The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce With more than 800 member businesses ranging from one-of-a-kind small businesses to leading global organizations, The Chamber ALX ensures a thriving future for Alexandria and welcomes all who do business here.

In late 1906, a group of Alexandria's business leaders came together with the idea of forming an organization to assure business standards, to work toward better business conditions and to serve as an active voice in framing public policies affecting the business community. That organization was called the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and pioneered a new form of business representation, advocacy and service. The following year the Alexandria Chamber went on to become a founding member of the newly organized United States Chamber of Commerce. W.A. Smoot, Jr. served as the first president of the Alexandria Chamber with the mission of providing a voice for those engaged in business. The Alexandria Chamber also serves as a catalyst for registering and mobilizing business opinion for the betterment of the community. There have been many changes over the years, however, our fundamental concept and mission has remained unchanged. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization dedicated to the advocacy of business interests. The Chamber has played a key leadership role by: lobbying to keep Alexandria's tax rates among the lowest in Northern Virginia; promoting public parking opportunities in the City's historic district; supporting the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project; Launching the Alexandria Education Partnership to ensure a bright future for Alexandria's youth; and promoting quality commercial development to ensure Alexandria's economic stability for years to come. Today, the City of Alexandria is thriving and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce continues to provide vital services to its members and takes the lead in striving to maintain the balance of high quality of life and economic vitality.

Operating as usual

Operation Tohidu Overview

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s veteran community. Thank you to National Industries for the Blind, Grant Thornton US & Cotton & Company LLP for their continued support of Salute to Veterans!

Meet David Blackledge, Executive Vice President of Melwood Veterans Services (MVS)!
U.S. Army (37 years in Active & Reserve Components)
Commanding General of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command, Fort Bragg
Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Reserve Affairs at U.S. Army Pentagon
Commanding General of the 351st Civil Affairs Task Force, Baghdad Iraq
Deployments in Operation Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom
Two-time Purple Heart recipient

What motivated you to join the military?
My father was a career Army Officer and I grew up as an “Army Brat”. Although it was disruptive to move every couple of years, I benefitted greatly from living all around the U.S. and in several foreign countries. I cannot remember ever wanting to be anything other than a soldier.

Tell us about Melwood.
Melwood is a nonprofit agency with more than 1,600 employees, nearly 1,000 of whom have a disability, or as we say, “differing ability.” For more than 57 years, we’ve served our communities through job training and placement, day services, inclusive summer camps, healing retreats for injured veterans, as well as direct employment through our more than 60 federal contracts in the greater Washington, DC area.

Melwood Veterans Services, or MVS, is a nonprofit organization within the Melwood family. Founded in 2014, MVS has two primary programs. First, our VetsReady2Work program helps veterans access job training, placement, and community reintegration services. Second is our signature program, Operation Tohidu, that offers healing retreats for veterans.

What is Melwood’s Operation Tohidu?
The retreats fall under our Operation Tohidu program. “Tohidu” is a Cherokee term for “peace of mind, body, and spirit”. The retreats are tailored for veterans and active duty military with service-related traumas such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury. We are also one of the only programs in the nation with retreats specifically designed for survivors of military sexual trauma. Since 2014, Operation Tohidu has served more than 1,200 veterans and counting.

What is the impact of Operation Tohidu?
Veterans bring a wealth of experience and talent to our communities and workplaces. They have a tremendous work ethic and are mission oriented. They tend to have a broader perspective and are very civic-minded.

What else does MVS do for the veteran community?
MVS offers a variety of services to our Nation’s warfighters. Through the 501(C) (3) non-profit service organization, veterans seeking assistance with employment, career development and community reintegration can find the resources and support they need to thrive both in their professional and personal lives. MVS also provides corporate leadership training on best practices for hiring and retaining veterans with differing abilities in the workforce. Melwood’s longstanding history of employing and training veterans with physical, behavioral, or other and service-related challenges revealed a gap in employment-related services geared towards wounded warfighters in the community. Melwood human resources and vocational support services staff work in partnership with MVS to implement appropriate accommodations for veterans, living with post-traumatic stress or other behavioral or physical challenges.

Share with us a memorable moment or experience from the retreats.
Wow, there are so many! One that comes to mind is a veteran that came to our retreat three years ago feeling totally broken, alone, and having no sense of purpose now that she was out of the military. I was really worried that she was not ready for the Tohidu experience - our retreats are intense, both mentally and physically. We help the warriors move past their service-related traumas and move forward in their lives with hope and positivity. Nevertheless, she stuck it out, did the work, and totally turned her life around. It’s been amazing to follow her transformation. She is now an optimistic person who has overcome some major setbacks. Her smile lights up the room!

Operation Tohidu® is a free, 5-day retreat program provided by Melwood Veterans Services. It is for veterans or service members that have been diagnosed with...

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s vetera...

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s
veteran community.
Thank you to National Industries for the Blind, Grant Thornton &
Cotton & Company LLP for their continued support of Salute to Veterans!

Meet Rachele Cooper, CEO & Founder at Aptive Resources!

What motivated you to join the military?
My father was a Naval Aviator and has long been an inspiration to me. After I finished my degree in aerospace engineering, it seemed natural to follow his footsteps to the Navy.

What is Aptive Resources?
Aptive is a federal consulting firm that harnesses creativity, technology and culture to connect people and systems to make a positive impact on our communities. Our employees share that sense of purpose and provide professional services in health, technology, marketing and business transformation.

Have any experiences or training from the military impacted how you run Aptive Resources?
I reported to active duty two days before 9/11 happened. It became clear that my time in the Navy was going to be very mission driven. That idea of mission has carried over into my personal and professional life. At its core, Aptive is mission driven. Part of that mission is supporting Veterans, Service members, military spouses and others, just as it was when I was in the Navy. We have two corporate programs to bolster support of these populations within the company as well as in our community.

The Aptive VETS program prioritizes hiring of Veterans and working with them to transition into a business environment. The program includes Veteran-friendly benefits such as a Tricare supplement, Veteran relocation stipend and transition-related training opportunities. More than 20% of our staff are Veterans, transitioning military members, reservists, National Guard members and/or military spouses.

Aptive Cares is a community engagement program that supports Veterans and other groups. Through it, staff support Carpenter’s Shelter, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, Wreaths Across America, NAACP and Honor Flight, among others.

What is your favorite thing to do in Alexandria?
There are so many to choose from! Among my favorites are the parades that are held in Old Town, including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the George Washington Birthday Parade and the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. These parades bring a real sense of community to Old Town. It’s wonderful to see Old Town businesses and residents both walk in the parades and line the streets to cheer participants on. The atmosphere is always festive and fun and afterwards it’s wonderful to grab a bite to eat or shop in the many small business run establishments.

Fly Minds 2019

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s
veteran community. Thank you to National Industries for the Blind, Grant Thornton US & Cotton & Company LLP for their continued support of Salute to Veterans!

Meet Yasmeen Neal, Founder of Fly Minds!
U.S. Army (20 years)
Deployment Tour in Kuwait with Army Central Command
Supported the development of resources, personnel, and training requirements for the Army National Guard in 54 States and Territories
Commanded students at the Patriot Academy

What motivated you to join the military?
I wanted to leave home! At 18 I was ready to experience more from life. There were recruiters at my school who would exercise with us and they informed me of the opportunities in the military. Education was big for my parents so we negotiated I would join the Reserves, which offered funds for school with an enlistment. While attending University of Florida I learned about the ROTC program and joined to become an officer. Ironically, after joining is when I learned so much about all our military forces and the sacrifices being made by so many.

Tell us about Fly Minds?
Fly Minds is a youth development non-profit (501c3) founded in 2016. It inspires and exposes youth from underserved communities to science technology, engineering and math (STEM). Fly Minds has engaged with over 100 youth through various platforms; STEM fairs, summer camps and Fall robotics teams. All programs are free for participants, aimed to close the equity gap using structured education programs and exposure to other youth development opportunities.
The first initiative is STEM focused due to the disparities poor and minorities face with the lack of exposure to relevant STEM education. The Fly Minds STEM program includes community service, an annual STEM fair, and a 6-week robotics introductory program. Fly Minds youth have participated in community service events such as laying wreaths at the Arlington National Cemetery and food distribution at a senior living facility over the past 2 years.

How has the military impacted your life?
We spent most of our time working so there was a major impact on my development as an adult. Specifically, organizational skills, discipline, consistently adhering to a routine allows me to be efficient with my time. Fitness is definitely important. As a 41 year-old woman I feel amazing physically and I attribute that to the annual fitness requirements. My goal is always to perform at the highest of the requirements, so I have to train properly to do so. The military also has an amazing group of people who are also serving. When you are spending most of your days at work it’s nice to know the people you work with are like an extended family who support you and vice versa.

What is your favorite thing to do in Alexandria?
I absolutely love the easy access to trails. I mostly run / cycle on them. My favorite place to start my trail activity is Jones Point Park…when I discovered this park it was by accident. It was like a gem in the city – a basketball court and open space underneath the bridge; people now use the open space due to COVID for organized outdoor small group work outs or individual workouts/skating and kids also ride their bikes under the bridge. On top of the activities there’s so much history in one location; including African American history. There’s the Contraband and Freedmens Cemetery & Memorial. Also, there’s a marker highlighting historical points about Benjamin Banneker. I learned Benjamin Banneker was a scientist and mathematician who played a major role surveying the area and in the mapping of the DMV.

Fly Minds established 2016 Web: FB: @flyminds2016 Email: [email protected] Donate: Donate: Cashapp - $flyminds2016

presented by Beyer Subaruphotos by Jason Dixson Photography

presented by Beyer Subaru
photos by Jason Dixson Photography

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s vetera...

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s
veteran community. Thank you to National Industries for the Blind, Grant Thornton & Cotton & Company LLP for their continued support of Salute to Veterans!

Learn about The Art League’s IMPArt Program
Program founded by The Art League, a visual parts nonprofit
Stands for Injured Military Personnel + art
Highlighted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Invictus Games
Featured by ABC News and the National Endowment of the Arts

What is IMPArt?
IMPart connects recent Injured Military Personnel with visual arts experiences created for personal enrichment, relaxed social engagement, the improvement and redevelopment of fine motor skills, and expressive catharsis. One day each week, veterans are welcomed to The Art League’s Madison Annex facility and offered individualized instruction and creative attention. The project also includes off-site multi-media courses, at the USO Warrior and Family Center on Fort Belvoir Military Base, for in-treatment PTSD patients at Ft. Belvoir Hospital.

What is the mission of the Art League?
The Art League is a visual art nonprofit that nurtures the artist through a school, art gallery, and community outreach programs.

How did the IMPArt program start?
The program started 2011 when someone shared at an Art League opening that their art classes and participation in art shows helped them during cancer treatments. The Art League discovered this to be a universal feeling among its program participants and decided to start a program to aid returning injured military personnel. Ceramics Department Chair Blair Meerfeld took the helm and started the ceramics program.

Why is this program a fit for Alexandria?
The Art League is in a physical space, sitting between Walter Reid and Fort Belvoir. They have a first-row seat to what people are going through across the country when they’re coming back. Especially those who are dealing with complex injuries. Most of the injuries of who are walking through the door are Traumatic Brian Injuries.

What is the impact of the IMPArt program?
These experiences have positive and profound individual impact. One of the many beauties is that many of these individuals are undergoing a lot of therapy in the morning and they can come to the Art League, leave the base, and have lunch and meet with their friends. The environment is different than the one they are traditionally immersed. They get involved with a program or a project, they enjoy it, and they want to come back next week. It allows them a place to be that is safe, it’s their room.

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s vetera...

This week The Chamber ALX is excited to highlight veteran owned businesses and businesses supporting Alexandria’s
veteran community.

Thank you to National Industries for the Blind, Grant Thornton &
Cotton & Company LLP for their continued support of Salute to Veterans!

Meet Rick Myllenbeck, owner of Sonoma Cellar!
U.S. Navy & Navy Reserve – Aviation & Naval Intelligence (42 years)
Deployment Tours in Iraq & Afghanistan
Served as Commanding Officer and Director of Reserve Intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet
Retired as Navy Captain (O-6)
Amassed 3,000 flight hours in military aircraft

What motivated you to join the military?
I had just turned 18-years old and it was time to seize the moment and begin my adult life journey. I had a great sense of curiosity and adventure and was motivated by learning new things and experiencing as much as possible as quickly as possible. I wanted to fly military aircraft.

What is Sonoma Cellar?
Sonoma Cellar is a California-inspired wine tasting room and bistro restaurant. My wife, Elizabeth, and I started the restaurant five years ago to share our passion for wine with the community. It has been our goal to share an American-centric wine experience in a new and different way in the metro Washington, D.C. area, and to provide a new restaurant/ bistro/wine tasting experience that is casual, relaxed, energetic, fun and promotes goodness, love and new friendships.

We have been very successful in this endeavor with top food ratings, a wine list that is listed on Open Table’s Top 10 Most Notable Wine Lists in Metro D.C., and a very happy clientele. Our back-patio area is a terrific spot for gatherings, date night or to just chill and read a book. Our special events – virtual wine tastings, book club, wine classes – are very popular and help those who are interested in learning more about the wine experience.

How have your experiences in the military impacted how you run Sonoma Cellar?
As we were writing our business plan, we were very clear in setting our goals, objectives, mission, credo, principles and capturing our values. I learned the importance of these essential elements from my experience in the military. Who can argue with the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment? Our core values at Sonoma Cellar include Respect, Honesty, Integrity, Courage, Responsibility, Quality and Positivity.

We value our guests and we value our team, and to that end, we do everything we can to take good care of them. The focus on the end-result: ‘Giving our guests a great experience,’ is our key goal and source of motivation. Supporting, encouraging and mentoring our team is also an essential element, the importance of which I learned in the military. We constantly engage with our team members, strongly encourage education and professional development (three of our employees are pursuing their Level 2 Sommelier certifications) and share with them our standards and expectations for cleanliness, tidiness, service, presentation and guest relations.

What is your favorite thing to do in Alexandria?
Eat at Sonoma Cellar, of course! LOL! Seriously, walking around Old Town is fantastic and of course taking advantage of the bike lanes and trails is terrific! We love the restaurants, merchants, and the diversity of activities Alexandria provides.

The events and activities are also a unique feature of the city and I must admit that I really enjoyed the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style last year and look forward to the one next year (May 16, 2021). It also helps that I am the chairman of that event.

How does your military experience affect your life today?
There is no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the Navy and the adventure and opportunities it provided. During my career, I traveled around the world, have seen many things in far-away places, and have had experiences not readily available to others. I am eternally grateful for that and feel gifted by all the wonderful, heroic people I have met along the way – and continue to meet every day. The military is a wonderful, tight-knit family and I am honored to be a part of that.


333 N. Fairfax Street, Ste 302
Alexandria, VA

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While we welcome member contributions about Chamber activities to this site, we remind all our members that posts should be of a respectful and collegial nature, in the spirit of our organization. The Chamber’s mission is to foster a robust business environment in the City of Alexandria and the region. In support of this mission, we strive to be diverse, inclusive and respectful of the broad spectrum of political, religious and social views of all businesses and residents. We reserve the right to delete posts that to not conform to this basic tenet of decorum.

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We received this very nice card from for our Fed. Government Shut Down Special. We at Diya aim to be your "Neighborhood Indian" place, we are very glad that we were able to help the community around us! Please let us know if there are any future opportunities to help lift up our neighbors with food and hospitality.
We're so excited to have Brooklyn Mack, formerly of Washington Ballet, join Metropolitan School of the Arts Nutcracker! Don't miss this spectacular international principle guest dancer! Dec. 8/9 in Alexandria at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Center. #nutcracker
Dear The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce community – We thought you might be interested in our Leadership Coaching for Organizational Well-Being program at George Mason University. The program, which includes certification from the International Coach Federation, is designed for professionals who want to bring positive change to their careers and organizations. Learn more and read our coaching whitepaper here:
Don’t miss Broadway Dance Center elite teachers at Metropolitan School of the Arts' Master Dance Class weekend, Sept. 22 & 23 in Alexandria. Open to the public! Got dance? Join us!
Congrats to our Metropolitan School of the Arts seniors--heading to elite college performing arts programs like Pace and Elon Universities! Keeping dancing!
So excited to celebrate #MetropolitanSchooloftheArts Academy's 5-year anniversary! Dancers, singers, actors in the making!
Don't miss Metropolitan School of the Arts' Snow White Ballet on Sat, May 5 in Annandale! Celebrating Snow White's 80th anniversary! Tix only $15.
“Transforming the Lee Boyhood Home in Alexandria, Virginia into the Headquarters of an Interpretive Center and Urban Walking Trails on the Civil War” Various media sites reported at the end of March 2018 that the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee, at 614 Orinoco Street, in Alexandria, Virginia, is being sold by its private owners. The sale of the historic home of the Civil War general, educator, and pre-war head of West Point presents a unique opportunity to make Old Town Alexandria an even greater center of American history than it already is, as the hometown of George Washington, the Lees, and many other important figures and events in U.S. history. We propose, and ask interested parties to support, the purchase of the Lee Home, and transforming it into the headquarters of a city, state, and/or federally designated Interpretive Center, along with Urban Walking Trails, on the Civil War. Such a headquarters, visitors center and related trails would be a perfect complement to, and spur to, the expansion of Old Town Alexandria’s already rich array of events, locales, and personalities relating to America’s greatest saga, the Civil War, which speaks to the proud heritage of all Americans. The Lee Home was in the past a museum, and is time to return it to its traditional, historic status. The abode was the boyhood home of Robert Edward Lee, the former superintendant of the Federal Army’s West Point military academy, and important staff officer during the Mexican-American War, then the Confederate commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, and after the war the President of what became Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, VA. Across the street from the well-maintained private residence and grounds is the Lee-Fendall House, built by businessman Philip Kendall, a Lee relation. During the Civil War the Union Army, after taking control of the town, turned the house into a hospital, where surgeons performed the first successful blood transfusion. (And outside of which a later owner, United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis, was burned in effigy during World War II for staging labor strikes during that conflict.) Walking trails, along the lines of the self-guided Cultural Tourism walks in Washington, D.C., or Boston’s Freedom Trails, could be readily & fairly inexpensively constructed throughout Old Town. They would complement the historic markers the city has recently placed in Old Town, as well as the famed series of markers the state of Virginia has placed throughout the Commonwealth. There could be a multitude of trails, on different aspects of the war, such the Union Army, Confederate spies, African-American institutions, war-time medicine, and many other themes. The trails would be made up of attractive posters showing the trail map, explanatory text, and illustrations. Along with fostering interest in Alexandria’s history and scholarship on the war, the Center and trails would be a boon to the city’s economy by bolstering its growing tourism industry. -------------------- A brief outline of the historic places just on a major Old Town thoroughfare, Washington Street, just yards west of the Lee and Lee-Fendall homes, shows what a unique opportunity the area presents for exploring the Civil War. On the west side of Washington Street is the historic home of Edmund Lee, a backer of the American Colonization Society for free “men and women of color”, which led to the establishment of the African nation of Liberia. (Liberia’s capital city is Monrovia, named for one of the antebellum Presidents, James Monroe, who held inaugural festivities at Old Town’s Gadsby’s Tavern.) Within a block to the north is a vast, 1840s-era cotton mill (now condominiums), the perfect symbol of the antebellum South’s economy. Several blocks south on Washington St. is the stately Lloyd House. It became a schoolhouse for noted Quaker educator Benjamin Hallowell; one of his math students was the young Robert E. Lee, who went on to study engineering at West Point. Another prominent Alexandria Quaker family were the Janneys. John Janney ran the two state assemblies whereby Virginia decided against, and then for, seceding from the Union. (John Janney’s home is three blocks away.) Around the corner is the Kate Waller Barrett Library, where in 1939 a group of African-American men staged one of the first sit-down protests against “separate but equal” segregationism. Not far from where Mary Custis Lee--the elderly daughter of Robert E. Lee--had a similar, personal protest, in 1902, on one of the segregated trolley cars of the time. (The home of town heroine Kate Waller Barrett, who grew up on a post-bellum plantation and dedicated her life to public service, is several blocks to the southeast.) A block further south is the magnificent English country-style edifice, Christ Church, by the architect James Wren, designer of the eponymous church in Falls Church, Virginia, and descendent of Christopher Wren, architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Confederate soldiers who died in the city’s many war-time hospitals are buried in mounds by the Church entrance. In the Church itself is a commemoration of its most prominent member, Washington, who freed and educated all his slaves based in part on his experiences with black soldiers in the American Revolution. Robert E. Lee contributed a substantial sum of money to the Church. Across the street and a block north you’ll find a house of the Society of Odd Fellows, a fraternal order of black and other professionals formed after the conflict. One of whose members was the black architect George Seaton, whose mother was a servant of Martha Washington, who endowed a school on the site. Seaton served on the jury that presided over the trial of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. (Seaton’s own home is located a half a dozen blocks away.) Two blocks further south on Washington St. is the Appomattox statue, with its Confederate soldier meditating on the war and the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse by General Lee to General Ulysses S Grant. The bronze figure was sculpted by Czech immigrant Caspar Buberle, who created as well the elegant frieze of Union Army soldiers on the old Pension Building for Union Army veterans, in Washington, D.C., now the National Building Museum. Buberle was selected for that task by Union Army General Montgomery Miegs, designer of Arlington National Cemetery, originally laid out on the grounds of Lee’s Arlington House during the war. The Appomattox statue was unveiled in 1889 by Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee, and a former Confederate general, as well as a future Federal Army general of the Spanish-American War. This intersection at Washington St. and Duke St. is primed with poignant reminders of many facets of the Civil War. Next to the statue is the Lyceum, Alexandria’s history museum, and a speakers hall that featured such ante-bellum luminaries as John Quincy Adams, the President and congressman responsible for the successful Supreme Court defense of the escaped slaves from the Amistad ship. Half a block north is the attractive façade of the United Methodist Church which, reflecting the nation’s divisions, split into North and South denominations in the run-up to the War Between the States. Occupied as a stable by the Union Army, the federal government later paid the Church restitution. One block further south is the Beulah Baptist Church, one of the town’s initial African-American places of worship, and one of its first black schools, noted for the education of the free men and women fleeing, or emancipated from, slavery. Prominent African-American leaders such as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass visited it and other, extant black churches a few blocks to the south and west. Up the street from the Beulah Church is the Downtown Baptist Church, turned into a hospital where Alexandrian women were blocked by Union soldiers from bringing linen and food to wounded Confederate soldiers treated inside by Union doctors. Another block south of it is the Alexandria Academy, founded by George Washington as a free public school, for boys and girls, at the same time he endowed what became Washington and Lee University and George Washington University. Before the Civil War, children of James Madison and Lighthorse Harry Lee, the latter Washington’s cavalry commander and Robert E. Lee’s father, were educated there, as were groups of black children. During the Civil War, the Academy became a school and a hospital for freedmen. The amazingly rich Civil War heritage of Alexandria isn’t limited to Washington St. of course. Old Town and its environs boast scores of other sites. The heritage trails would connect all the sites, but in a compact area only several miles across. Several of the most prominent locales are: • The Carlyle Mansion, home to the Green family and a Union Army hospital that was the real-life locale of the “Mercy Street” PBS television series • The Marshall House hotel, now the site of the Alexandrian Hotel, where Union Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and pro-Southern hotel owner James W. Jackson killed each other in a firefight, over a Confederate flag that Jackson had unfurled at his hotel, thus becoming among the first fatalities of the war. • The unique “Bank of the Two States”, a grand merchant bank that hosted the twin, war-time governments of Union Virginia, as opposed to the Confederate state of Virginia, including the breakaway state of West Virginia. Confederate General John Mosby, later a U.S. ambassador in the Far East for President Grant, conducted secret war-time surveillance of the place. • The former publishing house of the Alexandria Gazette newspaper, burned by Union troops after its editorials backed the refusal of the reverend of a nearby church, designed by architect of the U.S. Capitol Benjamin Latrobe, to endorse “either President”, Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis, in his sermons. The fire-blackened walls are still visible, as is the fire house, across the street (now a private home), whose firemen attempted to douse the blaze. • Various sites associated with Harriet Jacobs, a enslaved woman of mixed heritage turned abolitionist, author, and college founder. Jacobs founded various charities and schools for escaped, “contraband” slaves and freedmen in war-torn and post-bellum Alexandria. • The grand Vowell-Smith House, Old Town’s second-largest house, and home of attorney Francis Smith. Smith successfully argued before the Supreme Court a case under which the federal government paid Robert E. Lee’s heirs compensation for the transformation of his Arlington House property into what became Arlington National Cemetery. -------------------- This notion for an interpretative visitors center and walking trails on Alexandria’s large role in the Civil War is a preliminary one. It is hoped this document will spur discussion and generate interest in this fascinating and educational topic. The next step may be to establish a group to attract interested parties and funds for the purchase of the Lee Home, and to begin planning its transformation into a Civil War museum and interpretative center, as well as the construction of themed walking trails in Old Town. If you or your organization is intrigued by this exciting, once-in-a century project of living history, kindly respond with interest and ideas. Together, we could transform Alexandria into one of the prime places in America--along with Gettysburg, Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.--on the exploration of the Civil War, America’s most enthralling saga! Respectfully yours, Edward P. Moser Historian, author, professional tour guide Alexandria, VA [email protected]