Historic Preservation Month 2021

May is Historic Preservation Month. This year, Historic Alexandria and its partners are focusing on Equity in Preservation.

Page updated on May 13, 2021 at 6:45 PM

Historic Preservation Month 2021
Equity in Preservation

May is Historic Preservation Month. This year, Historic Alexandria and its partners are focusing on Equity in Preservation. We invite you to our lectures on the free Black population of Alexandria before the Civil War; the demographic evolution of the District of Columbia, of which Alexandria was once a part; a history of Franklin and Armfield, the notorious slave trading firm that once operated out of what is now the Freedom House Museum; and housing practices in Alexandria from the Civil War until today. You can also join masked and socially-distanced walking tours of Alexandria's historic buildings.

Out of the Attic

In honor of Historic Preservation Month, Historic Alexandria is running a series on historically African American neighborhoods in Alexandria. The columns features both pre and post-Civil War neighborhoods. The weekly column, Out of the Attic, is printed in the Alexandria Times each Thursday, and archived on our website.

Lectures & Conversations

These lectures are presented virtually. Events are free of charge, but registration is required.

Archaeology After Dark: Nat Turner and the 46 Petitioners

Thursday, April 29, 6:30pm, FREE
Sponsored by FOAA (Friends of Alexandria Archaeology)
Registration via Zoom

Alexandria had one of the largest free Black populations in the country during the first half of the nineteenth century, but their neighbors, customers, and family members included enslaved and white individuals. After the Nat Turner uprising in 1831, 46 free Black residents of Alexandria published a petition in the local newspaper asserting their loyalty to the “authorities of the town.” Dr. Garrett Fesler, will share his ongoing research into the residents and signers of the petition, and how this adds to a better understanding of free Black Alexandria during that time.

Alexandria After Dark is a free event sponsored by the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology that brings together professional archaeologists and historians for informal lectures on topics relating to the rich archaeological heritage of Alexandria and the surrounding area.

Chocolate City

presented by George Musgrove
Thursday, May 6, 7 p.m., FREE  

Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation’s capital, of which Alexandria was once a part. Tracing D.C.’s massive transformations from a sparsely inhabited plantation society into a diverse metropolis, from a center of the slave trade to the nation’s first black-majority city, from “Chocolate City” to “Latte City” this account is peppered with unforgettable characters, a history of deep racial division but also one of hope, resilience, and interracial cooperation. George Derek Musgrove co-authored this book with Chris Myers Asch. Dr. Musgrove is an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The Ledger and the Chain

presented by Joshua Rothman
Tuesday, May 11, 7 p.m., FREE

Historian Dr. Joshua D. Rothman presents his new book, The Ledger and the Chain. Rothman recounts the shocking story of the domestic slave trade by tracing the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in American history. Dr. Rothman is a Professor of History at the University of Alabama.

Finding a Place to Call Home: Race and Place in Alexandria, Virginia, 1860s-1960s

presented by Krystyn Moon
Thursday, May 20, 7 p.m., FREE
Registration via Zoom
Be sure to watch on May 20. A video of this lecture will not be posted.

An encore presentation from February, Dr. Krystyn R. Moon will examine housing accessibility and how segregationist practices (both de jure and de facto) impaired African American residents in Alexandria. Dr. Moon is a Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

Panel Discussion - Equity in Preservation

Thursday, May 27, 7 p.m., FREE
Registration via Zoom

  • Purvi Irwin, Practice Manager for Architecture at CADD Microsystems; City of Alexandria Board of Architectural Review member
  • John H. Sprinkle, Jr., Ph.D., Bureau Historian, National Park Service; City of Alexandria Board of Architectural Review member
  • Jaqueline Tucker, Race and Social Equity Officer, City Manager’s Office, City of Alexandria

The Equity in Preservation panel discussion features three professionals with deep expertise in this timely and important topic. John Sprinkle, Bureau Historian for the National Park Service, will open the session with a discussion on historic preservation and neighborhood conservation, specifically focusing on displacement, urban violence, and architectural survey in Alexandria. Purvi Irwin, Practice Manager for Architecture at CADD Microsystems, will then discuss new approaches to include diversity and inclusion in the preservation field while preserving our past for the future. Both Mr. Sprinkle and Ms. Irwin serve on the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review. Finally, Jaqueline Tucker, Race and Society Equity Office in the City Manager’s Office, will examine ways to operationalize diversity and equity in Alexandria. 

Alexandria Library events 

Check out the Library's events, for young and old alike! 

Three partner lectures by the Alexandria Library, Special Collections Division, focus on protecting cultural heritage and disaster preparedness.  Join the All Alexandria Reads program for Historic Preservation Month, by checking out a copy of  "The Library Book" by Susan Orlean from your local library branch! 


Carlyle House and Lee-Fendall House
Take a masked/socially-distanced walking tour of Alexandria's historic architecture as you explore the streets of the city with stops to highlight how buildings have been preserved and adapted for future generations to enjoy. At two stops, Carlyle House and Lee-Fendall House, you will be able to enter spaces that are usually closed to the public. Or, take a specialty tour and hear the stories of the enslaved communities that lived and worked at the Carlyle and Lee/Fendall Houses.

  • Pillars and Pavers: Preservation in Alexandria
    Guided tour with Carlyle House/Lee Fendall

    Every Saturday in May, 10 a.m., $25 per person.
    Register here.
  • Specialty Tours at Carlyle House and Lee Fendall
    Carlyle House - May 15, 10am: Discovering Alex Architecture $10 per person. Register here.
    Lee Fendall - May 15, 2pm: Under the Same Roof $10 per person. Register here.
    Carlyle House - May 16, 11am: Tell Me Your Name $10 per person. Register here.

NOTICe Old Town North Tours

  • North End of Old Town North History Walking Tour
    Thursdays, May 13, 20, 27 and June 3, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
    Free to NOTICe members. $5 donation for others.
    Registration required via email 

    This one-hour history walking tour is offered on Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. on May 13, 20, 27 and June 3rd, meeting at the cul-de-sac of Slater's Lane. It tells the stories of life along the Old Town North waterfront over the centuries highlighting the women who lived and owned property there. Rain or shine so dress accordingly with comfortable shoes. The walk is easy and limited to 8 “masked” persons. Water will be provided. 
  • “Born to Tour”- North Old Town History Walking Tour
    Saturday, May 22, 9-11 a.m.
    Free to NOTICe members. $5 donation for others.
    Registration required via email 

    It all happened right in our Old Town North neighborhood. From George Washington describing the area as a “fine improvable marsh” to our industrialization, our suburbanization, and Steppenwolf singing “Born to be Wild” at the Red Cross Riverfront Festival in 1992. Come join us for a fun two hour walking tour on Saturday, May 22, 9-11 a.m. Meet at the benches at the corner of Pendleton and North Union Streets (West’s Point, the south end of Oronoco Park). The tour will be canceled if weather is inclement. The walk is easy and limited to 10 “masked” persons.
  • Old Town North Historical Self-Guided Tour
    This tour brochure of the Old Town North neighborhood covers the area from Slater's Lane to Oronoco Street, and from Washington Street to the Potomac River. The tour is provided courtesy of the Department of Planning & Zoning.

Collaborative Partners

This year's Preservation Month activities are sponsored by Historic Alexandria and its collaborative partners.

City of Alexandria

  • Office of Historic Alexandria
  • Department of Planning and Zoning (Historic Preservation Section)
  • Board of Architectural Review
  • Alexandria Library, Special Collections


  • FOAA (Friends of Alexandria Archaeology)
  • Carlyle House
  • Lee-Fendall House
  • NOTICe (North Old Town Independent Citizen's Association)