Alexandria, Virginia’s New Tours, Exhibits and Events
Bring PBS’ MERCY STREET to Life
Personal Stories of Union and Confederacy Converge in City Setting
PBS’ first American drama in nearly a decade, is inspired by true stories of Civil War Alexandria, Virginia. This historic city will celebrate the unprecedented national spotlight on its heritage by presenting new visitor experiences for fans of the upcoming PBS series, MERCY STREET. Premiering on Sunday, January 17, 2016, at 10 p.m., MERCY STREET will follow the final season of “Downton Abbey” on Masterpiece. The six-episode series takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of Americans on the Civil War home front. More than two dozen new tours, exhibits and events have been planned in Alexandria, kicking off this month when the show debuts.
Set in 1862, MERCY STREET follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict; Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green (Hannah James), a naive young Confederate belle. The two collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel that has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army Hospital in Alexandria.
Just outside of Washington, D.C., Alexandria was a border town between North and South and the longest Union-occupied city of the Civil War. Ruled under martial law, Alexandria was the melting pot of the region, filled with soldiers, civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded fighting men from both sides, speculators, spies, and African American refugees.
Today, visitors can get a close look at the story at Alexandria’s historic sites, with new visitor experiences launching in 2016. Visitor experiences uncover the real people behind the characters on the show, the realities of Civil War medicine, changing roles for women, and the breakthrough experience of enslaved African Americans claiming their freedom.
HIGHLIGHTS OF NEW VISITOR EXPERIENCES COMING IN 2016 INCLUDE:
- MERCY STREET-inspired tours of Alexandria, featuring stories and sites that inspired the show
- “Explore the Real Mansion House” event, with an exclusive opportunity to step inside the former Mansion House hospital
- “Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital” exhibit at Carlyle House, once the Green family home, featuring a new interpretation of period hospital rooms and doctor/officer housing, plus stories of nurse Mary Phinney and spy Frank Stringfellow
- “Green Family Exhibit” at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, featuring purchases and stories of the Green family and Union Quartermaster staff
- “The Journey to be Free: Self-emancipation and Alexandria’s Contraband Heritage” exhibit at the Alexandria Black History Museum, telling the story of thousands of African Americans who escaped slavery and sought refuge behind Union lines in Alexandria
Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital
Carlyle House Historic Park
January 11 to July 11
121 N. Fairfax Street
From 1861-1865, the U.S. Army used Carlyle House, then the home of Emma Green and her family, and the adjacent Mansion House Hotel as a hospital and staff quarters. The people who lived and worked at this site in Alexandria and their real life stories have inspired the PBS television show, “Mercy Street”. The owner of the house and hotel, James Green, was one of the richest men in town and made a deep historical footprint on Alexandria.
Carlyle House’s exhibit will feature the factual story of the history of the site and its occupants. Upstairs, a new interpretation will explore the lives of these individuals through period hospital rooms and doctor/officer housing.
Green Family Exhibit
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
January to May
107 S. Fairfax St
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary remained open and operational when Alexandria was occupied during the Civil War. The Green Family and Union Quartermaster staff shopped there to purchase everything from Laudanum to Cologne. Today, visitors can take a guided tour and experience the historic space where occupied Alexandria came to shop. The exhibit will feature the purchases and stories of the Green Family and the Union Quartermaster.
The Journey to be Free: Self-emancipation and Alexandria’s Contraband Heritage
Alexandria Black History Museum
Exhibit extended through March
902 Wythe Street
During the Civil War, thousands of African Americans escaping slavery sought refuge behind Union lines in Alexandria, Virginia. The fugitives found freedom in Alexandria, but also a city under siege. The influx overwhelmed the city. Rampant disease and deprivation took their toll on the freedmen. A cemetery was created for those who had survived slavery, but did not live long in freedom. “The Journey to be Free” shows the legacy of Alexandria’s Contraband community and the amazing story of their burial ground that was lost and rediscovered, now memorialized as the Contraband and Freedmen Cemetery.
Medical Care for the Civil War Soldier Exhibit
Fort Ward Museum
4301 West Braddock Road
Fort Ward Museum has an ongoing exhibit which features original medical instruments and equipment from the Civil War period and information on Union Army hospital sites in Alexandria.
Nurse Clarissa Jones Exhibit
The Lyceum—Alexandria’s History Museum
Opening January 25th
201 S. Washington St.
The Lyceum mounts an exhibit on the life of Clarissa Jones, a nurse at The Lyceum hospital during the Civil War. It will bring home to visitors the true story of an actual nurse in Alexandria during the war, drawing parallels with characters portrayed in the PBS drama “Mercy Street.” It will include references to the experiences of other Alexandria nurses at that time, such as Anne Reading, who actually worked in the Mansion House hospital, and Jane Woolsey, who served at the Fairfax Seminary hospital.
Mercy in Alexandria: Walking Tour
January 2-June 19 – Sat-Sun: 4:30 p.m.
Tour starts at Visitors Center, 221 King Street
DC Military Tours
Experience an inside access tour of 19th century Alexandria. Accompany a trained military historian through Civil War era Alexandria and learn the actual history behind the TV show. Get behind the scenes of locations “Mercy Street” characters lived, worked, and played.
Occupied City: Civil War Alexandria Self-Guided Tour
Starting January 16th
The Lyceum-Alexandria’s History Museum
201 S. Washington St.
Learn about the real history behind the show on this self-guided walking tour, which features significant Civil War Alexandria sites all within walking distance of The Lyceum, which was seized and used as a hospital during the war.
EVENTS AND ONE-TIME TOURS:
Civil War Ball
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
January 23rd – 8-11 p.m.
$45 in advance, reservations required
134 N Royal St.
Enjoy an evening from the 1860s in the historic ballroom at the Civil War Ball. The ball will include live music, dance instruction, and period desserts. Period attire, either civilian or military, is encouraged. The ball is from 8:00 – 11:00pm. $45 in advance, reservations are required. Dance Classes for the Ball will be held January 7, 14, and 21 from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Cost is $12 per class or $30 for the series.
Performance: Staged Reading of a New Play,Virginia Luxuries by Pamela Leahigh
|201 Prince St.
One old home in Alexandria houses both the past and the present. Two families, one modern, one living during the Civil War, find that their stories are intertwined. Can the modern family escape the weight of the slavery and the Confederacy?
Gray Ghost Wine Dinner
Gadsby’s Tavern Museum
January 29th – 7 p.m.
$100 per person inclusive
134 N Royal St.
Enjoy 19th century-inspired food and wine for the modern palate and this Civil War Wine Dinner. This five-course wine dinner will feature Gray Ghost Vineyards, whose wines are created on lands “Gray Ghost” Confederate John S. Mosby and his men operated upon during the Civil War. Doors open at 7 p.m. Dress: Business Casual.
Explore the Real Mansion House
January 30th – 10 a.m.
121 N. Fairfax Street
$10 Alexandria Historical Society and Friends of Carlyle House Members; $20 all others
The program will begin in one of the original lobbies of the famous hospital, normally closed to the public, with coffee, bagels and a presentation led by Sarah Coster, former Director of Carlyle House, and Audrey Davis, historical consultant for “Mercy Street” and Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. Then, go on a tour of the Carlyle House, the Green family’s stately Southern mansion, whose history goes back to the 1740s.