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Walk where Washington walked, dine where the president dined

October, 2010

Though George Washington may have slept in a lot of places, he lived most of his adult life in Alexandria, Va., where he maintained a townhouse at 508 Cameron St. What stands there today is a replica of his 1769 home, and it is someone’s private residence.

While he lived here, he set up the Friendship Fire Co., acted as vestryman at Christ Church Parish and was a mason of Lodge No. 22, becoming its first Worshipful Master in 1788. He also won an arduous war for independence and spent some years as the first president of the United States.

At the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, founded in 1792 by Edward Stabler, you can see a note that Martha Washington wrote to Stabler concerning George’s ailments. The apothecary remained in the same family for 141 years until 1933, when the Depression forced them to close. They chose to simply lock the door, and inadvertently preserved history.

Fortunately, more than 8,000 items, including old account books, prescriptions, early medical wares, apothecary containers, documents and journals remained in their original drawers, providing a living history of the city. Everything you see now is just about the same as Washington, James Monroe and Robert E. Lee saw them. See if you can find the scarificators – spring-loaded blades for blood letting.

Washington, John Adams and son John Quincy, James Madison, James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette all visited Gadsby’s Tavern. You can visit and eat there, too. The tavern sat on the main stagecoach route between Boston and Williamsburg.

George Washington was the first worhipful Master of mason Lodge No. 22 Photo: Sandra Phillips and Stan Posner

For almost 100 years, the tavern was the centre of political, business and social life. It hosted everything from dances and theatrical musical performances to assemblies; merchants came in to sell wares and traveling dentists treated patients. The Washingtons attended the Birthnight Ball in his honour in 1798 and 1799. Thomas Jefferson had an inaugural banquet here. Nowadays, it is an early American restaurant (have Washington’s favourite, duck) and offers tours.

You can stay at the Hampton Inn Alexandria Old Town Area South. Not only does it offer a free hot breakfast bar, but we love the free 24-hour shuttle service to Old Town, Reagan airport and the Washington, D.C., metro. Just like a chauffeur – call when you’re ready and “Jeeves” picks you up.

When you go up the staircase at the Alexandria Visitor’s Centre, don’t be surprised if the ghost of Mr. Ramsay passes you. He and other spectres may be encountered in the nightly ghost walks, or you can join spook-free walking tours, scavenger hunts or just ask for friendly advice. Pick up the “Proclamation of the Mayor of the City of Alexandria,” proclaiming you an honorary citizen for the day, the benefits of which include 24 hours of free parking. There’s a free trolley from the King St. metro station to the waterfront. On Saturdays (5:30-10:30am), visit the nation’s oldest (since 1753) farmer’s market, in Market Square, where Washington sold produce. April-Dec. daily 9am-8pm; Jan.-March 10am-5pm. 221 King St., 800-388-9119 or 703-746-3301.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. April-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun.-Mon. 1pm-5pm; Nov.- March, Wed.-Sat. 11am-4pm, Sun. 1pm-4pm. 105 S. Fairfax. apothecary, 703-838-3852.

Gadsby’s Tavern. April-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun., Mon. 1pm-4pm; Nov.-March, Wed.-Sat. 11am-4pm, Sun. 1pm-4pm. 134 & 138 N. Royal St., 703-838-424

2. Hampton Inn, 5821 Richmond Hwy. 800-Hampton, 703-329-1400.



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