Bridge recalls city’s commercial yearnings

This article is posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette.

Page updated on Dec 11, 2015 at 3:28 PM
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Bridge recalls city’s commercial yearnings

September 21, 1995
By Pamela Cressey

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The old stone bridge still spans Hooff's Run south of Duke Street. It once carried the track of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, the town's first. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology.
In September of 1868, the Alexandria Gazette ran an article about West End--"a village adjoining this city and separated from the Corporation limits by Hooff's Run, is a very old place." The newspaper discussed how little West End had changed over the years, "although several well-built and handsome residences have been erected in the last twelve or fifteen years."

Today's Alexandria Gazette Packet reporter could cite far greater change in West End during the last 15 years. New office buildings with professional associations and the Carlyle development are transforming the face of Alexandria's original West End.

The 1868 article did note a major change from the area's former port function: "We have heard old people say, that they remembered when West End, was,..."a shipping port"--for that they have seen a flat bottomed boat come up Hooff's run to the Stone Bridge land oysters there, and take on board a return cargo. "Ichabod" may be now written on what is left of the old bridge--the arch of which is entire and solid--and West End must be content to have Alexandria for its "Shipping port" (as transcribed in the January 1989 Fireside Sentinel).

What stone bridge? Could it have survived another 127 years to the present? A stone bridge is still preserved over Hooff's Run, although it is one of Alexandria's best kept historic secrets. The bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, based upon a nomination prepared by James Massey and Jere Gibber. Originally constructed in 1856, the bridge supported the one track of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, the town's first.

Still can't place the old bridge's location? Few people realize that Hooff's Run moves south beyond Rosemont, the King Street Metro Area, and even Duke Street to Hunting Creek. It is the portion south of Duke Street adjoining cemeteries and the sewage treatment plant that is the location of the Hooff's Run Bridge.

In the 1840s Alexandria was losing its shipping to the deeper port of Baltimore which also had a railroad. Alexandrians reasoned that modern technology had to be applied to help their economic problem. The Orange and Alexandria Railroad was chartered on March 27, 1848, and eventually became 90 miles long. The O&ARR was one of the first and most important railroads in Virginia, and one of five planned to link Alexandria with the hinterland.

However, to move goods from the west into the port of Alexandria engineers had to traverse numerous streams. As they started construction in town and moved west, the first such waterway was Hooff's Run. The next few weeks I will chronicle the construction of the bridge and its significance for Alexandria.

Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist