Road Trip! Destination: Alexandria, Va. |

Road Trip! Destination: Alexandria, Va.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
PBS’ MERCY STREET actors Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Nurse Mary Phinney), Tara Summers (Nurse Anne Hastings) and Hannah James (Emma Green) with local historic reenactors at Carlyle House in Alexandria, Virginia. Carlyle House was the Green family home.
Emma Green (Hannah James) makes her way through the streets of Alexandria, Virginia to visit Mansion House Hospital.
Mercy Street cast at Carlyle House: Tara Summers, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Hannah James
Mercy Street actor L. Scott Caldwell at the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery in Alexandria
Mercy Street cast at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum: Hannah James, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tara Summers
Jane Green (Donna Murphy) comforts her husband, James Green Sr. (Gary Cole)
Aurelia Johnson (Shalita Grant) and Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher III) share a moment
Mansion House Hospital today

The new PBS drama “Mercy Street” has brought Alexandria, Va., front and center. Now, the city is celebrating its heritage through new visitor experiences with more than two dozen tours, exhibits and events planned through the year for fans of the Civil War series.

On the Potomac River, just minutes from Washington, D.C., the city hums with a cosmopolitan feel against an extraordinary historic backdrop. Luxurious accommodations are just steps from historic sites, galleries, boutiques and restaurants, where visitors can turn a “Mercy Street” excursion into a weekend getaway.

Mansion House Hospital

On “Mercy Street,” two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict collide at Mansion House, a luxury hotel that is transformed into a Union Army Hospital.

One of Alexandria’s richest men, James Green, built the hotel directly in front of his 18th-century mansion. A portion of the hotel was torn down in the 1970s, but the remainder still stands with the mansion and its gardens as Carlyle House Historic Park.

Through July 11, the exhibit “Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital” features the history of the site and its occupants.

Details: 703-549-2997 or

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary remained open and operational while Alexandria was occupied during the Civil War. The Green family and Union quartermaster staff shopped there to purchase everything from laudanum to cologne. Through May, visitors can take a guided tour and experience the historic space.

Details: 703-746-3852 or

Alexandria Black History Museum

During the Civil War, thousands of African Americans escaping slavery sought refuge behind Union lines in Alexandria. The fugitives found freedom there, but it was also a city under siege. The influx overwhelmed the city. Rampant disease and deprivation took their toll on freedmen.

Through March 31, “The Journey to Be Free: Self-Emancipation and Alexandria’s Contraband Heritage” tells their story, showing the legacy of Alexandria’s contraband community and the amazing story of their burial ground that was lost and rediscovered, now memorialized as the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery.

Details: 703-746-4356 or

Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site

Fort Ward stands as the best preserved of the system of Union forts built to protect Washington during the war. The site has exhibits, educational and interpretive programs, tours, lectures and living-history activities during the year. It also focuses on the everyday life of Civil War soldiers and civilians in occupied Alexandria.

Medical care for the Civil War soldier is an ongoing exhibit at Fort Ward Museum, which features original medical instruments and equipment from the era and information on Union Army hospital sites in Alexandria.


The Alexandria Lyceum

The Lyceum was established in the mid-19th century as a way of boosting public educational and cultural opportunities in Alexandria. During the war, it served as a hospital.

Through July 11, the Lyceum features “Alexandria’s Nurses & Hospitals During the Civil War,” an exhibit on the life of Clarissa Jones, a nurse at the hospital. It will include references to other Alexandria nurses, like Anne Reading, who worked in the Mansion House Hospital, and Jane Woolsey, who served at the Fairfax Seminary hospital.

Details: 703-746-4994 or

Take a tour

Tours are a good way to learn about Alexandria’s history and people.

• On the “Mercy in Alexandria: Walking Tour” guests get inside access to 19th-century life. A trained military historian imparts the story behind the TV show and goes behind the scenes to locations where “Mercy Street” characters lived, worked and played. Details: 703-407-6663 or

• The three-hour “Beyond the Battlefield” walking tour (nearly two miles) shares real-life stories and locations of soldiers, citizens and former slaves that inspired the PBS series. Tour dates: Feb. 13, May 14, July 9, Sept. 10 and Nov. 12. Details: 703-548-1789 or

Other events

There are plenty of other Civil War-era events:

• The “Heroines of Mercy Street” (Feb. 4) has historian Pamela D. Toler talking about the true stories of some of the remarkable men and women who worked as nurses at the Mansion House hospital. Details:

• “Harriet Jacobs and Julia Wilbur: Friends and Allies in Civil War Alexandria” (Feb. 6) is a lecture by writer, editor and Civil War researcher Paula Whitacre on Jacobs, an African-American writer who escaped from slavery. Details: 703-746-4356

• The “Women of Alexandria, From Antebellum to the 20th Century” program explores how life changed for Alexandria residents during the four years it was an occupied city. Part 1 is Feb. 8, Part 2 is Feb. 22, Part 3 is March 7. The event is free, but donations will be accepted. Details: 703-548-0035 or

• The “From Slavery to Freedom Tour” (Feb. 20) is a special tour that interprets the Lee-Fendall House from the perspective of its enslaved inhabitants. Details: 703-548-1789 or

• Actors will read from diaries and letters of women who lived in Alexandria during the war, and award-winning bluegrass band Dead Man’s Hollow will play songs of the era at “Performance: Speak, Sister: Alexandrian Women’s Songs and Stories of the Civil War” (March 10). Details:

• “Spies & Scones — A Special ‘History Mystery’ Tea” (May 21) looks at Alexandria’s Civil War spies. Amid a Victorian tea, learn about real-life secret agents like Frank Stringfellow (portrayed in “Mercy Street”), then put your own powers of detection to the test to discover the spy in the room. Detials: 703-548-1789 or

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7889 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.