Home for the Holidays
By Bob Tagert
Home for the Holidays
For those of you who read us every month, you know that each month I visit a different area in our region as a “road trip”. Each December I always stay home and write about our hometown…Old Town Alexandria. Since last year there has been a lot of activity in our town particularly along the waterfront. The old Inter Arms warehouse has been torn down in the 200 block of South Union Street and the Carr Companies are in the process of building the Hotel Indigo. This is the first step of the revitalization of the waterfront. In the future, the Robinson Terminals will be redeveloped with town homes, and shopping and more. The Old Dominion Boat Club property will be taken over by the city and the infamous Boat Club will be relocated along the river.
The first settlement was established in 1695 a half mile down the Potomac River at the mouth of Hunting Creek. The ground was not well suited as a harbor as the shoreline was very shallow, so the settlement was re-established at its present site where the channel came closer to shore. Oronoco and Duke streets extended into deep water, but between the two lay an arc of swampy flatland backed by bluffs. Beginning in 1759 the filling in of this marsh and flatland began and a wharf was eventually constructed. This was the beginning of Alexandria’s future as one of America’s leading seaports.
Soon warehouses were built to store all of the commerce that was coming to, and leaving, Alexandria. These same warehouses standing today make up the shops and restaurants of Old Town. By the end of the 18th century Alexandria was among the ten busiest ports in America and had been designated an official port of entry.
The town derives its Scottish Heritage from Scottish merchants John Alexander, William Ramsay and John Carlyle. The celebration of that heritage continues today with the 45th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend and parade, which is held the first Saturday of every December. This year the Scottish Weekend is December 5th and 6th and is consistently ranked by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the top 20 events in the South and regularly draws 30,000 visitors.
The weekend kicks off Friday with the Heather and Green sales at the Campagna Center. The proceeds benefit the programs of The Campagna Center that serve over 2,000 children and families daily in Alexandria. Later that evening is the Taste of Scotland held at the George Washington Masonic Temple. There is a Patrons hour from 6:30 – 8:00 PM, General Admission 800 – 10:30 PM and a Scotch Seminar at 8:30 PM. Taste some of the finest Scotch and spirits; enjoy light fare, beer and wine. There is a cost to attend.
The Christmas Walk Parade will begin at 11am and begins at Wilkes and South Saint Asaph Streets and ends at Market Square with massed bagpipes…a thrilling event. The Walk has more than 100 Scottish clans, pipe and drum bands, Scottish dancers, re-enactment groups, service bands and of course, Santa. This is a great day in Alexandria but can be a bit chilly.
The evening of the 5th at 5:00 will feature the 16th Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade. Dozens of brightly lit boats will stretch along the Potomac River during the colorful parade at Alexandria’s historic harbor. The parade is usually led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, D.C.’s fireboat John Glenn. The boats are decked out to impress a panel of judges who will award prizes in a dozen categories including Best in Show. Dockside festivities begin at 3pm with the parade passing in review at 5:30. This is a fun event – I know because I entered my sailboat a number of years ago and won a prize with my “All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan” theme. For those of you who don’t know, this is a song by Kenny Chesney.
All of these events are on the 5th and 6th of December, but don’t forget the rest of the month. From the “Waterfront to the Metro”, Old Town has unique retail shops, antique shops, furniture stores, restaurants and much more for its entire 18 blocks. This is the place to find a one of a kind outfit, piece of jewelry, or artwork at the internationally known Torpedo Factory Art Center. A free trolley runs every 15 minutes from the waterfront to the metro for your convenience. Even though King Street is the main drag in Old Town, there are a lot of other stores spread throughout town. Make the advertisers in this publication your first stops.
Take some time in December and come discover my town…Old Town Alexandria. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!