• Discovering Alexandria
    New Television Documentary
     
     
    Enjoying WETA's new documentary on WETA Television? Learn more about Alexandria's rich history here on the blog!
  • Five African American students are escorted from Alexandria Library, August 21, 1939. (Source: Wikipedia)
    Alexandria History
     
     
    In 1939, the Alexandria Library was the site of what many believe to be the first sit-in protesting segregation in American history.
  • Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington
    Alexandria History
     
     
    200 years after George Washington was born, high society in Alexandria recreated his last birthday party with impressive -- if also pretentious -- accuracy.
  • Charles Lindbergh at Lambert Field in 1923. (Source: Library of Congress)
    It Happened Here
     
     
    Few events in Washington's history were as colorful as the city's fête of Charles Lindbergh in 1927 on the heels of his record-setting trans-Atlantic flight.
  • Torpedo Factory in 1922. (Source: Library of Congress)
    Local Landmark
     
     
    Alexandria's Torpedo Factory
    Before becoming an art center, Alexandria's Torpedo Factory manufactured weapons for Second World War... but not all of the torpedos worked as hoped.
  • The Robert Portner Brewing Company's main brewery at St. Asaph & Pendelton Streets in Alexandria. Known as the "Tivoli" Brewery, it operated from 1869 until 1916. Photo courtesy of the Portner Brewhouse.
    Robert Portner Brewing Company
     
     
    From the closing years of the Civil War until prohibition, the Robert Portner Brewing Company of Alexandria, Virginia was the leading brewery and distributor in the southeastern United States.
Photograph of the Soviet Embassy (Source: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey)

A Thwarted Protest at the Soviet Embassy

On August 24, 1973, about 20 D.C. Jewish school children gathered around the Soviet Embassy holding onto basketballs. It was around noon, and they were getting ready to bounce the balls just loud enough for Soviet officials to hear. But they weren't there to play; they were there to stage a political protest.

Books You Should Read: Alexander Shepherd Biography by John Richardson

For John Richardson, Washington’s influential territorial governor, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd, has been a source of fascination for over 30 years, since the author moved into D.C.’s Shepherd Park neighborhood. Balancing this curiosity with a day job in the CIA and stints overseas meant that progress on the book was slower than Richardson intended. But, the result of his labors is worth the wait for local history enthusiasts. Richardson’s recently published biography, Alexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital (Ohio University Press, 2016) is a thoroughly researched and well written study of a man who, despite his enormous impact on the District of Columbia, has not gotten the attention he deserves from scholars. Check out our video with the author!

Filene Center in 1980. (Source: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Wolf Trap Captures the Hearts of the DMV

Today, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is a mainstay of Washington, D.C.’s cultural life. The park’s large outdoor auditorium and beautiful green space play host to a variety of performers. However, 50 years ago, some politicians questioned whether it was a wise decision for the government to accept the land gift from Catherine Filene Shouse and build the performing arts center.

Postcard depicting Tomb of Female Stanger (Credi: By Boston Public Library - Tomb of a female stranger, Alexandria, Virginia, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41983533)

The Female Stranger of Alexandria

Two hundred years ago, an unknown woman breathed her last in room 8 of Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria. Her husband prepared her body for death in secret and sealed her coffin personally. After seeing that she was placed in a local graveyard, he vanished. It’s the sort of story that would condemn a person to be lost to history, but the circumstances surrounding this woman’s death and interment sparked centuries of questions and outlandish theories. Even now, no one alive knows her name. She remains the Female Stranger of Alexandria.

1884: The Year of Two Nationals

1888 Washington Nationals Baseball Club (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the years, Washington, D.C. has been home to numerous professional baseball teams, very few of them with winning records. But, 1884 might take the cake for weirdness. That year, the nation's capital boasted two separate teams called the Washington Nationals. They finished a combined 59-116.

Elizabeth Smith Friedman Photograph (Source: National Security Administration)

Elizebeth Friedman: Coast Guard Code Breaker

By the end of her life, Elizebeth Smith Friedman was renowned for her work deciphering codes from civilian criminals. She cracked the codes that sent members of what one prosecutor called “the most powerful international smuggling syndicate in existence” to jail, took down a Vancouver opium ring, and caught a World War II Japanese spy.

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