It is not very often that Old Town Alexandria gets compared to New York City — unless, of course, someone is saying how little it looks like New York, or how much smaller it is.
But for Middlemarch Films, the film makers behind the new PBS special "Alexander Hamilton," Alexandria and more specifically Captains Row were exactly what New York looked like during the time when Hamilton was alive.
"We needed to film something that represented 18th century New York," said the film's director Muffy Myer. "We needed a place that had both cobblestone streets and 18th century buildings."
Alexandria is that place. Captains Row has cobblestones that aren't bricks but rounded rocks and, coupled with the style of architecture that surrounds the road, it became 18th century New York quite easily.
"I'm still amazed how after the actors came on in their costumes how accurate it all looked," said Deb Thomas, who runs ThomasFilms, the local Washington D.C. company that was in charge of art direction. "Basically we designed the layout of the props on the streets."
Alexandria came to the attention of the film makers after they started a search for the right place to set many of the shots for "Alexander Hamilton."
"The associate producer used to work in Alexandria, he took some pictures and as far as we could find in our time frame, Alexandria was the only place with everything we wanted," said Julia Morrison the coordinating producer of the film.
The crew filmed for the day of April 29 on the street, closing it down for the most part and decorating it with hay bails and other 18th century objects to hide more modern items like man hole covers.
"The shoot went amazingly well. All the people on the street were really kind," said Myer. "The Alexandria film commission was one of the best we've ever worked with. The weather cooperated and all sorts of local re-enactors came."
DURING THE SHOOT, Myer said she was able to get some great establishing shots and many shots of Hamilton and others that would of been impossible to do inside a studio in New York.
"We only got to shoot for one day, and now we're hoping we can come back and get some more scenes. We found some alleys and other stuff that we could do great scenes in," said Myer.
Of course, Captains Row is not a perfect recreation of New York, so the film makers also had a digital artist on hand so that later on they can add in and take out things in order to make the location even more realistic.
"Most of the houses will work, but they're going to replace things digitally. That was interesting because we had to set things up so it would work for the digital artist," said Thomas.
"We're going to add some docks in by the water and put in a spire at the top of the street digitally so that there are some recognizable attributes of 18th century New York," said Myer.
The film itself is the second in a series that is a spin-off of a film Middlemarch made for PBS a few years ago called "Liberty: The American Revolution."
"A few interesting characters emerged from the special so we decided to make more films focusing on them. We did Benjamin Franklin a few years ago," said Myer.
In the end the crew packed up its things and traveled back to New York to finish up studio shots and interviews but Alexandria definitely impressed them.
"I love Old Town and it is just amazing to work and be on the cobblestone streets," said Thomas.
"Alexander Hamilton" does not have a set premiere date, but Myer thinks it will be some time during the Spring of 2007.