National Geographic : 1953 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine Church on the Sunday nearest Washington's birthday and worship in Washington's pew. Among Alexandria's early settlers were many Scottish merchants, one of whom, John Carlyle, built himself a fine mansion on the riverbank, and married into the wealthy and powerful Fairfax family. In this house Gen. Edward Braddock made his headquarters before marching to his tragic defeat at Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh).* Staunchly built on the foundations of what is believed to have been an old fort, the Car lyle House remains intact and open to visitors. But its once lovely view of the river is no more, nor can it be seen from the town side, since it is not only hidden but practically enclosed by a ring of buildings. Entrance is through an adjoining apartment building. Facing Carlyle House across old Market Square is Gadsby's Tavern, one of 34 inns which flourished during Alexandria's greatness as a seaport. In its time it offered the ulti mate in comfort and elegance, and was among the most famous of all colonial, revolutionary, or post-revolutionary taverns (page 18). Alexandria is of especial interest to mem bers of the Masonic Fraternity, not only be cause George Washington was the first Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, but because of the colossal George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which is nearing completion on a hill a mile west of the old town of Alexandria (pages 20 and 32). Some 3,500,000 Masons have contributed to the erection of the huge memorial, the exterior of which is practically complete. It stands on Shooters Hill, which was once con sidered as a site for the Nation's Capital. Clock Marks Washington's Death The memorial is 333 feet high. Stark, bold, and massive, it is conspicuous to the traveler no matter from what direction he approaches Alexandria. It contains a replica of the first permanent home of the Alexandria lodge, with many val uable Washington relics and paintings. One of the most interesting of these is the William Williams portrait of Washington, a very dif ferent conception from most of his portraits. It was commissioned by the Alexandria lodge, who told the artist, "Paint him as he is." It is less flattering than many likenesses, and brings out facial blemishes shown in modified form, if at all, by other artists. Among the many relics is Washington's bedchamber clock, which Dr. Elisha C. Dick, one of the attending physicians, stopped at the moment of death, 10:20 p. m., where its hands remain today. Here also are the Masonic apron and trowel Washington used to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793.f A larger room occupied by Lodge 22 con tains an Oriental rug, presented to the memo rial in 1948 by Brother Sarkis H. Nahigian. The donor believed the rug to be the largest of its kind in the world; he valued it at more than a million dollars. It displays unexpected qualities of color under artificial light. Mr. Nahigian came to this country as a youth. The rug was given in appreciation of the opportunities he had found in his adopted land. The memorial is open to all visitors, whether Masons or not. The great entrance hall is the Washington memorial room; there are a large auditorium of Greek amphitheater style, dining room, and Shrine museum rooms with dioramas of crippled children's hospitals. Elevators Run on a Slant Because of the building's structural peculi arities, the two elevators will travel up slant ing shafts, 7/2 degrees off center, with the two shafts approaching one another very closely at the top floor. These will be the only high-speed elevators operating on an angle known to exist in the world; the Eiffel Tower elevators in Paris operate on an angle but at slow speed. Since many of Alexandria's founders were Scottish merchants, it is only natural that one of the city's oldest buildings is the Presby terian Meeting House, beautiful in its func tional simplicity. Many of Washington's friends, associates, and pallbearers are buried here. More than a century ago the remains of a Revolutionary soldier, buried in an ammunition box, were found in the yard, probably the first of the unknown soldiers of all our wars. The inscrip tion on his monument, erected 103 years after the body was found, refers to him as a soldier "known but to God." Alexandria was the home town not only of General Washington but of that great hero and symbol of the South, Robert E. Lee. For a time Lee attended Alexandria Academy, of which General Washington had been a trustee and to which he was a generous donor. Later young Lee was prepared for West Point by a Quaker, Benjamin Hallowell, who conducted a school next door to the home of the boy and his widowed mother, 607 Oronoco Street. Lee's father, the Revolutionary hero Gen. Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee, had pre viously lived a few blocks away at 611 Cam eron Street. * See "The Travels of George Washington," by Wil liam Joseph Showalter, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, January, 1932. t See "U. S. Capitol, Citadel of Democracy," by Lonnelle Aikman, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1952.