Chadwick’s On the Strand – Still Changing
By Bob Tagert
In 1749, when Alexandria was founded, only the fish and the seagulls ate and
drank here. Where Chadwicks stands today (203 South Strand street), you would be
treading water or riding a shallow-draft scow onto the sandy bank that bordered a high
bluff behind you.
The first person to leave his mark on this southern part of the waterfront was
George Gilpin. Gilpin didn’t just build on this property, as had been required by an early
law. Slicing into the cliff and using the excavated clay and rock to grade the slope, he
created two new city blocks to the east. The town appointed him its engineer to supervise
“banking out” all along the Alexandria shoreline. By 1812, the Strand was a recognized
The three-story brick warehouse with its wooden roof stood 50 feet from the river.
On the evening of Sept. 24, 1810, a candle left burning in a cooper’s shop toppled onto
some shavings, igniting a fire that raged for four hours and destroyed every building on
the block from Duke to Prince and Union Street to the river.
The following fall a new brick warehouse facing the Strand, three stories high
with a smaller brick warehouse attached at the rear, both roofed with slate and boasting
iron fittings and stone door-and windowsills. The combined dimensions of 34 by 78 feet
created the same footprint as for Chadwick’s kitchen and main dining room today.
By 1847 tax ledger lists a “wharf and house on the alley and the Strand” with a
value of $15,000. It is this structure that, incorporating perhaps some of the 1811
foundation, left parts of its grand stone and lower brick walls to Chadwicks.
In 1861 Federal troops crossed the Potomac and occupied Alexandria. The
properties were confiscated by the U.S. Marshal’s Office, among the “brick warehouse
situated on the river front, second house south of Prince and binding on an alley.”
In 1897 one of the worst fires ever to afflict the city started at midnight on June 3
in a boiler room on the eat side of the Strand north of Duke. Before it had exhausted
itself, all but one of the warehouses on the block had collapsed and the wharves were
charred pilings. All that was left of the grand structure at this site were the tall stone
foundations along the drive and western wall and the lower portions of burnt and broken
Building on the 2-foot-thick solid-stone foundations and the standing bricks, the
owner erected the two-story structure we see today with its pitched roof and parapet. For
the next quarter century the warehouse served successively as an assembly shop (1907), a
warehouse for the storage and tanning of hides (1912) and an electric-light supply house
(1921). During the depression of the 1930s it stood vacant. In 1941 it was reborn as a
In 1979, Mike Kirby opened Chadwicks on the Strand. Kirby and partner Tom
Russo had been operating their very successful Chadwicks of Georgetown since 1967.
Kirby had a good track record of owning restaurants. Back in the “good old days” (I am
68), Kirby opened Chadwicks of Capital Hill in 1969, the Third Edition in 1970, the
Public House in Georgetown and took over Gadsby’s Tavern here in Alexandria in the
70’s. Recognizing Old Town’s need for good restaurants, he wandered down to the
strand…the rest is history.
I remember the day that Chadwick’s opened that winter day in 1979. It snowed
and we went to check the bar out on sleds. At the time there were only a handful of
restaurants in the lower part of Old Town. Kirby has been marking time well at
Chadwicks. His long time partner and friend Tom Russo had recently lost his fight
against cancer. Retirement was within his grasp, but he tells me that he is very content
staying on and working for Trae.
Eleven years ago local Alexandrian Trae Lamond was fresh out of college and
took a job waiting tables at Chadwicks in order to earn some money to pay back a $500
loan. With an outgoing personality, Trae took to service work like a fish to water.
Talented and versatile, Trae played drums and sang in a band made up of long time
friends. Life was good. Soon Trae moved behind the bar and began serving drinks to the
Chadwick faithful. Eventually Trae was asked to become a manager, which was the final
step to completing his education of all levels of the restaurant business.
The last five years of his life has been rather hectic. He got married, now has two
small boys, got his real estate license and joined the York Group at Coldwell Bankers.
He also had to leave his musical career behind.
Recently, Trae worked out a deal with Stephanie Russo, Tom’s widow, to
purchase the business. Under the guidance provided by Mike Kirby, Trae Lamond is
now making a transition as the new owner of Chadwicks. I told him that this restaurant
has long been one of the most successful and popular eateries in Old Town. Do you
foresee any changes? With that big smile of his, Trae responded, “Not really, maybe a
little paint here and there. I know what Chadwicks is and all I want to do is make it so
folks want to come here seven to fourteen times a month.”
Now that he has the reigns of the restaurant, Trae can deal with the city as the new
waterfront development begins. The historical significance of the restaurant makes it a
permanent fixture, but the future of the parking lot is in jeopardy. Will it remain, or
become a park? The ride is only beginning for the 34 year-old entrepreneur!
All of us at the Old Town Crier wish Trae Lamond a lot of success as the new
caretaker of an Old Town original.