Garden closed in 1811 to bloom again in fall

This article is posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette.

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Garden closed in 1811 to bloom again in fall

August 25, 1995
By Pamela Cressey

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King Street Gardens Park marsh and topiary will open soon near the historic Purkis Garden, a place of cultivated fruit trees and a July 4 party.

"Warning. The enclose known by the name of Purkis Garden and spring at the head of King Street and adjoining the properties of Col. Peyton and Mr. Hooff, is no longer to be considered as a placed of public resort." 

You would have read this notice in the Alexandria Gazette on April 30, 1811. Hopefully, you would have played close attention to the notice and stopped using Purkis Garden as a public place. This fall, 184 years later, the new King Street Gardens Park will open to the public very near this historic garden along Hooff's Run.

This knowledge of the Purkis Garden comes from the historical study conducted by Timothy Hill for the Virginia Department of Transportation 's Duke Street widening project a few years ago. It was an eight acre tract on the "main road leading from Alexandria to Cameron" on the east side of Gladden's Run, later referred to as Hooff's Run.

We do not know exactly how the garden looked, but it must have been a noteworthy spot. In 1808, the Gazette reported that the Volunteer Blues and citizens met for a "hansome dinner" there after the July 4 Alexandria celebration. Where our new garden will include designed landscaping and visual arts, the historic place "was in a high state of cultivation, including fruit trees and had a small dwelling" by 1823.

I do not have any information about the Gladden family for whom the creek was originally named. However, the Hooff family's history in this part of town extends back more than 200 years. In 1792, Lawrence Hooff purchased 8 acres from John West, the western boundary formed by the Run. It is thought that the historic name "West End Village" came from the West family's subdivision of the land, Alexandria's first suburb.

Hooff was one of the first butchers in West End, which ultimately had 20 men with this occupation in the mid 19th century. His slaughter house was standing by 1805. King Street was extended beyond West Street after Hooff sold a northern piece of his property for this use.

His son, also Lawrence, was born in 1780. He was one of six lieutenants in the 106th Regiment of the Virginia Militia who carried George Washington's coffin from his home to the tomb. Lawrence eventually became a major during the War of 1812, and was described as a "kind hearted and popular gentleman". Two brothers, John and Lewis, were associated with the Bank of Alexandria for decades. Today the Chas. R. Hooff Inc. real estate firm continues in West End at 1707 Duke Street.

The King Street Gardens Park will open October 28. If you want to purchase a brick with your name for the park, call 703-684-4461 before September 4.

Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist.