By the time Moses Hepburn built the four rental townhouses at 206-212 North Pitt Street, he was one of the wealthiest black residents of Alexandria and a successful land developer and civic leader. Hepburn was born in 1809, the son of an enslaved laundress, Esther David, and a wealthy white storekeeper and landowner, William Hepburn. When Moses was seven years old, his father sold him and his mother to his mother's sister, Hannah Jackson, also a laundress, who immediately manumitted them. William Hepburn died the next year, leaving substantial amounts of property and money to Moses (and the other four children he fathered with enslaved women in his household). Moses was sent to school in West Chester, Pa. He returned to Alexandria after completing his education, where he met and married Amelia Braddock.
Moses Hepburn added substantially to his real estate holdings along the Potomac River, shrewdly buying not only land but water rights to the properties. He also operated a water-delivery service that employed nine men. In 1850 he bought and improved the lots on North Pitt Street on the edge of The Berg, an emerging black neighborhood. While Hepburn owned land throughout Alexandria, the property at 206-212 North Pitt Street is the only one in the city where he is definitely known to have resided. Hepburn was active in his Methodist-Episcopal church, Davis Chapel (now Roberts Memorial United Methodist). One of nine members who bought land for the church building in 1834, he taught in its Sabbath School and was president of its first missionary society, which raised money for missionary work in Africa.
In 1853, threats from white Alexandria officials prompted him to move his family north to West Chester, PA. His crime: sending his son, Moses Jr., to school in the District of Columbia, in violation of Virginia laws prohibiting the education of blacks. After relocating to Pennsylvania, the Hepburn family continued to add to its landholdings while educating their five children. Hepburn died in 1861. His son Moses Jr., whose education prompted the move north, became a successful entrepreneur and the first black councilman in West Chester.
The Moses Hepburn Rowhouses are four brick rowhouses, located at 206-212 North Pitt Street, built by Moses Hepburn sometime after he purchased the property in 1850. The townhouses are on the edge of "the Berg," a historically African American neighborhood in Alexandria.
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206-212 North Pitt Street