America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Carlyle House, Alexandria, Virginia
Yes, it's become known now as the home of the Green family from the PBS Civil War series, Mercy Street. And that's just what it was, back in 1861-1865, the home of the Southern sympathizing family taken over in Alexandria, Virginia by the Union Army, whose next door hotel, the Mansion House, depicted below, was used as a field hospital. The Mansion House is now gone, torn down in the 1970's, but the Carlyle House is still there, and depicts the former residents and times of the home from its colonial origins in marvelous fashion. And you can compare just how today's depiction on PBS fares against the stories told during your tour. And you can also imagine how Ted, from How I Met Your Mother, compares (the actor, Josh Radnor, plays a Civil War doctor on the series) to those who actually plied the halls next door and on the streets outside in this torn apart city just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Photo above: Carlyle House, 2009, courtesy Ser Amantio di Nicolao at en.wikipedia.
- What is There Now
- History Nearby
The origins of the Carlyle House began much before the tales of the Green family, built by the original owners, John Carlyle and wife Sarah Fairfax in 1753. It was the center of a slave holding plantation family with large holdings throughout Virginia, including thousands of acres, a foundry in the Shenandoah, and trade relations with the West Indies. John was friends with George Washington. Just outside the door of the home in Alexandria stood his merchant business offices and warehouses. The history of the home saw three wars up close. The first, during the French and Indian War when the Carlyle House became the site of the Braddock Conference, a convening of the five governors of the colonies on August 15, 1755. Braddock would use the house as his headquarters for three weeks.
By the time of the Civil War, James Green had bought the Carlyle House and constructed the Mansion House Hotel in front of it, abutting Fairfax Street. After the 1st Battle of Bull Run, Union troops commandeered the hotel and turned it into a hospital. They would leave it for a time, only to return. James Green was a furniture maker of considerable means and a Southern sympathizer. He would make the desk Robert E. Lee used to sign the surrender terms in the parlor of the McLean House in Appomattox four years later.
The house was bought in 1970 by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and restored for the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. You can visit the home today.
Image above: Mansion House Hospital photo by Andrew J. Russell, 1861-5. Courtesy Library of Congress.
The Home - John Carlyle and wife Sarah Fairfax built the resplendent home in 1753, occupied it on August 1, and birthed their first child the same night. Today, the home is run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and tells the story of the Carlyles, the Civil War Greens, and Old Town Alexandria from the mid-18th century to today.
The Garden - A great place to take lunch or just spend an idle moment, this 3/4 acre green space in the center of Old Town Alexandria is appointed with plants, walks, and benches consistent with the time of John Carlyle.
Tours of the Carlyle House are given on the hour and half hour.
How Much to VisitAdults $5.00, Children 5-12 $3.00, Under 5, free. Three site Alexandria Ticket Book (Tricorn and Market Square) Adults $12.00, Children 5-12 $8.00, Under 5, free. Fees subject to change without notice.
Hours OpenCarlyle House is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Sundays open at noon). The home can be rented for special occasions.
Where Is It LocatedThe Carlyle House is located at 121 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, situated in Old Town Alexandria across from City Hall. If you're in Washington, D.C., say the National Mall, take Madison Drive NW to U.S. 1 South/14th Street NW to George Washington Memorial Parkway, South. Take the Queen Street exit in Alexandria east to Fairfax Steet in Old Alexandria. From the National Mall, it's 7.5 miles and takes approximately 16 minutes, depending on the traffic. There may be quicker ways to get there via other local routes. Check your favorite map program for details. There is metered parking and garage parking in Old Town Alexandria.
Website - Carlyle House Historic Park
Website - PBS Mercy Street
Alexandria Historic Sites
So what else is there to do in Alexandria, Virginia? Plenty. Old Town Alexandria is a treat, with history of Colonial America and its conflicts since around every street corner. You can take a free trolley ride. Explore the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Christ Church, Fort Ward, Alexandria Black History Museum, and more. Not far from Old Town, nine miles south, is Mount Vernon, too, if you've never been.