History Alexandria Virginia
Dr. James Craik. 117 South Fairfax Street, 209 Prince Street, and 210 Duke Street. At least three homes once occupied by Dr. James Craik (1730-1814), one of George Washington’s oldest and closest friends, still exist in Alexandria. The house at 117 South Fairfax Street was advertised as new in 1784, and tax records show that Dr. Craik occupied it in 1788 and 1789.
The house at 209 Prince Street was built around 1786, and Dr. James Craik was the tenant from 1789 to 1790, and perhaps until he moved to 210 Duke Street in 1796. The plaque on 209 Prince Street stating that Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick lived there is probably on the wrong house. Dr. Dick definitely lived next door at 211 Prince Street, although he may have resided also at 209 Prince Street; tax records are not clear.
Dr. Craik purchased 210 Duke Street in October 1795 and lived here until 1809.
Dr. Craik accompanied George Washington on his mission to the French in 1754, served with Washington under Braddock in the French and Indian War in 1755, dressed the wounds of the dying General Braddock on the banks of the Monongahela, went with Washington in 1770 to survey lands along the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, served as chief physician and surgeon of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, was with George Washington in every battle from Great Meadows to Yorktown, dressed the wounds of Lafayette at the Battle of Brandywine, and operated the hospital at the Battle of Yorktown. For his entire life, Craik was a frequent visitor to Mount Vernon, visiting at least once a month when Washington was in residence, and sometimes staying four or five days. Dr. Craik’s son, George Washington Craik (1774-1808), was Washington’s private secretary during his second term as President; Washington had paid for young Craik’s education.
Dr. Craik was among a number of doctors who treated the slaves at Mount Vernon. A June 1799 bill covered forty-two visits for the preceding two years at three dollars a visit by day or by night regardless of the number of cases seen on the visit. He generally saw three or more patients on a visit.
Dr. Craik was one of the three physicians attending Washington in his last illness. Washington’s last words to Dr. Craik were: “Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.” In his will, George Washington called Dr. Craik his “compatriot in arms, and old and intimate friend,” and left to him his desk and chair, which were returned to their place in the library at Mount Vernon in 1904.
Dr. Craik’s country home, Vaucluse, was destroyed in 1861 to build Civil War fortifications approximately where the Plaza condominium is today on Howard Street. It shouldn’t be confused with another Vaucluse built in 1901 and destroyed in 1972 to build an addition to the Alexandria Hospital.
(Adapted from Robert Madison’s Walking with Washington, available in Alexandria museum gift shops.)