owned other properties (1819 Ward IV tax list, p. 9 and 1820 Ward IV tax list p. 9a) when he moved to Duke Street with his wife, two daughters, and two enslaved women. The census included two boys under 10, but Young had no sons; the enslaved women were one between the age of 15 to 26 and one age 27 to 45. 1820 U.S. Census, p. 280

The house was assessed at $3,600 in 1820—a $400 value decrease from the previous year. Young still owned a vacant half acre lot at Prince and West valued at $500 and a lot and house West side of West Street valued at $400. (1820 Ward IV tax list, p. 3)

By 1824, when Young died, he was in financial trouble. He had put his brick house and two lots up as collateral to pay debts and sold it to The Mechanics Bank of Alexandria. The lot containing his house had been subdivided from the initial sale and was half an acre.

Brickmaker Benjamin Baden occupied Young’s house in 1824, 1825 and 1828. (1825 Ward IV tax list, p. 9)

1828-1861 Business: Traders of Enslaved Persons

Franklin and Armfield

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

The location on upper Duke Street was at the edge of town and went south into Fairfax County. It was a major road to the south and west. That did not escape the attention of Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, who by May 1828 leased the lot from the bank.

That November, Franklin and Armfield advertised in the Phenix Gazette a notice that they were seeking 150 “young negroes of both sexes.” 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 and 1829 Ward IV tax list)

On October 31, 1832 Franklin and Armfield agreed at public auction to buy for $2,500 three lots previously owned by Young that he had conveyed to the Mechanics Bank on August 17, 1821, and “all and singular” improvements. (1832 Alexandria Deed Book V2:260)

They also agreed to pay for five years from May 10, 1833, annual rent of $100 in semi-annual payments of $50 each on November 10 and May 10. They agreed to “certain improvements to be made by the said Franklin & Armfield on a certain tenement & lot of ground on the north side of Duke Street.” The deed was not recorded until April 16, 1835.

Another deed was made in November 1832, just days after the public auction, between Smith Franklin and John Armfield. Smith was the brother of Martha Franklin, who married John Armfield. Smith also was the son of Isaac Franklin’s older brother, John. In the deed Smith Franklin and John Armfield were identified as “copartners under the firm of Franklin & Armfield.” It was dated November 10, 1832 and recorded November 24, 1832 and stated that “under a lease from the said Bank for the term of five years, which lease will expire on the 10th day of May next [May 1833],” but five years would mean that a lease was made in 1828; there is no record of that.  Isaac Franklin is not on the deed. Smith Franklin and John Armfield agreed to pay annual rent of $100 to the Mechanics Bank. (1832 Alexandria Deed Book U2:89)

George Kephart

George Kephart of Frederick County, Maryland, started operating the business on Duke Street in 1837. In 1846 Kephart bought the lot with the slave jail from Isaac Franklin and Adelisia [cq – 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. Kephart paid $9,000 and agree to yearly rent of $115. The “sundry lots or pieces of ground” included one bounded on the south by Duke Street, east by Payne Street, and on the west by West Street, and on the north by a line drawn from Payne to West Street, “parallel to and distant” 176 inches from Duke Street. (1846 Alexandria Deed Book G3:328)

In 1850, Kephart owned four properties in Alexandria, the most valuable assessed as “house and 1 square” at $7,000. But it is listed as Prince, West and Payne streets, self. The Duke, West Payne lot was valued at $250. (1850 Ward IV tax list, p. 9)

In Alexandria’s 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, he listed 40 people. (1850 US Census Slave Schedule George Kephart 1 and 1850 US Census Slave Schedule George Kephart 2) 

Price, Birch and Company

On May 1, 1858 Kephart, now identified in the deed as “of Loudoun County,” sold for $7,000 a building “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.  (1858 Alexandria Deed Book T3:353)  Kephart was also a partner.

A year and a half later, in November 1859, Kephart and his wife, Margaret, sold to John C. Cook, of Washington in the District of Columbia, and to Charles M. Price, of Montgomery County, Maryland, the same half-square of ground real. It included a three-story brick building dwelling, jail, and other improvements. (1859 Alexandria Deed Book U3:198)

Just months later, in January 1860, Cook and Cecelia M. Cook, his wife, sold that property to 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 took the notes “for the payment of the purchase money” for the same lot Kephart and his wife sold them. (1860 Alexandria Deed Book U3:232)

1861-1866 Military Prison and Underused Property

The Union Army occupied the jail on May 24, 1861, surprising the Confederate troops who had taken up residence there during their breakfast. 

A week and a half later, Price fled South, but not before selling the property to his brother-in-law Solomon Stover, of Washington City in the District of Columbia, for $6,000. Stover was a wood and coal merchant. The June 3 deed describes the property as “the same lately occupied by said Charles M. Price, as a Negro Jail” and the same lot conveyed by Kephart and his wife to Price and Cooke, [cq] “containing one half square of ground; together with all the buildings of every description included - the said Solomon Stover shall have quiet possession of the same.” (1861 Alexandria Deed Book V3:29)

On the same day, June 3, in Loudoun County, Virginia, Justice of the Peace J. Edward J. Hammat acknowledged the deed. A notation in the left-hand margin reads: examined and delivered to Henry Birch, January 16, 1862. J. Tacey, clk. [illegible] $2.25. On January 17, 1862, the Clerk’s Office of Alexandria County Court, admitted it to record. It was signed by Jefferson Tacey, Clerk.

From 1861 to 1866 during the Civil War, the Union Army occupied Alexandria and used the site as a military prison to hold inmates including soldiers found in the city without passes, people caught selling alcohol to soldiers, or Southerners found jeering the Union troops. It also was used to house contrabands, slaves who had escaped to Union lines.

In 1864 and 1865, L’Ouverture Hospital for African American soldiers and contraband civilians also operated behind and next to the jail. (Quartermaster Map, L'Ouverture Hospital, Contraband Barracks, etc., War Department. Office of the Quartermaster General 1842-1912, National Archives and Records Administration)

1866-1977 Boardinghouse and Tenement, Hospital and Apartments

Solomon Stover hired William Lewie Brown, a Philadelphia lawyer, to file an application with the Southern Claims Commission for rents and damages for when the Union Army occupied the property. The paperwork with the Southern Claims Commission no longer exists, according to the National Archives and Records Administration, but papers dated May 28, 1866 from the Chief Quartermaster’s office survive.  Brevet Lieutenant Colonel J.G. C. Lee of the Quartermaster’s Office noted, “Its present condition is considered as good as it was when taken.” Stover asked for $7,450 in claims: $1,000 rent for each year of occupation, $1,200 for stables destroyed by the Union troops, $250 for fences, and $1,000 for damage to the dwelling house. (Solomon Stover Committee on Claims, January 20, 1866)

Stover got his property “formerly known as the ‘Slave Pen’” returned from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, but was not awarded rents or claims for damages.

Not satisfied, Stover, on February 13, 1868, filed a petition the United States Senate Committee on Claims, as well as a pair of affidavits attesting to the veracity of his statements (on the condition of the property). It was denied, partly because the owner of the property at the time of the occupation was Price, not Stover. It stated, “Price was known to be a rebel and had been a partner of [Henry] Birch in the slave business, to whom the deed was delivered on January 17, 1862.” In addition, the deed had been made “within the enemy’s lines” in Loudoun County, and “when Price made the deed to Stover, he was an enemy and in the enemy’s country.” Stover did not volunteer but did not dispute the fact that not until October 16, 1862, 16 months after his purchase, did the deed get delivered, and that it was delivered to Birch. Furthermore, “In, buying the property he was trading with the enemy and furnishing him money which might be employed in aid of the rebellion. We think the transaction was clearly against public policy and prohibited by a positive rule of law.” (Senate Committee on Claims, Solomon Stover, 41st Congress, 2d. Session, Report No. 104, April 14, 1870)

Stover supplied coal to the War Department in Washington to heat their buildings during the military occupation of his property and in the years following. The Senate committee claim noted that he had expressed sympathy with the Confederates, even while he was supplying coal to the Union.

No matter what condition it was in during the war, the property fell into extreme disrepair afterward. The Alexandria Gazette reported it was the scene of a “colored ball.” There were also reports of robberies and violent crimes; a child’s body was found. (Alexandria Gazette, August 4, 1869) The buildings may have been used by squatters, homeless persons and others left without shelter after the war.

In 1869, a newspaper notice stated that Stover used real estate agents Green and Wise and sold the property to Josiah Ford for $3,300. It “will in future be the site of a Wheelwright’s establishment,” the report said. (Alexandria Gazette, March 3, 1869) No deed of this transaction can be located.

On November 4, 1869, Stover sold the lot and buildings to Thomas W. (William) Swann, a Washington investor, railroad builder and prominent citizen, for $3,100. (1869 Alexandria Deed Book Z3:563)

“The property [including the three-story brick building] is now in a dilapidated condition, but it is the intention of the purchaser to repair and convert it next spring into a handsome residence,” the Alexandria Gazette reported on November 11, 1869. It said that the property had been called “Kephart’s Jail” or “the Slave Pen” during the Civil War.

By April 1870, Swann may have razed the slave pens and other structures, but he kept the three-story building constructed by Robert Young. (Alexandria Gazette, April 9, 1870) He hired John Haynes to build six new two-story buildings, perhaps repurposing some of the brick. (Alexandria Gazette, May 23, 1870)

Young’s brick building was also used as a hospital. Alexandria Infirmary opened on the southwest corner of Duke and Fairfax streets in January 1873. The next year it moved to the intersection of Prince Street and Diagonal Road. In 1878 it moved to 1315 Duke St. On Christmas Day 1882 Dr. George T. Klipstein performed an amputation—the foot of a man who was hit by a train that morning. It was the infirmary’s first surgery and one that changed its scope of medical care. Now known as Alexandria Hospital, it stayed at 1315 Duke St. until 1884. (Alexandria Hospital anniversary brochure 2002; Alexandria Gazette, December 12, 2002)

The 1877 Hopkins Map shows that all the slave pen buildings were gone by the time the infirmary used the brick building, but the main house block and kitchen additions remained.

In his will dated May 30, 1895, Swann bequeathed his property to his wife, Helen M. (Mary Chapman) Swann, for and during her life, and directed that his daughter Susan P. A. (Pearson Alexander) Calvert inherit it from her. (Alexandria Will Book 3:295) Thomas Swann died on July 1, 1895; Helen died just three months later, on November6, 1895.

In 1905, Calvert and her husband mortgaged the property. (1905 Alexandria Deed Book 54:146) By 1915 Calvert defaulted and the bank sold the building at public auction to Douglass Stuart for $3,900. (1915Alexandria Deed Book 64 381)

In 1915, Max Rosenfeld bought it from the bank. Rosenfeld, a merchant who operated a dry goods store in the 500 block of King Street, named it the Norman Apartments, presumably after his son and only child, Norman. (1915 Alexandria Deed Book 64:483) Rosenfeld died on May 27, 1926. His will dated August 29, 1924 left the property to his wife, Jennie E. (nee Eichberg) Rosenfeld. The will was probated on June 14, 1926. (1924 Alexandria Will Book 4:311) Max and Jennie’s son Norman died in 1929 of pneumonia and influenza. His occupation was listed as real estate dealer on his death certificate. (Virginia Death Certificate No. 265)

By 1920, the Mendelson family took over the Norman Apartments, and the building continued to be used as apartments until 1984. The Mendelsons and their companies retained interests until 1975. That year, Mendelsons Properties Incorporated liquated its assets to distribute them to stockholders. Along with Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership, and Norman L. Mendelson, Bennie G. Mendelson (aka Benjamin G. Mendelson) and Howard S. Mendelson, it sold parcels including Parcel F, which was Young’s original lot with his three-story brick building, for $70,000. The property was subdivided. (1975 Alexandria Deed Book 767:28) The same year Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership sold to Edward J. Hunter and James B. Knox and subdivided what was now Lots 500 and 501, 1315 and 1311 Duke St., identified as the Norman Subdivision. Robert Young’s three-story brick building is noted on page 683 of the plat. (1975 Alexandria Deed Book 802:676)

In June 1978, 1315 Duke St. attained National Historic Landmark status as the offices of Franklin and Armfield’s slave business from 1828 to 1836.

1984-2020 Offices

Investors owned the building, eventually tuning it into office space by 1984. Hunter and Knox traded the property to investors Iran D. Black and Niloufar Leibel for other property plus $10,000. (1984 Alexandria Deed Book 858:339)

A deed of lease in 1984 between Elizabeth Guhring and J. Peter Dunston stated that annual rent of $33,000 would be charged. (1984 Alexandria Deed Book 1126:1127)

The Mendelson family no longer owned any interest in the property by May 1984. Mendelson Properties Limited Partnership (owners of lot 501, now 1321 Duke St.), Carey Meushaw, and Thomas J. Stanton (owner of lot 500, 1315 Duke St. and 1311 Duke St.) become trustee for Elizabeth Guhring, who sold the property to J. Peter Dunston. (Some of this transaction involves 1317-1321 Duke St.)  (1984 Alexandria Deed Book 1127:323; and Alexandria real estate records) 

In 1985 J. Peter Dunston and his wife Betty Mailhouse Dunston took a $400,000 loan from Maryland National Bank for lot 500, again called the Norman Subdivision, which included Young’s house. They renovated the building and added a fourth floor and windows on the western side. (1985 Alexandria Deed Book 1150:293)

In 1987 Ann E. W. Stone rented the building to use as offices for her direct-response political marketing firm, with plans to buy it. Stone, a founding member of the National Women’s History Museum, has served on numerous boards and commissions, including Virginia’s last Board of Historic Preservation. She worked with the Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage to document the history of the slave jail.

In December 1988, under Ann E. W. Stone’s tenure, the building was named Freedom House in honor of the Rev. Lewis Henry Bailey. As an enslaved child, Bailey was held at the jail before being sent to Texas. Bailey returned to Alexandria at age 21, reportedly on foot, after he was freed in 1863. He later founded seven churches. Anne Bailey Rose, his daughter (then age 94; she died in 1989), dedicated the plaque placed on the building.

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

The League used the building for offices and in February 2008 opened the Freedom House Museum in the building’s basement to focus on the domestic slave trade that operated there from 1828 to 1861.

In February 2018, the Alexandria City Council made a $63,000 loan to the League to assist them with financial difficulties. As part of the agreement, the Office of Historic Alexandria partnered with the League to operate the basement museum. 

2020 -  City-Owned Museum

In 2019 the League advertised the building for sale as a residence or offices for $2.1 million.

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