National Geographic : 1953 Jan
Across the Potomac from Washington It was Gen. Henry Lee who first used the now famous phrase in regard to Washington, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." The two Lee houses and the Hallowell School are close to Christ Church, and all three houses are in a good state of preserva tion. Almost across the street from the home of the youthful Lee is the present home of John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers. The Boy Who Made the Eagle Scream Almost every old building in Alexandria has its story. A local historian pointed out one such structure near the city's main inter section, and told me: "Up in that window, when Lafayette visited Alexandria, a small boy had a job which should have been the envy of every other boy. A triumphal arch stood at the intersection, and on top of it was fastened a live eagle. A chain extended from the eagle's leg to the boy in the window, and as Lafayette passed under the arch the boy pulled the chain to make the eagle scream." One of the most appealing of Alexandria's legends is that of the Female Stranger. Un fortunately, the only known facts are those in a long and touching epitaph in St. Paul's Episcopal Church burying ground at the end of Wilkes Street. It starts with the words, "To the Memory of a Female Stranger," and it goes on to relate that her "mortal suffering terminated" October 14, 1816, aged 23 years and 8 months, and that the tomb was erected by her disconsolate husband. From here on, unsupported tradition takes over. One version has it that she was of royal birth, had married a commoner, and, heavily veiled and accompanied by her husband, landed from a ship, went to Gadsby's Tavern, and died several weeks later. Alexandria was once a world port, but the railroads put an end to most of this phase of its existence. From the river the view of the rotting wharves, once so busy with the tobacco and later the wheat trade, is picturesque, even if pathetic. By far the most interesting ocean-going Q National Geographic Society Kodachrome by National Geographic Photographers Willard R. Culver and Donald McBain <- Bronze, Six-ton George Washington Wears Masonic Sash and Apron Washington, a Master Mason, wore such an apron when he laid the cornerstone of the National Capitol. His statue, unveiled in 1950, stands in the 333-foot high Masonic memorial erected to him in Alexandria. C. Philip Heishley (left) is secretary of the Alexan dria-Washington Lodge No. 22, Ancient Free and Ac cepted Masons. "People often shake my hand," he reports, "thinking I am Harry S. Truman." ships which still visit Alexandria are those from mainland Canada and Nova Scotia and New foundland, Finland, and Sweden laden with newsprint for the Washington newspapers. But Alexandria today is one of the great transportation centers of the Nation, despite the decline of Potomac River shipping. Here daily hundreds of cars of fresh vegetables and fruit, destined to feed New York and other large coastal cities, are "classified," or rerouted, and serviced on their railroad trip north from the Southeastern States (page 22). The yards are owned by the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad, which operates the only direct railroad between Washington and Richmond. Though it car ries the trains of other lines over its tracks, it is the main railroad artery, the highly stra tegic link between North and South along the Coastal Plain. This short railroad is controlled by six main railroad systems, although the State of Vir ginia has a substantial interest. Virginia in vested $275,000 in the company in 1835 and has received $6,000,000 in cash dividends and $1,500,000 in stock dividends. Despite intense highway competition, the company's transportation of freight and pas sengers has increased substantially. It car ried 9/2 million tons of freight in 1951. The Vanishing Wilderness Three miles northwest of downtown Alex andria, on a high ridge in a 65-acre tract of beautiful oak trees, is the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia, for a cen tury and a quarter a powerful influence in the life of that church. Ten years ago it was literally in the country, and at an earlier date it was referred to as in "the wilderness." One of the older faculty houses is still known as "the Wilderness." Now it is almost completely surrounded by shopping centers and great apartment cities. In fact, nearly half the student body, the married ones, live in near-by Parkfairfax. The students themselves are the most in teresting thing about the "Hill," as it is fa miliarly known. Their average age is 27, but they range up to 56; several have married children, and one has grandchildren. Among the students are former stockbrokers, lawyers, undertakers, carpenters, ranchers, and musi cians. One flew 30 missions over Germany in World War II, and others served in the Pacific. The hill is a stabilizing force, with new people and new developments revolving around it like a kaleidoscope. This and other oases still exist across the Potomac from Washington, but daily they become harder to find as the world's most im portant capital overflows into near-by Virginia.