Out of the Attic: Shared street, varied histories

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The homes at 209 and 211 South St. Asaph St. may share a block, but they have separate and compelling histories. 

John Janney, a prominent Alexandria merchant, made his home in the early 19th century in a brick structure at 211 until his death in 1823. In 1847, another prominent Alexandrian, banker William N. McVeigh, purchased the home at 211. Four years later McVeigh purchased the adjacent property at 209. At that time, he replaced the frame tenement at 209 with a three-story brick structure. He also remodeled the older dwelling at 211 so that it matched the style of 209.

During the Civil War, when this photograph was taken, 209 became the residence of Brigadier General John P. Slough who served as Alexandrias military governor from August 1862 until July 1865. Sloughs headquarters were next door in the post office and customs building, the light-colored structure at the corner with Prince Street. Not long after he moved in, a military band from the Massachusetts 33rd serenaded him one evening.

In the 20th century, both homes became regular stops on historic house tours, and in 1960, the new owners of 211 restored it to more accurately reflect its appearance in the early 1800s, with significant changes to the roof, third floor and front facade.

In 1999, during construction of an addition to 211, a backhoe uncovered hundreds of discarded pottery pieces associated with a nearby kiln site that operated in the 1790s. The owner permitted city archaeologists to document this significant discovery.

Today, both 209 and 211 remain private residences.

Out of the Attic is provided by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

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