George Lewis Seaton, Alexandria's first African-American state legislator, acquired a large frame house at 404 South Royal Street in 1866 and was living there when he died in 1881, at age 59. A master carpenter, grocer, and real estate developer, Seaton was one of the wealthiest African Americans in Virginia. Born free, he became a broker of the uneasy peace between the races following the Civil War.
Seaton inherited property in Alexandria from his father, also a builder. With his brother Adolphus he built and then rented out a number of stylish houses in Hayti and the Bottoms, the city's oldest black neighborhoods. A founder of the Colored Odd Fellows, Seaton built an Odd Fellows Hall in the Bottoms that was used for meetings of African-American groups for more than a century. He helped found the Free School Society of Alexandria and built the first two black public schools, the Seaton School for Boys (later the Snowden School) and the Hallowell School for Girls.
A member of the Alfred Street Baptist Church, Seaton fought for the advancement of African Americans on all fronts - educational, political, and financial. In addition to his real estate activities, he operated a successful grocery store in Hayti and spearheaded the formation of the Colored Building Association and Colored YMCA. With his brother John Andrew, a Republican alderman, he was active in the Fourth Ward Radicals, and in 1869 was elected to the Virginia General Assembly.
The two-story brick townhouse now occupying the site was built after Seaton's death by his family, who lived there until 1927. Prior to George Seaton's purchase, the property was owned by a succession of Quaker landlords who rented it out to free black tenants starting in the 1780s.
The Seaton House is a two story brick townhouse that was originally a two-room deep side hall plan with a narrow ell on the rear (for a kitchen). The Seaton family continued to live here into the 20th century. The house has been renovated, and alterations have been made to the interior and rear sections of the structure.
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404 South Royal Street