Alexandria Walking Tour

On Monday, April 13, Pamela Cressey, who teaches Historical Archaeology at George Washington University, asked me to join her class as she took them on an abbreviated tour to show them the places they have studied in class. We met on a beautiful spring afternoon at the King Street Metro Station and headed southeast to Duke Street. First stops" Bruin's--one of the "inspirations" for Uncle Tom's Cabin--and Franklin & Armfield slave pens. Both establishments were flourishing mid-19th century businesses that dealt in the purchase and sale of humans. Alongside Franklin & Armfield (sold and called Price Birch and Co. by 1861), the Union built a hospital for African American soldiers and civilians, called L'Ouverture Hospital, in 1864 and operated for the next several years before it was torn down.

Julia Wilbur often visited these sites.

Our last stop was Alexandria National Cemetery, the military cemetery built in 1863. In a future blog post, I will talk more about the cemetery, including an ultimately successful petition by L'Ouverture patients in late 1864 to demand that black soldiers be buried there.

Pam (Alexandria's now-retired City Archaeologist) had assigned her students a project to research some of the USCT through hospital and pension records. Then they fanned out in the cemetery to search for the gravestone of "their" soldiers.

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Cemetery2
Cemetery1
Cemetery1
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Mercy House Casting Call

The room had about a dozen iron bedsteads and a few men were building some kind of bunk or shelving for the show. Mercy House is the upcoming PBS series that takes place in Civil War Alexandria, using Mansion House Hospital as its focus. Filming is scheduled for later this month through June in Richmond. At this point, the production company is using a large warehouse-type building on the outskirts of Richmond, where they held a casting call for extras on April 2.

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IMG_0870

I couldn't resist.

In greatest demand: thin young men with no tattoos and amputees. A secondary need: doctors, nurses, and orderlies who, presumably, wouldn't be totally flummoxed by the medical aspect, even if 150 years old. Middle-aged white women? not so much.

When I got there a little before 4 pm (supposedly, open hours between 4 and 8), a line had already formed and they had begun the call. We watched some men build some kind of bunk or shelf; over on the other side were a dozen or so metal bedsteads.

Two women took measurements (very important, as people need to fit already obtained costumes), then someone, possibly the extras casting director, took a head shots. We held a white board with our assigned number (mine was #21).

A few of the people (yes, mostly young thin men, although a few others, too) looked so convincing, even in their 2015 clothes, that I won't be surprised if I see them in the background of a few scenes when the show airs in 2016.

As for me? Better that I am a writer and not an actor. The director didn't even bother with a profile shot, nor ask my availability, as he did with some others before me in line.

Still, if I get the call....

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TV Topic: Civil War Alexandria!

Just learned the following: PBS has commissioned at least a six-part series, based on an abolitionist and a "secesh" in Alexandria. 

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Discovering Alexandria

WETA, the local PBS station, broadcast Discovering Alexandria, its 90-minute (that is, 2 hours, with breaks for pledges) documentary on the history of Alexandria, VA, from its early years through the end of the 1800s.

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