To read part 2 of this blog, click [here].
The Lee-Fendall House: Alexandria’s Historical Beacon
Situated at 614 Oronoco Street in Alexandria, Virginia, the Lee-Fendall House is more than just an architectural marvel. Built-in 1785 by Phillip Richard Fendall, this historic tower narrates the tale of a man, his legacy, and the intricate tapestry of his life.
A Discovery That Piqued Curiosity
While delving into the annals of history, David Heiby, a board member and historian at the Lee-Fendall House, chanced upon a captivating assertion. The Family Search Website suggested that Fendall was interred in Ivy Hill Cemetery in 1805. However, a problem emerged: Ivy Hill Cemetery was officially inaugurated only in 1856. This temporal inconsistency beckons a deeper probe.
“Fendall passed away in March 1805 in Alexandria, District of Columbia, United States. He was 70 years old and was buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, District of Columbia, United States.”Citation on The Family Search Website
Understanding Phillip Richard Fendall I
One must journey back to the man’s life central to it to fathom this enigma.
Born of Noble Lineage
Phillip Richard Fendall, born in 1734, was a scion of the illustrious Fendall family, with connections to notable figures like Josias Fendall and Phillip Lee.
A Life of Service, Diplomacy, and Personal Endeavors
Fendall enjoyed a distinguished career that encompassed various roles, ranging from serving as the Clerk of Court for Charles County to making significant contributions during the 1778 Treaty of Alliance negotiations. He provided essential support to his cousin, Arthur Lee, who collaborated with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Dean to secure French assistance for the fledgling United States during the Revolutionary War against Britain. Simultaneously, Fendall’s personal life was punctuated by poignant moments, most notably his marriages:
Second Marriage: By 1780, Fendall’s heart found solace with Elizabeth Steptoe Lee. However, their union was empty of children, and Elizabeth departed in 1789.
Third Marriage: 1791 saw Fendall’s life enriched with the presence of Mary “Mollie” Lee. Their bond bore fruit with the birth of Phillip Richard Fendall II in 1794.
Laying Foundations in Alexandria
1784 marked a significant chapter as Fendall acquired land in Alexandria. The Lee-Fendall House arose a year later, symbolizing Fendall’s deep-rooted bond with the city.
Piecing Together the Burial Mystery
Reverend James Muir’s 1805 diary chronicles the sad demise of Phillip Richard Fendall. While records earmark a burial site for Fendall at Christ Church Cemetery, his will intriguingly alludes to a private cemetery on his familial estate, adding layers to the Ivy Hill Cemetery enigma.
Echoes of Fendall’s Legacy
Fendall’s legacy resonated even posthumously.
Mollie Lee’s Strategic Move
In 1808, Mollie Fendall, Phillip’s widow, astutely leased the family estate to John Gadsby, a renowned tavern keeper. This alliance would serendipitously intertwine with a monumental event: the penning of the U.S. national anthem by Francis Scott Key.
The Closing of a Chapter
Post-1808, Mollie’s direct ties with the farm waned, heralding the end of the Fendall era.
Contemporary Perspective on the Original Fendall Family Cemetery Site
The Unresolved Mystery: Fendall’s Final Resting Place
Our journey into Phillip Richard Fendall’s life and legacy has unveiled myriad facets, yet one enigma lingers in his final resting place. Part 2 of our exploration will traverse Alexandria’s transportation evolution, illuminating how progress might have uprooted Fendall from his initial burial site. Join us as we delve into Ivy Hill Cemetery’s secrets, the potential resting place of Phillip Richard Fendall, and the revelations that await. Stay tuned for an immersive historical and archaeological expedition.
Sources of Information
Hopkins map of Alexandria County, Virginia: Includes the present Arlington County and the City of Alexandria, circa 1878.
Workers of the Writer’s Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. (1940). Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. Oxford University Press.
Lee, C. G., Jr. (1957). Lee Chronicle Studies of the Early Generations of the Lees of Virginia. Published for The Society of the Lees of Virginia by Thomson-Shore.
Griffin, W. E., Jr. (1984). One Hundred Fifty Years of History: Along the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad. Whittet & Shepperson.
Hurst, H. W. (1991). Alexandria on the Potomac: The Portrait of an Antebellum Community. University Press.
Hahn, T. S., & Kemp, E. L. (1992). The Alexandria Canal: Its History & Preservation. Institute for the History of Technology & Industrial Archaeology. Volume 1, Number 1, West Virginia University Press.
Thunderbird Archeology. (2007). Documentary Study for the Potomac Yard Property, Landbays #, G, H, I, J, K L, and M, City of Alexandria, Virginia. Gainesville, Virginia.
Bromberg, F. W. (Year unknown). The History of Potomac Yard: A Transportation Corridor through Time. Alexandria Archeology
Dahmann, D. C. (2022). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Old Presbyterian Meeting House Archivist.
Morgan, M. G. (Year unknown). A Chronological History of Alexandria Canal (Part II). Published by the Arlington Historical Society. Retrieved from [URL] (Accessed May 2023).
Roberts, J. (2015). Jaybird’s Jottings: Rails in the Seaport: A Brief Look at the History of Railroads and Their Tracks in Alexandria. Retrieved from [URL]
Baicy, D. (December 2019). Braddock Gateway: Archeological Investigation and Evaluation (WSSI #21677.03). Thunderbird Archeology. 5300 Wellington Branch Drive, Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155. Tel: 703-679-5600. Email: email@example.com. www.wetlandstudies.com. Prepared for: Carmel Partners, 1330 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 320, Washington, DC 20036.
Mullen, J. P. (June 2023). Braddock Gateway – Phase II. Cemetery Investigation. Thunderbird Archeology. 5300 Wellington Branch Drive, Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155. Tel: 703-679-5600. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jaguar Development, LC. 46859 Harry Byrd Hwy, # 202, Sterling, Virginia 20164. 1200 N. Fayette Street.
Files and clippings about the Fendall Family. Alexandria Library Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library’s Local History and Special Collections Division, Alexandria, VA.
The Archives of the Ivy Hill Cemetery were graciously opened to me by their Historian and Archivist, Catherine Weinraub—also, special thanks to Lucy Goddin, President of the Ivy Hill Cemetery Historical Society.