The writing is on the wall for Alexandria’s history

The writing is on the wall for Alexandria’s history

To the editor:

There was a day when Alexandria’s waterfront was a real working waterfront — when it had some working-class character. There was a time, too, when blacks couldn’t attend local public schools and depended upon places like Carver Nursery School to educate their children.

The era of “separate but equal” is an indelible part of Alexandria’s history that must be preserved. It is a story embodied by a building that is as important to save as the tavern where George Washington dined.

But the story told by the Carver Nursery School building will soon be forgotten if our primary motive is money and the right to develop whatever you own as you see fit. It fits well with the free enterprise nonsense that the Times opines in a recent issue (“The writing is on the wall for the Carver Nursery School,” February 7).

Let’s get a few facts straight. Owner William Cromley and City Hall have made no effort to preserve this building because they want to develop it. City officials want more tax revenue, period. They could care less about the town’s black history or, for that matter, about preserving history beyond its economic value as a marketable brand.

For city officials, preservation is simply part of the effort to market Alexandria and turn it into another sterile, Chevy Chase-like luxury shopping area. They want to put hotels on the waterfront and drive out organizations like the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, which mentors young men and women, many of whom are black.

Preserving Alexandria’s black history is just as important as preserving the home of Robert E. Lee. It’s true that preservationists like Boyd Walker have an obligation to do more than just sound an alarm, but without Walker and a sliver of the older black community, the building would already be razed. Shame on the preservationists in Alexandria who have remained silent. Shame on the city for not doing more to find a solution.

This newspaper perpetuates the idea that some histories are worth more than others and that Alexandria is nothing more than a brand to be marketed to the highest bidder. Using language that sounds like it was cribbed from a Cold War-era civics textbook, the editorial claims that one of our “dearest rights in America” is ownership of private property. But is business alone really what is going to make a town like Alexandria vibrant and alive and worthy of its history?

The fact is that the former Carver Nursery School is a testament to a part of Alexandria’s history that is all too quickly being pushed under the developer’s bulldozer for the sake of more revenue. Goodbye cultural history, hello condominiums and density. That’s Alexandria’s real future.

– Andrew Macdonald