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Roam the Classic Homes

The 75th anniversary Garden Tour offers rare sights.

Dr. James Craik was George Washington’s private secretary and physician during the Revolutionary War. In 1787, a classic Georgian house was built for him near what is now 210 Duke Street in Alexandria. He maintained his medical practice in the front two rooms of the house.

Over 220 years, and countless renovations and restorations later, the house is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Dennis J. Garcia. The restored garden reflects 18th century design and features marble steps salvaged from Blair House during a mid-20th century remodeling. In the dining room, a mural depicting river life along the Potomac in the 18th century covers the walls.

The house will be opened to the public for the first time during the 75th annual Historic Garden Tour scheduled for Saturday, April 19. A part of Historic Garden Week in Virginia — and sponsored by The Hunting Creek Garden Club and The Garden Club of Alexandria — the tour brings thousands of people through historic homes and gardens in Old Town.

"It’s pretty remarkable. It’s the longest I think in the country," said Dottie Hawkins, who chairs the tour committee with Timmi Wood. "This year is going to be one the best tours ever."

THE FIRST opening of the "Craik House" is one of many highlights of this year’s tour. There’s a frame house on 716 Wolfe Street that was used as a boarding house for unskilled laborers until after the Civil War, and was eventually owned by the first African-American schoolteacher in the city of Alexandria. A mansion at 712 Prince Street is where Robert E. Lee is said to have accepted command of the Confederate Army of Virginia; it later became a nurses’ residence for The Alexandria Hospital.

Those houses, and several others, make up the house tour; but the purchase of a ticket also grants the holder admission for the day to sites like Mount Vernon, River Farm and the Carlyle House.

The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 on the day of the event, and include six houses with gardens and refreshments at Historic Christ Church Meade Hall, 121 North Columbus Street, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Single house with garden admission is $10. There are advanced tickets on sale for $35, and available at The Ramsey House, 221 King St. Visit www.vagardenweek.org for more information.

Hawkins said there’s an added bonus keepsake this year: A pink or white baseball cap that has the state flower, the Dogwood, on the front of the hat. "They’ll be seeing them around the tour," she said of the $20 hats.