Almost two years after after submitting application, Alexandria’s Uptown/Parker-Gray Neighborhood has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The area will officially known as the Uptown/Parker-Gray Historic District.
Bordered on the north by First Street, on the south by Cameron, on the east by Columbus and on the west by Buchannon/Oronoco and parts of West Street, the area ultimately known as Parker-Gray was sparsely settled and and primarily rural throughout the Colonial, Federal and Antebellum periods.
Few structures survive from those eras but one of the most interesting would have been Alexandria’s gun powder house, built in the 1790′s at what is today the corner of N. Fayette and Queen Streets. Deemed a potential fire hazard it was deliberately located at a safe distance from the many wooden structures built along the Potomac River.
The largest historically black neighborhood in Alexandria, Parker-Gray was originally a haven for escaped slaves and freedman during and immediately after the Civil War.
Wartime conditions in Alexandria were grim and families crowded into flimsy shanties and shacks. Few if any of these structures have survived and most of the historic buildings present today were built later in the 19th century.
In past years, the more popular nickname for the Parker-Gray neighborhood was “Uptown” to distinguish it from the ”downtown” areas closer to the Potomac River.
The official moniker comes from two schools whose names, in turn, honored leading black educators in the community: Sarah Gray, principal of Hallowell School for Girls and John Parker, principal of the Snowden School for Boys.
Alexandria built the first black high school in 1950 at 1207 Madison Street, which was named Parker-Gray. Prior to this, young African-Americans who wanted to continue their education past the eighth grade were forced to go into the District of Columbia for high school.
Parker-Gray High School was re-designated as a middle school in 1965 and was closed completely in 1979. A memorial plaque designates the school’s former location among the townhouses now standing on Madison Street.
A listing in the National Register of Historic Places provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance based on national standards used by every state.
The nomination recognizes the historic architecture of the district and social history of the Uptown/Parker-Gray Historic District, including the African-American contribution, that has occurred in this neighborhood since its inclusion within Alexandria City boundaries in the 1790s.
The listing identifies nearly a thousand contributing historic structures within the Uptown/Parker-Gray Historic District.
There are some wonderful properties available in this area – call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s find your historic home in this newly designated neighborhood.