Resources for the Study of the Alexandria Waterfront
- Historic Buildings and Places on the Waterfront. History and images of historic buildings along the waterfront.
- First-Person Accounts of the Historic Waterfront. Descriptions of Alexandria by travelers from the early 17th century to the early 20th century.
- A Timeline of the Alexandria Waterfront. Key events in the development of Alexandria from prehistory up to the Civil War.
- Howson & Brent, by Ted Pulliam. It was probably the biggest real estate deal in the history of Northern Virginia. It took place in 1669 and included all the land on which Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport, and Old Town Alexandria now are located.
- Alexandria and Belhaven, by Diane Riker. For the first dozen years of its history, Alexandria, Virginia, was a town with two names. Which came first: Alexandria or Belhaven? This paper attempts to disentangle fact from fantasy.
- Chadwicks on the Strand, by Diane Riker. From a sandy bank to a restaurant: the development of the Lawrason and Fowle warehouses on the Strand.
- Alexandria’s First Wharf, by Ted Pulliam. In 1749, Alexandria was situated on high bluffs that formed a crescent-shaped bay with two points of land at each end of town extending out into the bay. This paper examines the first wharf, its location, date, and builder.
- Fitzgerald Warehouse, by Diane Riker. At the corner of King and Union streets in Alexandria stands the earliest waterfront structure the city retains from its heady days as an international port. Seen today from across King Street, the brick and stone warehouse, built for Col. John Fitzgerald in the mid-1790s, appears to tilt toward the river. And the river is where its story begins. This paper is updated and enlarged from Ms. Riker’s "The Fitzgerald Warehouse: The Early History of an Alexandria Landmark," published by the Alexandria Historical Society in The Alexandria Chronicle, Summer 2007.
- Pondering Shorelines, part 1; Pondering Shorelines, part 2. Adapted from “‘On Examining the Records of the Town we find an Omission’ Using Historical GIS (hGIS) in Conjunction with Archaeological Excavation to Document Property Histories and Understand Changing Waterlines in Alexandria, Virginia.” Paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference, January 2020 by Benjamin Skolnik.
- The Warehouses of Lower King Street, by Diane Riker. In 1749, when the first town lots went on sale, the present 100 block was well east of dry land. But investors realized the potential. This paper examines early owners and development.
Early 19th Century
- Fowle Warehouses, 204-206 South Union Street, by Diane Riker. By the mid-nineteenth century, Willaim Fowle and two of his sons had built a prosperous business and played important roles in pre-Civil War Alexandria banking, business, and government. The buildings at 204 and 206 South Union remain today as key relics of the Fowle family legacy and are some of the oldest buildings to survive on the waterfront.
Late 19th Century
- Fiery Night, by Diane Riker. The evidence of an 1897 fire at Bryant's Mill can be found on the wall inside what is now Chadwick's restaurant on the Strand.
Early 20th Century
- 0 Prince Street , by Diane Riker. This building was originally the Beachcombers Restaurant that was built on stilts over the water and was one of the most elegant places to dine after World War II. The building survives today but is now on dry (filled) land.
Archaeology on the Waterfront
Learn more about Archaeology on the Waterfront
- A Community Digs Its Past: The Lee St Site. Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 1999.
- Barr, Keith L. The Alexandria Canal: Tidewater Terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal System. Alexandria Archaeology Publications, No. 22, 1989. (Available for purchase online from
The Alexandria Shop).
- Cressey, Pamela J. and Steven J. Shephard. The Alexandria Waterfront Forum: Birth and Rebirth 1730-1983. Alexandria Archaeology Publications, No. 1, 1983.
- Erickson, Philip M. Ship’s Cargoes of Alexandria, Virginia in 1792: Imports from Foreign Ports. Steven J. Shephard, ed. Alexandria Archaeology Publications, No. 66, 1985.
- Shephard, Steven J.
Reaching for the Channel: Some Documentary and Archaeological Evidence of Extending the Alexandria Waterfront . The Alexandria Chronicle, Spring 2006, 1-13.
Archaeological Site Reports
- Artemel, Janice G. Elizabeth Crowell, Donald A. Hull and Dennis Knepper
A Phase IIA Archaeological Study, Old Ford Plant Site, Alexandria, Virginia.
Appendices. Engineering-Science, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1988.
- Cheek, Charles D. and Cecile G. Glendening. A Phase I Archaeological Survey of the Old Ford Plant Property, City of Alexandria, Virginia. John Milner Associates, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, 1986.
- Engineering-Science, Inc. Maritime Archaeology at Keith's Wharf and Battery Cove (44AX119): Ford's Landing, Alexandria, Virginia Chapters I-VI - Chapters VII-X - Appendices Washington, D.C., 1993.
- Gardner, William M., Gwen Hurst and Kimberly A. Snyder. Phase I-III Archaeological Investigations at 118 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia . Thunderbird Archeological Associates, Inc., Woodstock, Virginia, 2001.
- Hurst, Gwen J. Archival Investigations of 101 Wales Alley , City of Alexandria, Virginia. Thunderbird Archeological Associates, Inc., Woodstock, Virginia, 2000.
- John Cullinane Associates. Historic Resources Assessment of the Old Ford Plant, Alexandria, Virginia . Washington, D.C., 1988.
- Knepper, Dennis A. and Kimberly Prothro.
Historical and Archaeological Investigation of Roberdeau's Wharf at Harborside, Alexandria, Virginia . Engineering-Science, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1989.
- Shomette, Donald G. Maritime Alexandria: An Evaluation of Submerged Cultural Resource Potentials at Alexandria, Virginia .1985.
- Watts, Gordon P., Jr. Acoustic and Magnetic Remote Sensing Site Identification Survey Along the Alexandria, Virginia Waterfront Between Oronoco and Franklin Streets and Oronoco Bay . Tidewater Atlantic Research, Washington, North Carolina, 1986.
Other Historical Resources
Alexandria Artifact Stories - The Alexandria Gazette Packet , a weekly newspaper column, by Pamela J. Cressey, 1994-1997, covering many topics on the history of Alexandria.
- Spring 2009 - A British Fleet Sails into Alexandria, by Ted Pulliam. In 1755 two British ships sailed up the Potomac River to the new town of Alexandria. Filled with 200 British soldiers, they were the first of 18 ships transporting General Edward Braddock’s army to North America to attack the French and their Indian allies at the beginning of the French and Indian War.
- Fall 2007 - Gunpowder, Flour, Fire and Heirs: A Waterfront Block from Duke to Wolfe Streets, by Ted Pulliam. The history of Point Lumley (the southern projection of the 18th century bay before it was filled in) from early times to the 20th century.
- Summer 2007 - The Fitzgerald Warehouse: The Early History of an Alexandria Landmark, by Diane Riker.
- Spring 2006 - Reaching for the Channel: Some Documentary and Archaeological Evidence of Extending Alexandria's Waterfront, by Steven J. Shephard. Numerous wharves were built out into the bay in the 1780s by constructing walls and then filling them with soil.
Col. John Carlyle Gent.: A True and Just Account of the Man and His House. Dr. James D. Munson. Northern Virginia Park Authority, 1986. (Available at the Alexandria Library).
Discovering the Decades - Alexandria Archaeology Volunteer Newsletter, a series in honor of the City's 250th Birthday in 1999. Includes information on the history of the Waterfront.
Maritime Alexandria: the Rise and Fall of an American Entrepot. Donald G. Shomette. Heritage Books, Inc., 2003, second printing 2005. (Available at the Alexandria Library).
A Seaport Saga: Portrait of Old Alexandria, Virginia. William Francis Smith and T. Michael Miller. Norfolk, Va.: Donning Co., 1989. (Available at the Alexandria Library.)
This Was Potomac River. Frederick Tilp. Bladensburg, Md., 1978. (Available at the Alexandria Library).
Wandering Along the Waterfront. By T. Michael Miller, in The Fireside Sentinel, the Alexandria Library, Lloyd House Newsletter published from 1987 to 1995. (The full work is available for study at the City of Alexandria Library, Barrett Branch, Special Collections Division, 717 Queen Street. Select articles are posted below).
- Cameron to King
- Foot of Oronoco
- King to Prince
- Prince to Duke, Part I
- Prince to Duke, Part II
- Princess to Queen
- Queen to Cameron
- Windmill Hill
Oral Histories of Alexandrians, with remembrances of the Alexandria waterfront: