On the Virginia Side

At the Virginia end of the Wilson Bridge, on the southern edge of Old Town Alexandria, is the Contraband and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial. Alexandria was occupied by the Union during the Civil War and many slaves ran away to Alexandria. The official term for a not-legally-free runaway: contraband.

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The cemetery was started in 1864, on land confiscated from a Catholic Church next door, and by the time it closed in 1869, about 1800 African American were buried there. After that, as so often seems to be the story of African American cemeteries, it was forgotten. Buildings — including a gas station that I remember well — were raised on top of it.

In the 1980s, research conducted in conjunction with the rebuilding of the Wilson Bridge showed that there had once been a cemetery there and ground penetrating radar identified the graves.  A nonprofit was formed to preserve the cemetery and build a memorial to the contrabands and freedmen, funded by the Wilson Bridge Project. The buildings located on the site were demolished in 2007. The Contraband and Freedmens Cemetery Memorial opened in 2014.

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We didn’t go into the cemetery, so only saw what we could from across the street.  The sculpture, by Mario Chiodo and called “The Path of Thorns and Roses,” is an allegory about the struggle for freedom. There are bas reliefs on the memorial, along with the names of the individuals buried in the cemetery. I’ll have to go back for a closer look at the entire site, someday.

At the end of the bridge, we took a sharp right (although, for future reference, going left would have been faster) and made our way to Jones Point Park, under the bridge. It is where you should park if you ever decide to walk the bridge. Parking there is free. Parking where we did, at National Harbor on the Maryland side, is not.

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Jones Point has a small lighthouse. It also has several signs with narrative on the history of the area. I didn’t know anything about Margaret Brent until I saw this sign (although there are several schools in the area named after her) but I looked her up after I got home. She never married, was a substantial land owner and one of the prominent women of colonial America.  Her request for voting rights was, by the way, rejected.

One of the reasons I love Alexandria: it’s very dog friendly. Witness this water fountain at the park, that accommodates adults, children, and dogs.

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I’m not going into what we saw in Alexandria, since I’ve already done several posts about the town. I am, instead, going to end with a shot Mr. HT took of the Wilson Bridge walkway, because Rough Seas mentioned that I hadn’t included one in the last post. I hadn’t because I hadn’t taken one.

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I often wonder, when I get home, what in the world I was thinking when I take some of these photos. My choices seem so arbitrary, even after several years of blogging. You’d think I’d have learned.

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4 Responses to On the Virginia Side

  1. Always a bonus to find free parking. Another good statue!

  2. findingnyc says:

    Really like the statue – next time I end up in Alexandria, I will have to check it out. Interesting history behind it as well.

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