The Alexandria Academy was originally the home of the Washington Free School, founded in 1785 for the purpose of educating orphans and poor children. Funded in part by George Washington (with a $4000 bequest in his will), the school was one of the first experiments in public education in the nation. The Academy building was vacated after the War of 1812, at which time a group of free blacks established a school for African-American children on the third floor.
The Rev. James H. Hanson, the white minister of the black Methodist Episcopal Church, conducted classes there for almost 300 students until 1823, when the building was sold. One of Rev. Hanson's enslaved students, Alfred Parry, later became a teacher and by the early 1830s had opened his own night school. After an 1837 law forbade the assembly of blacks, Parry managed to open a day school, Mount Hope Academy, by hiring a white man to be present at all times. Located between Duke and Wolfe streets, Mount Hope educated free and enslaved blacks until 1843, when Parry moved to Washington, D.C.
The Alexandria Academy served as a Freedman's Hospital during the Civil War. It reverted to a white school in 1884, managed by the Alexandria School Board. The Academy operated as a school until 1967 and an administrative facility until 1982. Since 2000 it has been used by the Remediation and Training Institute to provide computer instruction to low-income students.
The Academy is set back from the street on the south side of the 600 block of Wolfe Street. Constructed in 1786, the academy is a brick, three-story building with a stone foundation. A two-story addition was added in 1823; a three-story stairwell was added in 1887, on the right side of the building. The Academy was renovated four times in its history. The building was left vacant for several years after it was no longer used by the school board. In 1999, the Historic Alexandria Foundation restored the building.
Geographical and Contact Information
604 Wolfe Street