Prior to the founding of Alexandria, there were two primary landowners in the area—Dame Margaret Brent who had obtained a patent in 1654 for a 700-acre plot, and English ship captain Robert Howson, who had received an overlapping grant from Virginia Governor William Berkeley in 1669. Within a month, Howson sold his land to Scottish merchant John Alexander.
By the 1700s, tobacco plantations had started popping up along the Potomac. Hugh West constructed a tobacco warehouse at what is now the foot of Oronoco Street and with the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1732, West’s warehouse became the local inspection point.
In 1748, Scottish and English merchants petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to establish a town at the site of West’s tobacco warehouse, and in 1749, Alexandria was founded, taking its name from the family of Scotsman John Alexander.
On July 13, 1749, the first lot of land among 60 acres that were divvied up by Fairfax County surveyor John West (assisted by a 17-year old George Washington) was auctioned off, and thus, the town of Alexandria was on its way to becoming a thriving port community.
Know Before You Go
The marker reads as follows:
"Erected by the Bicentennial Commission to mark the site of the first lot sold at Auction July 13th, 1749."