Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Renaming Carlyle House Historic Park

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Renaming Carlyle House Historic Park

The following open letter was addressed to Paul A. Gilbert, executive director of NOVA Parks, and Mayor Justin Wilson.

The mayor and City Council recently adopted a policy and set a precedent in refusing to name the new waterfront park in memory of Colonel John Fitzgerald solely on the basis of his 18th century ownership of slaves. Fitzgerald’s estate inventory in 1801 listed 30 slaves.

Commemorating John Carlyle as a founder of the City of Alexandria presents a case twice as strong for renaming Carlyle House Historic Park which is situated within the boundaries of the city.

Carlyle’s estate inventory in 1783 listed 58 slaves, double that of Fitzgerald. They were housed on three major plantations outside the City of Alexandria and his large waterfront home in the city. In short, Carlyle was twice as “bad” as Fitzgerald.

As with Fitzgerald, no member of the Carlyle family currently owns the property in point; its title is vested in Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NOVA Parks), an entity created under the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Finally, if “Waterfront Park” suffices for Fitzgerald, “Waterfront House Historic Park” should be suitable for Carlyle. (Another possibility would be “Port City Historic Park,” to avoid possible confusion between “Waterfront Park” and “Waterfront House,” as well as to serve as a reminder of the Colonial Period town’s nickname.)

I formally request that the subject proposal be placed on the agenda for action by the NOVA Parks Board in its next public meeting on Jan. 17, 2019.

Please note the second addressee is Mayor Wilson. Since the City of Alexandria is a full member of NOVA Parks and appropriates a few dollars shy of $300,000 annually to NOVA Parks, it is right and proper for him to take a public position on the subject of this proposed name change for compatibility with the city’s new policy and precedent, and to do so in advance of the said next public meeting of the NOVA Parks Board.

Michael J. McMorrow


(The author occasionally writes for the Gazette Packet. The views expressed here are his own.)