Alexandria Artifact Stories from the Gazette Packet

From 1994 until 1997, the Alexandria Gazette Packet published the Alexandria Artifact Stories as a regular feature in the weekly newspaper. The goal of the series was to take a small piece of a cultural heritage and examine it in a wider context to understand and appreciate its significance.

Page updated on Aug 26, 2017 at 12:19 PM

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These articles are posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette Packet (ISSN: 1066-6273). The stories were authored primarily by Pamela Cressey, former City Archaeologist, along with other Office of Historic Alexandria staff.

1994 Alexandria Artifact Stories

01/27/94  Alexandria Artifacts: history comes alive
African American Archaeology in Alexandria viewed through the artifacts of Harriet Williams, a slave

02/03/94  Discarded pottery holds clue to slaves life
Trying to understand slaves' lives through close examination of artifacts linked to Harriet Williams

02/10/94  Slave-trading site yields tantalizing finds
An exploration of the slave-trade business in Alexandria

02/17/94  Enigmatic bone fragment may be part of story lost forever
How slaves, awaiting shipment to the deeper south, were held on Duke Street

02/24/94  Free black population here soared before the Civil War
Discusses the growing population of free blacks in Alexandria and the archaeological site at the home of Moses and Nancy Hanless and their life and diet

03/03/94  Digging out 'the bottoms'
The free black neighborhood of the 'bottoms' and the household artifacts found at the Hanless family well

03/10/94  Former Hayti site is rich source of artifacts
The free black neighborhood of Hayti and excavations along South Royal St.

03/17/94  Step back in time: simple artifact tells much
The Miller family and the formation of the free black neighborhood, Hayti

03/24/94  Eighteenth century backyards reveal black family life
From buttons found, while excavating on S. Royal St., the discovery was made that free black women often worked as washerwomen

03/31/94  Public Invited to Join Dig
Volunteers were recruited to work on a 1994 excavation.

04/07/94  City's burial sites speak of past lives
A description of the excavations of African-American burial sites in Alexandria

04/14/94  Harmonica found in dig
Speculates on the uses and the history of the harmonica in African-American life

04/21/94  Dutch bottle tells story
Discusses the manufacture, history, distribution, cost and consumption of the liquor that came in such bottles

04/28/94  Tax rolls offer glimpse into city's past
Using tax rolls to learn more about specific neighborhoods such as the area around the County in the 19th century

05/05/94  Pierced coin pendants worn by blacks in 1800's
One of the coins is an 18th century Spanish real and the other is either a Liberty Seated or a Barber dime. The die used for the obverse is from 1860-1916

05/12/94  History is buried under parking lot pavement
West End Village” in which Bruin's home was located on Duke St., where the history is well preserved because of the asphalt

05/19/94  Visionaries built Alexandria
Changes in the Alexandria landscape from Native American life to European habitation

05/26/94  West End retains vestiges of early mills & commerce
The West End Village was the western boundary for 18th c. Alexandria. Now has the major transportation system and the newer architecture. But the past is still there in waterways, etc.

06/02/94  Early Wharf remains show changed shape of waterfront
It has survived under six feet of asphalt at the intersection of N. Lee and Cameron Streets. The landing became unusable because of sedimentation, so a new block between King and Cameron was constructed.

06/09/94 Enlightened property owners aid preservation
Archaeological management projects, in which an area can be systematically investigated before development occurs

06/16/94  Locating, dating historic sites can be complicated
Dating a site by its deposition

06/23/94  Lithic scatters unearthed at Stonegate tell of prehistoric tool-makers and hunters
Exploration of the Stonegate development and discoveries about Native American life learned from waste products generated from the manufacture of stone tools

06/30/94  Development brings rich find, ancient Indian artifacts
Discussion of Ben Adam's comprehensives study of Stonegate and Native American life as it existed during various archaeological time periods

07/07/94  Fragments help track development of skills
Soapstone fragments discovered at Stonegate showed that Native Americans used pottery while still living as hunters and gatherers.

07/14/94  Ancient ceramics offer glimpse into how Indians lived
Descriptions of Native American ceramics found at Stonegate

07/21/94  Shrine to dog follows precedent
Discuss relationships of dogs to humans, as indicated by archaeological animal remains.

07/28/94  Dig unearths poignant evidence of beloved pet
Description of dog skeleton buried and memorialized in an Alexandria backyard.

08/04/94  Pampered pet phenomenon not a recent innovation
Discusses meaning of the term “pet” and fashions and values of pet care in the 19th century, and gives details about Zark, a dog whose skeleton was excavated in Alexandria.

08/11/94  Odd-looking fire vehicle saved countless lives
The hose carriage, which was made in the 100 block of N. Pitt Street in 1858, was a technological breakthrough

08/18/94  Tragic fires created signposts for Archaeologists
A fire can date the soil layers. It also discusses the Jan. 18, 1827 fire that originated from the Green cabinet shop at 112 S. Royal Street

08/25/94  Professional techniques preserve family treasures
Professional expertise to preserve family's historic materials and collectibles at Fort Ward Museum.

09/01/94  Preservation: more than just showing the flag
Textile conservation and a special lecture for preserving textiles, by Fort Ward Museum

09/08/94  Preserving the past: We are all stewards
Protecting paper as instructed by the first lecture at Fort Ward Museum

09/15/94  Work of peoples sculptor lives after conservation
Rogers created sculpture for the average person. He did work with Civil War-theme statuary groups 

09/22/94  Little was saved when City Hall burned
The fire of 1871 destroyed the two Market House Structures on Cameron and Royal Streets. The Green and Bros. Steam Furniture Works provided new desks and chairs.

09/29/94  Today's City Hall: rebuilt after 1871 fire
Because of the 1871 fire, they were able to build a new Market House. Two pieces of furniture survived from the Council Chambers.

10/06/94  Archaeology is a family affair during Archaeology Month
Archaeology month in Virginia. Future articles will take one through the process

10/13/94  Parking lot is once and future residential site
At the corner of N. Alfred and Cameron Streets was a sugar refinery. They are now excavating the area. It takes one through the excavating progress of opening test squares, skimming the soil in layers and looking for foundation evidence

10/20/94  Chance encounter clears up archaeologists' mystery
They did know what the fragments of the redware were used for. A chance incident brought them to realize that the syrup jar was linked to sugar refinery.

10/27/94  Sugar House artifacts document nineteenth century refinery techniques
Discusses the statistical analysis of artifacts and the information from the ground with documentary data

11/03/94  Dig unearths city's role in international commerce
Discusses the final step in the inquiry process, interpretation, where all the information from the ground is combined with documentary date to form a larger understanding of the past

11/16/94  Silver display shines among area exhibits
Discusses a silver exhibition at The Lyceum, and discoveries, made at the 300 block of King Street, about silversmith John Adam.

11/23/94  Times, style, change, but recognition is always sweet
Details about Adam Lynn and a presentation cup awarded to John Tayloe at a George Washington Parke Custis agricultural fair.

12/01/94  Study of past becomes all-consuming adventure
Thoughts on becoming an archaeologist, and information about artifact cookies

12/08/94  Early coffee drinkers were liable to take lumps
Description and manner of use of silver sugar basket

12/15/94  High fliers always seek lower altitude in rough weather
Economic fluctuations during life of silver maker Adam Lynn.

12/22/94  City's bullish years reflected in silver
Silver objects provide information about the James Keith family, and early hopes for investments in development at Franklin and Washington Streets.

1995 Alexandria Artifact Stories

01/05/95  Later generations often benefit from dreamers' dividends
Building of Keith's Wharf reveals builders' expectations.

01/19/95  Unsuccessful wharf was nevertheless significant
Wharf construction

01/26/95  Lynn products graced field of combat as well as tables
Lynn/Mcquire duel

02/02/95  Silver cup recipients: more than social gadabouts
Provenance of the silver cup made by William Alexander Williams and presented to Elizabeth Lawrason

02/09/95  Cup helps open door to history of ‘Dip'
Free African Americans and “the Bottoms”(DIP) neighborhood

02/16/95  Early 1800's saw rise of free black society
Discusses the life of William Goddard, one of the founders of a free black neighborhood

02/23/95  Study of city's history is far from trivial pursuit
Using maps, will books, tax ledgers, and census Information to learn more about Alexandria's African American history

03/02/95  Free blacks acquired land, started church
Transitions from slavery to freedom

03/09/95  Black Baptists have strong Alexandria roots
Black congregations and preachers

03/16/95  Old map sheds light on Lee-Fendall House site
Process of historical archaeological research, Lee-Fendall House as example

03/23/95  In archaeology, the bottom is tops
Investigating a site from bottom to top, as exemplified by use of excavation at Lee-Fendall house.

03/30/95  Diva, businessman were historic home's occupants
Lives of the Downhams in the Lee Fendall House

04/06/95  Solution of letter puzzle bears stamp of credibility
Excavation of the Lee-Fendall well. Orange and Alexandria Railroad during Civil War

04/13/95  Carlyle House party offers touches of past
Spring Garden Party at Carlyle House, description and uses of tussie-mussies and rose beads.

04/20/95  Lincoln railroad car became historical ‘sleeper'
New research conducted by a volunteer sheds light on Abraham Lincoln's personal railroad car. (First in Lincoln railroad car series)

04/27/95  Train was Buck Rogers item just 100 years ago
Building of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad

05/04/95  Alexandria: strategic rail hub in Civil War
Orange and Alexandria Railroad during the Civil War

05/11/95  Lincoln rail car had several unique touches
Description of Lincoln railroad car (Third in Lincoln car series)

05/18/95  Lincoln may have found rail car too sumptuous
Interior of Lincoln railroad car (Fourth in Lincoln car series)

05/25/95  Twist of fate changed opulent car to hearse
Furniture in Lincoln Railroad car (Fifth in Lincoln car series)

06/01/95  Lincoln never rode alive in rail car built for him
Excerpts from Isabel Emerson's diary used to learn more about use of Lincoln railroad car as hearse (Sixth in Lincoln car series)

06/08/95  Many recall solemnity of Lincoln car's journey
Lincoln coffin and funeral procession (Seventh in Lincoln car series)

06/15/95  Lincoln presidential car conveyed pampered pooh-bahs
Use of Lincoln car after Lincoln (Eighth in Lincoln car series)

06/22/95  Funeral car became traveling attraction
Lincoln car at St. Louis World's Fair and its purchase by Thomas Lowry (Ninth in Lincoln car series)

06/29/95  Venerable railroad car suffered a fiery demise
Discusses how the Lincoln car was destroyed by fire and recreated as a model built by Wayne Wesolowski and his son Wayne (Tenth in Lincoln car series)

07/06/95  Archaeology's catching on; Alexandrians really dig it
Family Dig Days

07/13/95  New park incorporates historic black cemetery
Creation of Alexandria African Heritage Park

07/20/95  Creation of Alexandria Heritage Park Sculpture provides inspiration
Description of Jerome Meadows' sculpture, “Truths That Rise From the Roots-Remembered,” and its placement and connection with African American life

07/27/95  Park makes symbols of ordinary lives
Description of bronze burial mound, sculpted by Jerome Meadows, and known graves at Alexandria African Heritage Park

08/03/95 Park's designer saw eloquence in wilderness
Details of design process in creation of Alexandria African Heritage Park

08/10/95  Peaceful cemetery stands as proof of war's horrors
Discusses the history of Alexandria National Cemetery, from 1862

08/17/95  Park is at the old divide between city and country
Orange and Alexandria Railroad during Civil War

08/25/95  Garden closed in 1811 to bloom again in fall
Hooff family and Hooff's Run before King Street Gardens Park

08/31/95  Summer, fall are full of learning opportunities
Developing an appreciation of the past

09/07/95  Hooff's Run was conduit for commerce, disease
History of Hooff's run

09/14/95  King Street bustled around meandering run
Use of area around Hooff's Run

09/21/95  Bridge recalls city's commercial yearnings
Discusses relationship of Orange and Alexandria Railroad with Hooff's run

09/28/95  Make use of tie-ups to savor city's past
History of the stone railroad bridge over Hooff's run

10/05/95  Oldest bridge shows clues of rail growth
Expansion of stone bridge over Hooff's run

10/12/95  Bridge evolution was no cut-and dried process
Establishing date of the addition to Hooff's run bridge

10/19/95  Wilkes Street tunnel is important piece of past
Orange and Alexandria Railroad in Alexandria

10/26/95  Stone supply held up tunnel
Construction of Wilkes Street tunnel

11/02/95  Sumptuous homes sat above tunnel
Remembrance of Christmases past through holiday history education events

11/09/95  1905 station facade to be restored soon
The renovation of Alexandria Union Station (Amtrak)

11/16/95  Much remains of Old Station
The renovation of Alexandria Union Station (Amtrak)

11/22/95  Hamlin’s example was Inspiring
In memory of Pamela Malcolm Hamlin, Assistant Director of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum

11/30/95  Prized objects inspire treats
Announcing the Annual Cookie Artifact Decorating Workshop

12/07/95  Christmas, a chance to explore history
Announcing Historic Alexandria’s holiday events

12/14/95  Homer work stars in Fort Ward show
Works by the artist, Winslow Homer, exhibited at Fort Ward Museum and at the National Gallery

12/21/95  Little kid stuff found in digs
Historic businesses offered variety of children's gifts for holidays

1996 Alexandria Artifact Stories

01/04/96  America still stands as the land of dreams
Perfection and hard work

01/11/96  Franklin’s maxims: notes to himself
Benjamin Franklin’s search for moral perfection

01/18/96  British potters wanted U.S. trade
Trade, Ben, and compromise

02/01/96  A look at children in the 1700's
Franklin’s maxims and their relationship to child-rearing as it changed during the 1700s.

02/08/96 Presents were used to promote morals
Changes in child-rearing and gifts to children in the mid-19th century.

02/15/96  Victorian parents stressed absolutes
Victorian morals

02/22/96  Cup came from site of slave household
Using maxim cup to learn about slave life

02/29/96  New Mount Vernon museum exhibits archaeology finds
Mount Vernon museum

03/07/96  Skilled artisans and servants lived in the House for Families
Slave cellar site discoveries

03/14/96  Dishes offer clues to slave lifestyle
Use of English and Chinese ceramics

03/21/96  Slaves probably made earthenware for own use
Origin and use of Colonoware

03/28/96  Slave bowls made in African form
Colonoware descriptions

04/11/96  Animal bones tell stories about Mount Vernon humans
Mt. Vernon kitchen

04/18/96  Washington’s thoughts on slavery documented
Greenhouse and new slave rooms

04/25/96  Washington’s will freed his slaves ‘without evasion, neglect or delay’
What happened to George Washington slaves

05/02/96  Long history of Jones Point far precedes bridge controversy
History of Jones Point

05/09/96  ‘Pocoson’ more traceable than history of Point
Pocoson and gut

05/16/96  Belle Haven, Occoquan banks were once Indian sites
Effects of environmental shifts on Indian life

05/23/96  Algonquian Indians chose higher ground
Searching for Algonquian sites

05/30/96  1985 survey verifies late 19th century finds
Belle Haven prehistoric sites

06/06/96  Assaomack village depended on fish
Relates stone points and changes in salinity of Potomac to Indian life at Jones Point.

06/13/96  Citizens fortified Jones Point area
Attempt to build fort on Jones Point in the 1780's.

06/20/96  Lack of supplies delayed fortification
Partial completion of Jones Point fort and abandonment of fort project

06/28/96  War of 1812 showed city’s vulnerability
Relates insufficient fortifications to War of 1812

07/03/96  Council saved city through 1814 surrender
War of 1812 and effects of Alexandria’s close association with District of Columbia

07/11/96  Washington proclamation made city part of D.C.
Selection of capital site and designation of district boundaries

07/18/96  Ellicott named head of capital survey
Early stages of federal district by Ellicott and Banneker; survey operations based at Jones Point

07/25/96  Hardships assailed District survey team
Use of astronomical clock; hardships in development of federal district survey

08/01/96  District survey used era’s best tools
Compares surveying methods included use of chains, compasses, and needle courses vs. meridian courses

08/08/96  A vivid focus on the past
Benjamin Banneker; influence of science in the 18th century

08/15/96  Survey work led Banneker to publish
Details of life of Benjamin Banneker

08/22/96  Banneker homestead is object of long search
Describes methods used to investigate Banneker homestead site

08/29/96  Search for home unearths two cellars
Information learned from Banneker homestead cellars

09/05/96  Juggling real world with the past
Current applications and contributions of archaeology to current communities; learning details of Benjamin Banneker’s life from Banneker site and from Ellicott Store account book; new Banneker Historical Park and Museum

09/19/96  Solutions rarely offered to puzzles of archaeology
Using archaeological clues to solve puzzles about historical lifeways, with a Benjamin Banneker mathematical puzzle as example

09/26/96  Banneker solves his puzzle
Solution to the Banneker puzzle given in 9/19/96 article; additional information about Banneker puzzles, Banneker’s interest in astronomy, comments on life as a free African American, and his work at Jones Point

10/03/96  Jones Point stone marks corner of original D.C. boundaries
Marker placement ceremony beginning at Wise’s Tavern and ending at Jones Point, April 15, 1791

10/10/96  How many markers are in Alexandria?
Detailed description of District of Columbia marker at Jones Point; effects of time and wear on the stone; Archaeology Month activities in Alexandria

10/17/96  DC boundaries preserved by DAR
Detailed descriptions of the District of Columbia milestone and cornerstone markers and their protection by the Daughters of the American Revolution

10/24/96  Two win tour of underground
Suggested route for touring District of Columbia mile markers and corner stone that are placed in Alexandria and at Alexandria/Arlington border

10/31/96  The right to vote
Discussion of history of voting rights and practices of Alexandrians, including period of complete disenfranchisement from 1804-1844

11/07/96  A long history of campaigns
Election celebrations, known as jubilees and illuminations, with 1840 Van Buren vs. Harrison election as example

11/14/96  Alexandria housed over 270 taverns
Taverns as crossroads of 18th-century society; staffed by slaves and indentured servants

11/21/96  New York Met buys Gadsby’s Tavern parts in 1917
Details of recreation of Gadsby’s Tavern by Metropolitan Museum of Art, which purchased original architectural elements, and resulting preservation of the tavern by American Legion Post #24 and other local organizations.

11/27/96  Visit Gadsby’s Tavern as it is being restored
Describes steps in use for surveying and restoring Gadsby’s Tavern exterior

12/05/96  Make your own cookie artifact
Cookie baking and artifact cookie decorating

12/12/96  Privy holds civil war artifacts
Finding Civil War artifacts at the old Norfolk Southern rail yard; 1996 Victorian Christmas celebration at Fort Ward.

12/23/96  Special dishes for special holidays - a tradition
Changing of traditions over time as learned from varying types of dishware

1997 Alexandria Artifact Stories

01/30/97  Alexandria shaped by shipping
Loss of the schooner Alexandria

02/13/97  City archives describe people and actions
Preservation of records at Alexandria's Archives and Records, and in personal life

03/06/97  Blockades and war stopped trade
Factors affecting trade in the port city of Alexandria prior to the Civil War

03/14/97  Escaped slaves set precedent
The Civil War military installations in Alexandria attracted many blacks

03/27/97  Freedman’s Cemetery offers questions and answers
Describes sources and uses of information about a Civil War African American cemetery across from St. Mary's burial ground

04/17/97  A painstaking search for a cemetery
Describes research methods used to search for Freedmen's Cemetery

05/01/97  Just where is the Freedmen’s Cemetery located?
Further details of research into the location of Freedman's Cemetery and contraband burials

05/03/97  Alexandria Hospital: A Legacy of expertise
Details of early history of Alexandria Hospital and Julia Johns

05/15/97  Archaeologist seeks answers to grave questions
Analysis of discrepancies among records of deaths related to the Freedmen's Cemetery

05/29/97  Alexandrians remember Hammond
Suggested self-tour of Alexandria burial sites and details of Alexandria Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Francis C. Hammond

06/12/97  A new tradition honors the memory of black Americans
Details of search for information related to Civil War era Freedmen's Cemetery