old town alexandria street names

The History of Old Town Alexandria Street Names – What Do They Mean?

February 20, 2017 | Inside Old Town | By: The Goodhart Group

The History of Old Town Alexandria Street Names

Have you ever wondered about Old Town Alexandria street names?  For example, how they got their names? We sure have! So we did some digging. Of course, the Old Town Alexandria street names all reflect the city’s rich colonial and Civil War history.

Old Town Alexandria began as a town with just ten streets, all named after British royalty to reflect its colonial alignment with England. Fairfax and Royal Streets were at the city’s center accompanied by King, Queen, Prince, Duke, Princess, and Water Streets. Oronoco Street was named after a type of sweet tobacco, warehoused at the end of that street.

Interestingly, the 100 block of Prince Street is also known as Captain’s Row, after Captain John Harper, who built homes for his 29 children on this block!

Pitt and Wolfe Streets were added closer to the American Revolution. William Pitt was an Earl of Chatham in England who showed sympathy for the colonists. James Wolfe was a hero in the Battle of Quebec in the French and Indian Wars in Canada. St. Asaph Street was named after Jonathan Shipley, the Bishop of St. Asaph.

Wilkes, Gibbon, Washington, and Franklin Streets were added after the Revolutionary War. John Wilkes was an Englishman, Gibbon was a historian, Washington Street was named after George Washington, and Franklin Street after Benjamin Franklin. Union Street was named for the union of the new American states. After the Civil War, Water Street was renamed Lee Street after General Robert E. Lee.

Brockett’s Alley, between Washington and St. Asaph Streets, was developed as a high end street by local owner Robert Brockett in an attempt to break up a crowd of Irish partiers!

Printers, Wales, Ramsay, and Sharps are all pedestrian alleys within Old Town with interesting histories as well. For example, Printers Alley (also called Swifts Alley) was home to the Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, which dates back to 1784.

Clearly, there is no shortage of of history in Old Town. It’s one of the many reasons we love to call this city home! If you’d like to learn more about Old Town, please contact us for one of our neighborhood orientation tours.

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