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On September 19 and 20, the annual feast for the eyes King Street Art Festival will be set up from Washington Street to the waterfront in Alexandria, VA. I’ve attended the outdoor art gallery four times and have enjoyed it immensely every time. The variety of artwork and the chance to speak to the creative artist makes for a very pleasant way to spend a fall day.

The festival will feature an impressive amount of paintings, large life-size sculptures, jewelry, photographs, ceramics and more. There’s something for everyone, although my taste tends to run a little higher than my bank account can afford. According to the website, this year’s event will have more $15 million in art on display. Even if you don’t purchase a one-of-a-kind art piece, I guarantee you will have fun perusing the booths.

Throughout the weekend, there will be local activities and live-music performances. Last year, I purchased a bowl at the Art League’s popular Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser. They have about 1,000 hand-made ceramic bowls and local artisanal ice cream for sale which costs about $15 per bowl. My bowl from last year:Ice Cream Fundraiser Bowl

Alexandria’s Mobile Art Lab is celebrating its first birthday by participating at the Art Festival in a couple of ways: a disco dance party at Market Square on 19 September at 7 pm. At 9 pm, it’ll change to a “silent” disco and headphones will be available for your listening and dancing pleasure. The Mobile Art Lab will be on Royal Street near Market Square both days of the festival.

When: Saturday, 19 Sept 10am–7pm & Sunday, 20 Sept from 10am-5pm
Where: Old Town, Alexandria, VA (Start at Washington and King streets)
GPS: 480 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Admission: FREE
Helpful Hints:

  • Park in one of the all-day garages since you’ll probably exceed the two or three-hour street parking limit
  • Plan ahead with lunch reservations ~ it’ll be difficult to get a table between 11am and 2pm
  • If you come across artwork you like, be sure get the artist’s business card. I neglected to do that last year & have been thinking about a photograph I’ve wanted to purchase all year. Hoping the artist returns to this year’s festival.
  • Bring your patience, it’s going to be crowded ~ but worth it.

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The Pope-Leighey House was owned first by Loren Pope, a journalist. He was intrigued by Frank Lloyd Wright’s home designs and wrote to the architect asking to be considered. At the time, Wright made his decisions based on the location and family. The house was commissioned in 1940 and became part of the more than 100 of these modest homes, referred to as Usonian, which were constructed between 1936 and Wright’s death in 1959.

The Leigheys were the second owners of the home. In the 1950s, when Hwy 66 was being widened and in danger of being destroyed due to eminent domain, Mrs. Leighey graciously gave the property to the National Trust, which relocated it to nearby Woodlawn. They granted her lifetime tenancy and Mrs. Leighey lived in the house at Woodlawn until her death in 1983.

In 1995-96, the house required another move due to the unstable clay soil but this time, it only had to be moved thirty feet up the hill. Currently, Route 1 is expanding and Woodlawn/Pope-Leighey House are along the route. Wisely, the decision makers went with the other side of the road so both historic sites wouldn’t have to be moved.

Pope Leighey carport and front doorFront Entrance and car port Pope Leighey dinosaur

Detailed woodcarving on all the windows.

Pope Leighey porch

Between 1936 and Wright’s death in 1959, he focused on designing and constructing over 100 affordable, middle-class residences. The style was referred to as Usonian, thought to mean “the United States of North America.”

Pope Leighey House I
The house is very small and would be ideal for a beach or lake house but I couldn’t imagine a family of five, like the Popes, living in it comfortably. No privacy whatsoever. On the positive side, it blended in nicely with the environment and all the little details inside the home were clever and quirky.

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I must have driven past the signs for Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey house several hundred times and last week I finally turned onto the road leading to the two historic and contrasting homes.

Woodlawn House Alexandria VAWoodlawn was a gift from George Washington to his nephew Major Lawrence Lewis and his wife Eleanor “Nelly” Custis (Washington’s step-granddaughter). They were married on February 22, 1799 which was George Washington’s last birthday. Nelly was raised at Mount Vernon after her father died when she was two and her mother was unable to raise her two youngest children. Nelly continued to live at Mount Vernon with her husband Lawrence Vernon until Woodlawn was completed in 1805.

The Lewis family lived in the home until 1846. Since 1846, there have been numerous owners including the Troth-Gillingham family who were Quakers intent on proving that successful farming could be done with a free-labor colony as opposed to slavery. They sold off parcels of the 2,000 acre estate to other Quakers, like-minded Baptists and freed slaves, leaving 120 acres today where the two houses are located. Woodlawn front door
Woodlawn is a Georgian/Federal style home designed by Dr. William Thornton who was the architect of the U.S. Capitol

Photography is not allowed inside the house but I snapped a few of the exterior:
Woodlawn Flowers
Crepe Myrtle flowers

Woodlawn Crepe Myrtal
Crepe Myrtle archway
Sign to housesWoodlawn on Bench
Bench at Woodlawn

Woodlawn Lion BenchWoodlawn pond and gardens
Pond and Gardens at Woodlawn

Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey House are both owned and operated by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture formed a partnership in 2013 for the purpose of providing visitors a place eat, learn and garden. Arcadia, which has been operating a garden, agriculture programs and a Mobile Market bus at Woodlawn since 2010 will expand to include dining, agricultural production, educational programs and retail operations. Woodlawn seems like the perfect place to have experimental agricultural since George Washington was an innovative farmer when he owned the land.

Plan on two hours to visit both homes. Opening hours are Friday through Monday with guided tours at Woodlawn at the top of every hour from noon until 4pm.The Pope-Leighey House offers guided tours every half hour from noon until 4 pm. For more information and directions, click here.

It’s a short walk from Woodlawn to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house but more about Pope-Leighey house next time…

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Touring the Hermione was so much fun and, lucky me, a friend shared her extra ticket with so I went twice!

The ship is amazing. I’m in awe of the hand craftsmanship and the 18 years it took to build it. While standing on the deck, I imagined what it must have been like being in the middle of the Atlantic ~ how exciting!

Hermione side view
The Historic Hermione and airplane in flight overhead

Hermione French Flag and Continental flag
French Flag and Colonial Flag.

Hermione Rigging and ropes
There are 15 miles of rope and the height of the ship is 56.5 meters (185ft)

Hermione
No idea what this is or why there’s a measurement on it but thought it looked cool

Hermione canon
The original Hermione was a fighting ship and there are 34 canons

Hermione Logan
There was a nice breeze on board

Hermione Leslie and Joe
Lots of happy smiles

My favorite part of the tour was speaking with the volunteers and crew members about their maiden voyage on such a historic ship. Wish I could actually speak French because I’m sure a lot was lost in translation but thankfully the volunteers spoke enough English to tell their stories.

Hermione crew member with man bun
Cute Frenchmen

Hermione Logan VII
Another cute Frenchmen…

Hermone prisoner garb
Pirate looking volunteer

Hermione crew member
Frenchwoman as part of the crew

Other than the volunteers and crew members, local reenactors joined the ship while it was in port:
Hermione Hat
Love the Hermione Hat

Hermione Grumpy the Bear with two ladies
Colonial women greeting the ship

Hermione looking out to the shore
On the Lookout for trouble

Another fun aspect of touring the Hermione is I got a chance to meet a fellow blogger, Robin and his wife. His photos of the Hermione are fabulous ~ check them out at Photographybykent.

The Hermione has been making her way up the Eastern Seaboard and has stopped in Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia and is currently in New York City until July 4, 2015. Click here for a fantastic NY Times article about their arrival in NYC and more historical facts about Lafayette.

Next three stops are: Greenport, NY, Newport, RI and Boston. If you get a chance, I highly recommend touring the ship (or at least seeing it up close). You won’t be disappointed. See full itinerary here.

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It was thrilling to see the French Tall Ship ‘Hermione’ pass through the opened Wilson Bridge at midnight. Adding to the fun were all the people out with us who were equally impressed by, not only the Hermione but the mechanical marvel of the Wilson Bridge. As a side note, living in the Washington DC area makes me empathetic for anyone “stuck” on the bridge. Even at midnight, I could see the line of cars and trucks.

The Hermione Wilson Bridge

Night photography is a challenge for me ~ mostly because I don’t do much of it. My attempt to photograph the Hermione at midnight convinced me to practice, practice, practice. With that in mind, I’ll be up late on Friday when Hermione leaves Old Town en route to Annapolis attempting to get better shots.

Here are my attempts but for some really gorgeous photos from last night, check out Photographybykent:

The Hermione and Capitol II
If you look closely, the US Capitol can be seen on the bottom left

PS Hermione

The Hermione in the Potomac
Earlier in the day, the Hermione was anchored near Mount Vernon Estates where a Lafayette event was happening.

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The Hermione (pronounced ‘err-me-own’) is an exact replica of the 18th century tall ship which carried the Marquis de Lafayette to the USA in 1780 and it’ll be visiting our corner of the world this week.

In March 1780, Lafayette boarded the Hermione in Port des Barques, France and sailed across the Atlantic to Boston. The ship made it’s way down the East Coast. When Lafayette arrived in the United States, he brought news of full French military aid to George Washington which secured victory against the British. Hermione’s voyage culminated with the American-French triumph at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, ending the Revolutionary War.

Building the Hermione took 18 years and it celebrates Lafayette ~ the Hero of Two Worlds. His contribution to the success of the American Revolution is nothing short of amazing. As a wealthy French aristocrat, he easily could have lived the life of leisure but instead he traveled to the colonies and volunteered to fight against the British. He also persuaded several other French officers to join him. He lived a fascinating life and, as an American, I’m thankful he was passionate about the plight of the colonies.

The ship is also a tribute to the craftsmanship of the Poitou-Charentes region in Western France. The ship was re-created by hand using traditional tools and techniques. The 1500 irons, tackles and pins used in the rigging were made using 18th century forging methods. There are some “modern” items on the ship due to safety rules and sanitary requirements.

It was twenty years ago when a small group decided to live by Lafayette’s family motto: Cur Non which means ‘Why Not?‘. The Association Hermione-La Fayette’s mission statement, as shown on their website, is as follows:

  • To evoke the spirit of “why not?” and demonstrate that given determination, anything is achievable.
  • To symbolize and rekindle through the Hermione the intimate ties between France and the United States, and the spirit of liberty that sustains them.
  • To celebrate the value of impeccable craftsmanship, the firm foundation of the authentic reconstruction of the Hermione.
  • Through this, to create a lasting educational legacy which will be accessible to generations of young
    Americans to come.
  • To demonstrate the inestimable value of history, to the present and the future, and to show that it can be a living force in increasing our understanding of the world.
  • To bring to life the memory of Marquis de Lafayette who embodied this spirit.

The first stop for the Hermione in North America is Yorktown, Virginia. Additional ports of call include: Mount Vernon and Alexandria, Virginia;, Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City and Greenport, New York; Newport, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts; Castine, Maine and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The Hermione will be docked at the Alexandria City Harbor, Virginia on June 10,11 and 12. Tickets to tour the Hermione are sold out but a limited number of tickets will be distributed at 8:30 a.m. and 12 noon each day at the dock. I’m thrilled I jumped at the chance to obtain tickets when I first heard about the visit. Hoping photos of the inside of the ship will be permitted. More to come after my visit…

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An Artist at work in Old Town, Alexandria

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