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Lafayette House, 301 South St. Asaph Street

Posted on Dec 04,2007
Filed Under News , Community,

(The following is one of a series of excerpts we’re featuring from Robert Madison’s book, “Walking with Washington”)

Lafayette House

The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) stayed here during his month-long visit to Alexandria in 1824.  Lafayette was commissioned a major general by Congress on July 31, 1777, and he met General Washington the next day.  Not yet twenty, he was virtually adopted by Washington, fought with distinction in a number of battles throughout the Revolutionary War, and was with Washington at Yorktown for the defeat of Cornwallis.  It is estimated that Lafayette, an unpaid volunteer, spent more than $200,000 of his private funds in assisting the colonies.  Lafayette’s son, George Washington Montier de Lafayette (1779-1849), lived at Mount Vernon for five years as a member of the Washington family while his father was in prison during the French Revolution.  President Monroe invited Lafayette back to the United States in 1824, and for more than a year his triumphal tour of the country provoked enthusiastic demonstrations without precedent in American history.  Lafayette’s toast during his last visit to Alexandria is still appropriate:  “The City of Alexandria -- May her prosperity and happiness more and more realize the fondest wishes of our venerated Washington.” 

Thomas, ninth Lord Fairfax (1762-1846) leased the house from 1828 to 1830.  His father, Bryan Fairfax (the eighth Lord Fairfax) (1736-1802), was one of George Washington’s closest friends; and both Thomas and Bryan Fairfax were among the last guests at Mount Vernon recorded in Washington’s diary before he died.

Nelly Custis Lewis (1779-1851), Martha Washington’s granddaughter, and her husband Lawrence Lewis (1767-1839), George Washington’s nephew, lived here with their family in 1831.  Two-year-old Eleanor (Nelly) Custis and her younger brother, George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857), were raised at Mount Vernon by their grandmother, Martha Washington, and her husband, George Washington, after the death of their father, John Parke (Jacky) Custis (1753-1781).  During their childhood, they had many friends in Alexandria.  When Washington was elected President, Nelly and her brother were taken to New York and later to Philadelphia as part of the first family.  In 1797, Washington invited his sister’s son, Lawrence Lewis (who was born at Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Virginia), to come to Mount Vernon and assist him as secretary and host.  Nelly and Lawrence soon fell in love, and they were married in a candle-lit ceremony at Mount Vernon on February 22, 1799, Washington’s last birthday.  Just prior to the marriage, Washington legally adopted Nelly in order to authorize the license for their marriage.  Their first child, Frances Parke Lewis, was born at Mount Vernon on November 27, 1799, just seventeen days before Washington’s death.  As a wedding gift, Washington set aside 2,000 acres of his Mount Vernon lands for their use, to be inherited upon his death, and he left them sufficient funds to build a grand house.  He even personally selected the site of the house, and the Woodlawn mansion was built from 1800 to 1805.  The Lewis’s also had a town house in Alexandria, Arch Hall, which stood for a time at 815 Franklin Street.  Arch Hall was subsequently moved near Gunston Hall, where it is today.

Dulany House, 601 Duke Street

Dulany House

According to tradition, Lafayette walked across Duke Street from 301 South St. Asaph Street, where he was staying, to address, from the steps of this house, the Alexandrians assembled to welcome him on his visit in 1824. 

This was the home of Benjamin Dulany (1754-1816).  On February 17, 1773, George Washington wrote a friend:  “Our celebrated Miss French, whom half the world was in pursuit of, bestowed her hand on Wednesday last, being her birthday (you perceive I think myself under the necessity of accounting for her choice) upon Mr. Ben Dulany...”  Miss French was a ward of Washington and George Mason (1725-1792).  According to tradition, Washington gave the bride away at their wedding.  After the Revolution, Benjamin Dulany moved to Alexandria and built this house.  Although Dulany was a Tory and did not join the Army during the Revolution, he sent his favorite charger, Blueskin, to General Washington for his personal use.  On February 21, 1785, George Washington “Went to Alexandria with Mrs. Washington.  Dined at Mr. Dulany’s.”  Dulany is often mentioned in Washington’s diary as his companion at the hunt and a frequent visitor to Mount Vernon for dinner and overnight.  In 1788, Dulany paid Washington 120 pounds annual rent for 376 acres near Hunting Creek.  In 1793, he participated with Washington in laying the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building.  In the summer of 1799, the Dulanys purchased a house on Shooters Hill (where the George Washington Masonic National Memorial now stands) from Ludwell Lee (1760-1836).  They rented this house until Robert J. Taylor, a lawyer active in community affairs, purchased it. 

(Adapted from Walking with Washington, available in Alexandria museum gift shops. For more on Alexandria's history, visit The Alexandria Historical Society.)

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