Story by Megan Ritter
On Saturday, June 12, 2021, a 70-foot portion of the original brick wall surrounding the Lee-Fendall House Museum’s historic garden collapsed. The wall dates to c.1800 and has been an integral strand in our historic fabric, telling an important part of Lee-Fendall's story and of Alexandria's history.
It is perhaps the most prominent feature of the property to remain unchanged since its earliest days and has stood as a testament to the contributions of enslaved workers who are believed to have built it - along with much of Alexandria's early architecture. Museum staff began exploring the wall’s condition this spring, working with specialists in structural engineering and masonry who took baseline measurements and were developing a plan to monitor the wall’s condition. Its collapse followed a night of torrential, flooding rain on Friday, June 11th, which museum staff believes allowed the soil beneath to give way. Now, Lee-Fendall is working closely with Alexandria's Board of Architectural Review and with local firms specializing in historic masonry preservation on a multi-phase plan to repair the wall. The board and staff are committed to doing the repairs correctly, according to historic preservation standards. This will be a multi-year project, costing at least $125,000 for a process that includes stabilizing the remaining wall; cleaning and storing the historic brick; working with engineers to design a new underground footing and repair specifications, and working with preservation masons to reconstruct the fallen parts of the wall from the original brick and in its original Flemish bond design. Volunteers have constructed a temporary wall to close the gap, so the property is open for tours. The garden remains open for free public access whenever the museum is open (generally Wednesday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 1pm-4pm. During the pandemic, local families frequently used the garden for picnics, play dates, and other leisure activities. The Alexandria community has already risen to the challenge of repairing the wall with enthusiasm and generosity, helping Lee-Fendall raise over $2,000 in the first 48 hours of our fundraising campaign. Donations are being taken at www.mightycause.com/story/RepairTheWall. Learn more about the property’s history and the museum’s mission here