This beautiful Georgian mansion stands proud in downtown Alexandria, dominating the area’s landscape since the very beginnings of this city. Shortly after its construction was finished, the Carlyle House was already a center of the Alexandrian social, economic, and political life and has remained an important element of the city ever since.
In 1749, Alexandria was a brand-new city that needed inhabitants,
an auction was held to sell lots of land. Scottish merchant and Alexandria
founder John Carlyle bought two of the most expensive lots, which were located
between the Potomac River and Market Square. This location was ideal for his
business activities, as it granted easy access to both customers and trade
routes. Construction began in 1751, and
Carlyle and his wife moved into the finished house in 1753.
Shortly afterwards, General Edward Braddock chose the
Carlyle House to become his headquarters during the French and Indian War.
General Braddock held multiple meetings in the Carlyle House, and the most
famous one, known as the Congress of Alexandria, took place in 15 April 1755. In
this meeting, the governors of five colonies met to design a military strategy
and request funding from the British Parliament in order to fight the ongoing
war. The Congress of Alexandria holds a special place in American history, as
it is considered the beginning of the tensions between the colonies and Britain
over taxation issues.
By the mid-19th century the estate had changed
hands, and the new owner, James Green, thoroughly renovated the Carlyle House.
One of the main changes was the construction of a hotel in front of the house,
which became one of the best hotels in the East Coast. The exclusive Manson House
Hotel was turned into a hospital for Union soldiers during the Civil War, after
the Union occupied Alexandria.
After Green’s death in 1880, the site changed hands often
and was given multiples uses: an apartment building in the early 1900s, a
museum during World War I, etc. It wasn’t until 1970 when the Northern
Virginia Regional Park Authority took over the estate, torn down the hotel, thoroughly
restored the Carlyle House, and opened it to the public in 1976.